Why Austin ISD Students Deserve Comprehensive Sex Ed

Why Austin ISD Students Deserve Comprehensive Sex Ed

Austin ISD is currently evaluating a comprehensive sexual health education curriculum for 3rd-8th grade students. Unfortunately there are groups that are actively trying to spread misinformation to raise concerns with parents who are simply trying to get informed.

We’ve been actively involved in this ongoing discussions for over a year and are excited that finally all parents and community members are having an opportunity to weigh in with their opinions and questions about the scope and sequence of the topics that will be covered in the new curriculum.

Here is some general information about the whys and hows of the process as well as some reasons that we feel comprehensive, inclusive human sexuality and responsibility lessons are so important, even in elementary school.

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Why You Need to Attend Your School’s CAC Meetings

Why You Need to Attend Your School’s CAC Meetings

The Austin ISD School Health Advisory Council voted to move forward on revising AISD’s ten-year-old, outdated human sexuality curriculum in June. Unfortunately, groups who oppose comprehensive sex-ed as well as LGBTQ inclusion efforts, are working to halt the new curriculum, redirect the focus on abstinence-only programs, as well as limit the grades that have access to vital health information.

If you support comprehensive, science-based human sexuality education and LGBTQ inclusion programs for Austin schools, we need your help now more than ever. We’ve talked a lot about SHAC & School Board meetings, but now we have a new acronym to add to your list of meetings: CAC. The list of meetings you should be adding to your calendar are:

1. Attend the monthly SHAC meeting. You can learn all about SHAC meetings here. Get them on your Google calendar by using the calendar in the top right corner, or visit our Facebook SHAC Events here.

2. Attend the monthly AISD School Board meetings. Visit our Facebook School Board Events here, or find more information at the AISD website.

3. Attend Your School’s CAC Meetings – Better yet, sign up to be ON the CAC. More info below.

First things first: What is a CAC? (the information in quotes is from the AISD website.)

“Campus Advisory Councils are committees of parents, students, business and community representatives, teachers, principals, and other campus staff. The formation of CACs is required by state law (Texas Education Code, §11.251). Specific functions of CACs include providing review and comment on:

  • Campus Educational Program
  • Campus Performance
  • Campus Improvement Plan
  • Campus Staff Development Plan
  • Campus-Level Waiver Requests to the State
  • Campus Budget

The mission of CACs is to promote excellence in education for all students through broad-based representation. CACs provide valuable input to principals, who ultimately have decision-making responsibility for their campuses.”

So, the CAC is an important group of individuals which is making incredibly important decisions about your school’s campus. We typically think of the PTA as *the* group in schools, but the CAC actually has much more power when it comes to input on curriculum, staffing and how funds are used at your school.

Based on feedback from recent SHAC meetings the CAC is going to have a couple important roles to play with the new human sexuality curriculum and LGBTQ inclusion programs.

First, each school’s CAC will be the group responsible for organizing input sessions (with the principal) and collecting feedback from parents regarding the human sexuality curriculum. We need as many supporters as possible at these meetings to ensure that our voices are heard.

Second, once feedback is collected and the school board votes on how to move forward with the human sexuality curriculum, each school’s CAC will be making important decisions regarding how the curriculum is rolled out at their schools. There is a huge risk of important aspects of the curriculum being stripped out during this phase and its important that we all stay involved through the entire process.

Check with your individual school about dates for upcoming CAC meetings. They are open to the public so anyone can attend.

If you’re interested in joining your school’s CAC, here is some additional information from the AISD website:

“Membership of Campus Advisory Councils is determined at the campus level. Click here to download a standard membership application. Completed applications should be submitted to your campus principal. Detailed information on membership criteria is contained in the CAC Bylaws.”

Unfortunately, I’m not able to send out meeting dates and reminders for each campus, but welcome you to post anything you find about your school’s upcoming CAC meetings in our Private Facebook Group or Public Facebook Page. Please help us spread the word with friends at your schools by sharing this post on your Facebook page, Twitter and anywhere possible to help get the word out.

Thank you for all you do to help keep ALL kids and parents in AISD Informed.

Want to help but don’t live in AISD? Learn more about SHAC’s in other school districts here.

Sign up for updates here.

Does AISD’s #NoPlaceForHate Have Limits?

Does AISD’s #NoPlaceForHate Have Limits?

I just spent the weekend filled with the wonderful energy from Austin Pride’s 2018 Pride Weekend. My daughter and I marched along with hundreds of other AISD students, parents and faculty behind an AISD marching band, all of us waving AISD Pride Flags and celebrating AISD’s commitment to make Austin schools a safe, #NoPlaceForHate environment for LGBTQ students, families and staff.
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Your Story Is Important – Let’s Share It.

