East Lansing school board might add sexting to sex ed curriculum

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Person holding a cell phone.East Lansing might soon see sexting on the sex education curriculum for middle and high school students.

Sexting, or sending sexually explicit photographs or messages via technology, isn’t a structured discussion in East Lansing’s public schools. But the East Lansing Public Schools Board of Education is considering it.

“This recommendation basically would be adding objectives on sexting from 7th grade on up to high school,” said Mary Ellen Vrbanac, sex education supervisor for ELPS. “So it’ll be integrated into the already existing lessons on communication.”

The recommendation is to implement two new videos into the curriculum that would be a springboard for discussing how sexting can have negative personal and legal consequences.

For the recommendation to be implemented, the state requires a sex education advisory board to search out and construct materials for the curriculum, Vrbanac said. Then, that material goes to the board of education for consideration.

Once it hits the school board, there are two public hearings where community members can ask questions and comment. The first public hearing was March 11, and the second will be on Monday night.

If board members agree the recommendation should be implemented, they’ll vote to add the media.

Vrbanac said sexting is discussed in East Lansing schools only when it’s brought up in questions. She said sexting could also be addressed in technology based discussions.

“Content like that, it didn’t have to be in sex ed, but we felt that since it wasn’t in the general education curriculum, it needed to be in sex ed,” Vrbanac said.

Listing of both videos about sexting being considered for East Lansing's sex ed curriculum.

The East Lansing Public Schools Board of Education is considering these two videos about sexting to add to the school district’s sexual education curriculum. Created by Madison O’Connor.

The recommended videos are relatively short, and Vrbanac said that was intentional. She said the sex education advisory board has found videos need to be short and to the point if students are going to pay attention.

“It’s really a springboard for discussion and further education,” she said.

The process of creating this recommendation has been going on for approximately two years, Vrbanac said. It’s a long process simply because it takes a while to find the best material.

“It doesn’t come fast, most of this stuff,” Vrbanac said. “We don’t want to approve something just to approve it. We could just have discussions with students, but we like to select media that reinforces that learning.”

Vrbanac said in addition to working with the sex education advisory board, she also worked closely with high school teachers and sex ed supervisors in other districts. She took her four top videos to the advisory board, which narrowed it to two.

“The importance of having this conversation is that you are supplying the knowledge of what sexting is, how sexting can affect your relationships,” Vrbanac said. “There’s an immediate impact, but there’s also a long-term impact that could happen on your life later.”

If the board approves the recommendation, it would be implemented in East Lansing schools this academic year, Vrbanac said.

But first, the board has to consider whether the media selected fits the goal of helping students form healthy relationships.

“They want to make sure it fits the curriculum, that it’s meeting those objectives,” Vrbanac said. “They also want to consider any further feelings from the community that could be expressed. Is this going to help educate and meet our goals for sex education? Is it a need?”

Monday night’s public hearing will take place in East Lansing High School’s “Board Room” at 509 Burcham Drive. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. and is open to the public.

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