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Education

Elmhurst District 205 may change curriculum for child sexual abuse prevention program

Superintendent David Moyer comments at the Aug. 28 Elmhurst Community Unit School District 205 Board of Education meeting on new curriculum district staff have proposed for a prevention-oriented child sexual abuse program for third- and fourth-graders at district elementary schools in conformity with the state of Illinois' Erin's Law.
Superintendent David Moyer comments at the Aug. 28 Elmhurst Community Unit School District 205 Board of Education meeting on new curriculum district staff have proposed for a prevention-oriented child sexual abuse program for third- and fourth-graders at district elementary schools in conformity with the state of Illinois' Erin's Law.

ELMHURST – Elmhurst Community Unit School District 205 staff have asked the school board to consider a new resource to fulfill the requirements of Erin's Law, a state law that mandates public schools implement a prevention-oriented child sexual abuse program.

The Board of Education unanimously approved at its Aug. 28 meeting the public display for 30 days of the new resource, which is the book "My Body! What I Say Goes!" by Jayneen Sanders, in the Learning and Teaching office of the district, which is in the district administration building, at 162 S. York St. in Elmhurst.

The board is scheduled to vote Oct. 9 on whether to approve the book as a primary resource for curriculum for third and fourth grades at district schools.

Superintendent David Moyer said at the meeting that the district administration was presenting the curriculum change to the school board "off cycle" instead of in April, which is the typical time new curriculum presentations are done, because staff worked together over the summer regarding curriculum for Erin's Law, including the new resource for third and fourth grades.

Over the summer, the district's social workers, counselors, elementary school teachers and health teachers from the middle schools and high school met regarding the district's curriculum because the district didn't want to take staff away from their classrooms during the school year, Assistant Superintendent for Student Services Kathleen Kosteck said in an Aug. 29 phone interview.

Kosteck said the district has been using resources to address Erin's Law since the mandate began with the 2014-15 school year. The district brought in speakers in past years to address students about it at the elementary schools in "more of an assembly format," she said.

Though the speakers program, which had been used for first through eighth grades, has been working, Kosteck said district staff wanted to look at other options for the district to make it more personable for the students, incur fewer scheduling issues and spend less money. She added the district prefers to use internal resources, such as the district's teachers and social workers, whom district students and parents tend to trust.

No speakers will be used this year, Kosteck said in an email Aug. 30.

"One of the things that's important to us is that students always feel safe and comfortable and see that the people with whom they work with every day are trusted adults," she said via phone.

Classroom teachers and school social workers would partner to present the material to the students, as students often know whom the school social worker is, but they have more interaction with their classroom teacher, Kosteck said.

"It's really the conversations that are going to be facilitated by the social worker and the classroom teacher that are key for the lesson delivery," she said.

With school staff providing the lessons, it also would be easier for students who might be absent on the day of instruction to have an opportunity to learn the material, Kosteck said.

District staff wished to use "My Body! What I Say Goes!" because they appreciated its use of anatomically correct terms for body parts, and they believed it would prompt high-quality conversations among staff and students with its inclusion of "good questions" and its discussion of feelings and students' empowerment and their voice in keeping themselves safe, Kosteck said. She said the district wants to have developmentally appropriate instruction, so children can identify inappropriate sexual contact and learn different ways to advocate for themselves.

Preschool has used materials designed with open-source materials led by a social worker and preschool teacher, and fifth-graders use open-source resources, which might be pulled from the resources related children's advocacy organizations offer, she said. Middle school students will receive instruction related to Erin's Law using open-source resources during the safety unit of their health classes, Kosteck said.

The district also is expanding the use of picture book "My Body Is Special and Belongs to Me!" by Sally Berenzweig and Cherie Benjoseph, which is currently the primary resource for kindergarten, for instructing first- and second-graders as well, she said. High school students learn the material through an an interdisciplinary unit, Kosteck said.

If the board opts not to approve the suggested curriculum for third and fourth grades, a group would further review available resources for the board's consideration, she said in an email Aug. 30.

Kosteck said via phone that Erin's Law does not dictate when during the school year the instruction must occur, as long as it takes place within each school year at each grade level, from preschool through 12th grade.

If the board approves the use of the "My Body! What I Say Goes!" book at its Oct. 9 meeting, elementary schools might start using it as soon as mid- to late-October, Kosteck said. Each school will determine when the material would be taught. Parents would be notified in advance of the instruction and have an opportunity to ask questions or opt out of the instruction, she said.

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