Your Story Is Important – Let’s Share It.

I’m a big believer in using information to help transform fear into understanding.

And when it comes down to it, every person who is fighting against inclusion policies for LGBTQ students in Austin schools is basing their arguments on fear.

  • Fear based in their own ignorance about what it means to be LGBTQ.
  • Fear from the misconception that LGBTQ rights and equality will somehow negatively impact their own children.
  • Fear that they can’t explain LGBTQ topics to their kids without getting into nitty-gritty sex details. (FYI – My children have been to many hetero-weddings where we never had to have a discussion about the sex lives of the couple getting married.)

We have the opportunity to raise a generation of kids who will never even think twice about whether their LGBTQ friends are “normal” or “different” simply because they’ve never been taught to see them differently.

That’s why it’s more important than ever that schools embrace LGBTQ inclusion policies and that we help inform the parents who are fighting these policies so they can get past their fears and begin to understand.

One of the best ways to help people understand is through personal stories, and I’m hopeful that you will be willing to share your story, including why having LGBTQ inclusive polices in schools is important, so we can begin to build that bridge from fear to understanding.

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Dear Dr. Cruz – Austin Students Need Comprehensive, Medically Accurate Sex Ed NOW

Dear Dr. Cruz – Austin Students Need Comprehensive, Medically Accurate Sex Ed NOW

Dear Dr. Cruz,

I was disappointed to receive a letter from Dr. Goodnow stating that despite an overwhelmingly favorable vote on the SHAC Health Subcommittee’s recommendation to move forward with the proposed revised human sexuality and responsibility curriculum, there will be a one-year delay in implementing this curriculum.

I was at the June 6th SHAC meeting where the proposal was presented and have been at almost every SHAC meeting during the 2017-18 school year. During the public comment period of each of these meetings, I have used my two minutes to share my support, as well as the support of the almost 1,000 members of the Informed Parents of Austin Group, for comprehensive sex education that is inclusive of the needs of LGBTQ students.
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Sign This Petition to Show Your Support for Comprehensive Sex-Ed

Sign This Petition to Show Your Support for Comprehensive Sex-Ed

Austin Independent School District (AISD) Parents:

AISD is considering a comprehensive sexual health education curriculum for K-8th grade students. To show your support, please sign this petition which will be delivered on behalf of The Informed Parents of Austin to the Austin ISD School Health Advisory Committee (SHAC) and the Board of Trustees.

There are many reasons to support age-appropriate, science-based, comprehensive sexuality education in your child’s school – here are just a couple:

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It’s Time For You to Go to a SHAC Meeting

It’s Time For You to Go to a SHAC Meeting

One of the most powerful actions you can take to support LGBTQ kids and families in your school district is to attend your district’s SHAC meetings.

SHAC stands for School Health Advisory Council. In addition to doing important things like making sure our kids have healthy lunches and excellent physical education programs, SHAC boards also guide school districts’ policies on LGBTQ inclusion and preparedness/sensitivity training for teachers as well as age-appropriate sex-ed programs for students.

We focus a lot on the Austin Independent School District in this group, but the fact is that ALL school districts have SHACs, and no matter where you live, if you care about defending your kids against vocal anti-LGBTQ groups and groups demanding abstinence only “sex ed” then you need to start getting involved in these meetings, or even sign up to be a SHAC board member.

I’m listing the contact information for the SHACs in the Austin area here, but please take a moment to google “__________ SHAC” (with the _______ being your school district) to find their meeting dates or even sign up to be considered for the board.

If you’re a little introvert and nervous about attending (like I was,) I’ve put together a little “How to Attend a SHAC Meeting” about how our meetings in AISD work.  I’m guessing they are similar in other districts, but this at least will help give you the assurance that they are not scary. You do not need to talk. You just need to be there, and be informed.

Austin Independent School District
SHAC General Info
Sign Up to be a SHAC Board Member

Lake Travis Independent School District
SHAC General Info
Sign Up to be a SHAC Board Member by contacting your school’s principal or contacting Kathleen Hassenfratz at 512-533-6041 or at hassenfratzk@ltisdschools.org

Leander Independent School District
SHAC General Info
Sign Up to be a SHAC Board Member by contacting Sr. Executive Director of Student Services Brad Mansfield at brad.mansfield@leanderisd.org.

Round Rock Independent School District
SHAC General Info
Sign Up to be a SHAC Board Member

Eanes Independent School District
SHAC General Info
Sign Up to be a SHAC Board Member by contacting Linda Rawlings, Director of Student Support Services, (512) 732-9020 or .

