Education

Sex ed & CCSD: Dear parents, no one wants to teach your kindergartner how to masturbate

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Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify the SIECUS guidelines' section on masturbation as it relates to ages 5-8.

“Let’s talk about sex.” Those four words continue to be as polarizing now as they were 50 years ago, when the nonprofit Sexuality Information and Education Council (SIECUS) was formed to promote sexuality as healthy and natural. And nowhere are those words more polarizing than in schools, as the Clark County School District found out last week while discussing an update of its sex education curriculum. Angry parents who had read SIECUS’ guidelines for gathering community input on “developmental messages” for K-12 descended on a CCSD meeting to protest a document that they believed endorses teaching kindergartners to masturbate.

Except it doesn't—not really. The SIECUS guidelines’ section on ages 5-8 focuses on anatomy, identifying genitals and where they’re located. The references to masturbation are intended only as a recommended definition of the act, not about teaching the act itself: “Both boys and girls have body parts that feel good when touched," the guidelines state, adding in a later section, "Touching one's own genitals to feel good is called masturbation," and that "masturbation should be done in a private place."

Danielle Miller, assistant superintendent of CCSD’s Instructional Design and Professional Learning Division, adds that the SIECUS guidelines are merely that—guidelines to help school districts in formulating a curriculum. She added that teaching kindergartners to masturbate will in no way be part of the discussion. “It is not being proposed to teach in kindergarten. Not even close. We would never be discussing that.”

In fact, CCSD may not change its sex ed curriculum at all. The current discussion is more of a proactive measure to prepare for the 2015 Legislature, which has said it will address the issue after failing to pass AB230 in 2013, which would have mandated sex ed curriculum updates in Nevada.

We’d argue that updates are long overdue, given that CCSD’s curriculum is more than 30 years old, and that Nevada has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the nation. But as Kurt Conklin, director of programs for SIECUS, says, “When it comes to matters of sex, some would probably prefer that the schools teach next to nothing, or abstinence only until marriage.” The masturbation conclusion “is just a very natural reaction based on what I think is a preexisting suspicion of public institutions.”

At a meeting earlier this week, applicants were considered for the Sex Education Advisory Committee, which will present recommendations to the Board of Trustees next year. “We want to work with the community,” Miller says. “As a native Las Vegan, I want everyone to feel very comfortable with the decisions that are being made. Everyone has a voice in that.”

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Ken Miller is Las Vegas Magazine's managing editor, having previously served as associate editor at Las Vegas Weekly, assistant features ...

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