OCASD Superintendent Addresses Board’s Role in Sex Education Curriculum Approval

| March 14, 2023

OIL CITY, Pa. (EYT) – Oil City Area School District Superintendent Lynda G. Weller addressed the School Board’s role in approving curriculum in the district during a Curriculum/Education Committee meeting on Monday night.

(Photo above: Dr. Lynda G. Weller addresses the Curriculum/Education Committee of the OCASD School Board on Monday, March 13, 2023. Left to right: Dr. Well, Mr. Jon Piercy, Mrs. Leigh Ann Pikna, and Mr. Mark Kerr.)

The Curriculum/Education Committee includes School Board Members Mark Kerr (chair), Leigh Ann Pikna, John Piercy, and Tyler Johnson. The latter was unable to attend the meeting.

The main item on the agenda for the meeting, which was held publicly in the Hasson Heights School multi-purpose room, was to discuss a motion that was passed during the full board’s February 27th meeting to table a vote to retroactively approve two sex education curricula currently taught in the district to April 18, 2022.

During the meeting, Dr. Weller presented a timeline of events leading up to Monday’s meeting, including the Title IX investigation that started the district’s search for a curriculum that would address the issues the district was having with its students.

According to Weller, their attorney advised that the district “utilize supportive measures to address sexual harassment issues at the middle school.

“They recommended that we contact The Department of Education for assistance. At that point, Tracy Delmonaco contacted PDE and was informed of the Child Exploitation Awareness Education Guidelines & Suggested Resources that are posted on the PDE website. Part of that is We Care Elementary for grades 3 through 6 and SAFE-T (Sexual Abuse Free Environments for Teens) for grades 7 and 8.”

After learning of the curricula, Delmonaco became aware that a local resource the district had been utilizing since 2008, Family Service & Children’s Aid Society, through their PPC Violence Free Network, had staff members that were trained in both curricula, Weller explained.

At that point, the school began the process of implementing the curricula.

Later in the meeting, Weller shared that she had been in another community meeting in Franklin the previous week and realized that there may be some confusion on the part of the public about some of the language that her administrative team uses.

“When we talk about curriculum, we’re talking about School Code Chapter 4—what we are required to teach kids: English language arts; mathematics; science; environment and ecology; technology and engineering; social studies; arts and humanities; career education and work; health, safety and physical education; family and consumer science,” she said. “There are Pennsylvania academic standards for those items, and we develop curriculum based on those required things in Chapter 4 of the School Code.”

Speaking directly about the curricula in question, she added, “Vermont calls it a curriculum. To us, they’re resources and materials used to aid in the curriculum.”

We Care Elementary and SAFE-T are published by Prevent Child Abuse Vermont.

“The distinction between ‘curriculum’ and ‘resources and materials’ is important,” Weller said.

“The board does not approve every single resource. There are things that the board entrusts to teachers to pick as resources,” she said. “There are kindergarten teachers that do different activities that they might purchase a workbook from somewhere, and the board really doesn’t know. But, the board approves the PA standards for what kindergartners should have for the different core areas.”

When asked about the presentation that was made by parents in the last school board meeting that stated the board needed to approve any Sex Education curricula, she said her position is that they are wrong.

“It’s part of resources and materials utilized to deliver the curriculum, which is based on the PA academic standards. And, that’s Chapter 4 of the school code,” she said.

Parents and community members, including some members of the school board, were in attendance at the meeting. No public comment time was on the agenda, in accordance with school board rules governing committee meetings.

Dan and Devin Aaron, two of the parents who made the presentation to which Dr. Weller referred disagree with her position.

“Up until last week, she called it curriculum. Now, she’s calling it resources and materials,” Devin Aaron said.

Devin Aaron then expressed that the real issue keeps getting lost. The issue, she says, is that decisions like selecting a sexual education curriculum should be done in the open. To her, the process hasn’t been transparent.

During the meeting, Board Member Mark Kerr asked Dr. Weller if curriculum such as We Care Elementary and SAFE-T are still needed in the district. Weller stated, without giving specifics, that some of the concerning behavior found within the district includes 6th grade boys asking girls in their class to send them nude photographs, as well as high school girls complaining that their boyfriends were sharing nude photographs of them on Snapchat.

“Our students are seeing things and having to deal with things that we couldn’t even imagine at that age,” Weller explained. “In the last two years, we brought in a state trooper to do a presentation on human trafficking because the I-80 corridor is a very busy place for people online who are grooming kids, and it’s convenient to pick kids up in Barkeyville, sadly.”

Committee Chair Mark Kerr stated that the committee’s recommendation to the school board would be to publish a request for proposal to any organization who wishes to submit their plan in May, including PPC Violence Free Network, if they choose. They will then ask the organizations to make presentations in June, and a full board vote would take place in July. All of this would be during meetings that are open to the public.

Kerr emphasized that this would be the committee’s recommendation to the full board. It isn’t a final decision.

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Category: Community, Local News, News, Oil City, Schools

Gavin Fish is a reporter for EYT Media Group and YouTuber based in Venango County. In addition to his YouTube Channel, he has contributed to investigations and reports for ABC News, Investigation Discovery, and Fox Nation, and has collaborated on projects developed for Netflix, Oxygen, Discovery Channel, Amazon Prime, and Hulu.
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