ORLA failed to alert parents sex-ed was starting, parent says content was inappropriate

A middle school sexual education class at Olympia Regional Learning Academy earlier this school year went wrong in more ways than one, according to some parents.

Kevin Hinton, the father of a 13-year-old daughter in the 7th grade at ORLA, said that the school failed to provide parents with the state-required 30-day notice that the sexual education portion of health class was beginning.

The code allows parents the opportunity to review planned materials and opt their student out of the curriculum to participate in “alternative studies.”

Hinton said that if he had known the content his daughter would be taught, he would have had serious objections.

“They do need sex-ed. I’m not against the sex-ed,” he said. “But if I knew this was the way [the teacher] was going to teach it, my daughter would never have been in the class.”

Susan Gifford, executive director of communications for the Olympia School District, confirmed that the school failed to send out the necessary review notice.

“Regrettably, the notice was not sent to families of seventh and eighth graders in the health class at ORLA in advance of this sexual health presentation,” she said in an email to The Olympian. “This was an oversight, and there is a specific plan and staff direction going forward to assure that doesn’t happen again.

Hinton was initially surprised when his daughter’s health class was extended from one semester to two, in order to make time for the required curriculum, after the first semester primarily focused on healthy relationships.

Later in the spring, another parent happened to walk by the classroom. They informed Hinton and other parents that the teacher had drawn male genitalia on the board. Hinton said this came as a surprise to many since they had never been informed sex-ed was beginning.

When Hinton asked his daughter what she had been learning in class, he was shocked by her answer.

“She said the teacher pulled out a dildo from the cabinet — the teacher used those words,” he said. “Then she did a demonstration of how to put a condom on.”

Hinton said his daughter described the dildo as being pink and purple with sparkles.

“That is a sex toy, not a teaching tool,” Hinton said.

Gifford provided The Olympian with sections of the Family Life and Sexual Health curriculum, which is part of the OSPI and Department of Health HIV/Sexual Health instructional materials.

Lesson six of the curriculum covers condoms and how to use them to prevent HIV and STDs and part of that lesson requires a condom demonstration. The materials specifically instruct teachers not to use fruits or vegetables as models, because some people find it offensive.

“A penis model is ideal for demonstrating condoms, if you can obtain one,” the curriculum says.

Gifford said this section of the curriculum would hopefully explain and address the dildo concern.

As for Hinton’s daughter, he said she was mortified by the lesson.

He and his wife are still angry they never had a chance to inspect the materials and he said they have contacted ORLA administrators, the district office, and the superintendent’s office but have received few answers.

“It was near the end of the school year and I think they thought we would really forget about this,” he said, “But no I won’t, not one bit.”