How Misunderstandings Become PolicyDecember 17th, 2007 by Steven Gardner
The Bremerton School District has had some notable accomplishments of late with, particularly with early childhood education.
But Andrew Binion’s story on the district’s renewed inclusion of information beyond abstinence in its sex education curriculum must cause someone to wonder how the former policy could have been in place for eight years without anyone questioning it to the point of a policy change. According to the story, the best anyone can figure is that it became the policy because of a misunderstanding.
Although teachers had been teaching abstinence-only curriculum for about eight years, district officials are unsure of why the program had replaced the district’s previous comprehensive program.
The likeliest reason for the uncertainty, said Assistant Superintendent Linda Jenkins, was a combination of high turnover among district and school administrators and new officials not questioning the current practice.
Jenkins, like Superintendent Bette Hyde, was hired after the abstinence-only practice had been in effect.
The board of directors adopted a policy in August 1999 that said AIDS education was to emphasize abstinence as the only sure defense against contracting the fatal, incurable disease through sex.
Jenkins said that directive was likely construed as requiring an abstinence-only sex education curriculum and the policy wasn’t officially reviewed until the new law took effect.
“Practice became part of the culture and it was never really questioned,” Jenkins said.
How many other policies are out there that continue because of a misunderstanding creating a truth that no one questions?
At least one commenter to the story sees this as the religious right and “GWB” being the likely culprits, but if this really did start in 1999, then it was at least a year before Bush became president.