Pflugerville Independent School District
SHAC General Info
Sign Up to be a SHAC Board Member by using this general contact form for the district.

DelValle Independent School District
SHAC General Info
Sign Up to be a SHAC Board Member by contacting Health Services at 512-386-3073

Manor Independent School District
SHAC General Info
Sign Up to be a SHAC Board Member by contacting Student and Family Support Services Director Becky Lott at (512) 278-4462 rebecca.lott@manorisd.net or  Health Services Coordinator Lynda Townsend at (512) 278-4093 lynda.townsend@manorisd.net

Hays Independent School District
SHAC General Info
Sign Up to be a SHAC Board Member

 

I am not sure about your district’s SHAC meetings, but ours are regularly visited by vocal members of groups specifically designed to shame and block the rights of the LGBTQ community. Our general rule is to not engage with these people and to focus your efforts on the SHAC board members who have the power to influence change.

If your district is like ours, and already has programs that support the rights for ALL students, then simply show them your appreciation and offer your support for future programs.  If your district does not have programs in place that support equal rights for LGBTQ students and families, join our group, and we’ll get you the resources to help.

 

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How to Attend An AISD SHAC Meeting

One of the most effective ways to let key decision makers at AISD know that you support initiatives that support the LGBTQ+ community is to attend the monthly SHAC meetings and sign in as representing “Informed Parents of Austin.”

It can be a bit confusing and intimidating the first time you attend any new gathering, so here is a quick overview of what to expect when you attend a SHAC meeting.

Know where & when to go: The meetings are the first Wednesday of every month from 6:30pm – 8:00pm in the Carruth Auditorium Board Room at 1111 West Sixth Street.  The full schedule, agenda for the upcoming meeting and minutes from past meeting are all available here.

Since finding the actual conference room is the hardest part, here’s a handy map.

 

When You Arrive: There are sometimes prior meetings in the room that run until 6:30 so if other people are waiting outside the door, just ask to make sure you’re entering the correct meeting.  To your left there will be a table with a sign up sheet, agendas as well as the Speaker & Comment cards.  If you want to speak, make sure you give your card to one of the board members before the meeting starts so they know how many people to allot time for at the end of the meeting.

Where to Sit: Visitors are welcome to sit around the table with the board members, however, if there’s a large group, you can simply grab one of the chairs set behind the board table.

Here’s a photo of the basic seating layout at SHAC meetings. It’s a very casual, welcoming environment. Photo credit: AISD SHAC Facebook Page

The Meeting:   Here’s a sample agenda to give you an idea of the flow of the meetings and topics discussed.  The guest/public comment period is at the very end of the meeting and each person is limited to two minutes.

Do I HAVE to DO Anything?!  As a SHAC meeting guest, you are under no obligation to speak at any time – You can truly just act as a “fly on the wall” while taking in the information discussed.

If you do have something you want to say, but are hesitant to speak in front of the group, you can submit a written statement on one of the comment cards which are located on the table as you enter the room.

Since these written comments are kept with the records of the meeting, (and the Concerned Parents are definitely submitting their comments,) I always submit a general statement of support, such as:

My name is Susanne Kerns and I am one of the 800 members of The Informed Parents of Austin. I would like to thank the SHAC board for continuing to support programs that encourage equality and inclusiveness for LGBTQ+ students and families. I also support your efforts to include age appropriate sex education in the AISD curriculum.  I, and the Informed Parents of Austin, are here to support you in any way to ensure these programs are made available to all students in AISD.

Be Aware:  The SHAC board is there to attend to a wide variety of subjects pertaining to the health of our students and AISD staff, from Physical Education programs and Lunch Menus to staff insurance plans and school nurse coverage.  During any given meeting, there is very little chance that any LGBTQ+ or sex ed topcs will be raised, and even if they are, as observing guests we are not allowed to comment on them during the discussion when guests are each allowed two minutes to give a brief statement.  We are there to get information, be a counter-presence to the Concerned Parents and let the SHAC board know that we support their inclusion initiatives.

If you read my post about an unusual discussion I had with a representative from the Concerned Parents group, please note that this was not DURING the meeting, rather she reached out to me after the meeting. Your 2 minutes are YOURS. There is not a response period or an opportunity for the CPs to start a debate.  (Note: that post is on my personal blog, not the Informed Parents of Austin blog.)

Since that discussion, I have done my best to not engage with any CPs as I’m following the HRC’s recommendation to not engage with people who are fighting against our goals, but to support the decision makers who support equality for LGBTQ+ students and families.

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