In wake of Nassar, Okemos schools add safety to health instruction

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After the Larry Nassar episode that shook Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics, Okemos Public Schools have taken a look at the lessons and implemented more safety policies.

Michigan Child Protection Law mandates reports from professionals about children who have been abused or neglected. However, it is not the responsibility of the staff members to determine what has happened. Child Protective Services investigates incidents have been reported. Background checks have been run on faculty and other participants who have worked with the children. The trained staff and teachers main responsibility is to keep children safe.

John Hood, assistant superintendent for instruction of Okemos Public Schools, met with principals and a program  representative met to start implementing the Michigan Model for Health.

The Michigan Model for Health applies to K-12 students. Core components are different from elementary and secondary levels.

Personal safety lessons, known as, Good Touch, Bad Touch, talk about sexual harassment and deciphering which acts are appropriate and inappropriate.

“Socioemotional curriculum and core curriculum helps students develop coping skills or conflict, for anxiety” Hood said, “And have teachers have a common language to help students to address that as early as kindergarten.” 

Portions of the school year are set aside for teachers to instruct more about health and sex, starting in 4th grade. Parents are notified about the curriculum before the instruction, said Rhianna Walworth, executive assistant to the superintendent. 

Personal Health and Sexuality Education is a committee that gives the district recommendations for teaching reproductive health. Hood oversees the board and curriculum. The board sent additions to the proposed 7th and 9th grade curriculum to the board early February. Items included: a video for the 9th graders on “Coping with Dating Violence and Abuse,”  and an overview for the 7th grade curriculum. The 7th grade curriculum includes 10 sections which will include homework, learning objectives, videos, guest speakers and vocabulary. PHASE wants to make sure it is all- inclusive, involving all students and reflects on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Results will be reported every two years for parents or guardians view. 

The PHASE board will have 20 members. One will be a parent or guardian of a child who is attending a school in the district. Other members will include- clergy, health professionals, educators and students at Okemos High School. As of Aug. 14, 2017, five individuals had been recommended for the board, including two parents, a health professional and two community members.

Marissa Johnson, a student advocate for health knows that spreading awareness of health and sexual situations is important.

“If we don’t learn about it then, when will we ever?” asked Johnson.