Qualters Middle School

Qualters Middle School in Mansfield. (Sun Chronicle file photo)

MANSFIELD — Seventh- and eighth-grade students at Qualters Middle School will begin receiving an updated curriculum in sex education beginning in January.

The school committee gave its approval this week to a series of lessons that would be added to the health curriculum, ranging from gender roles and understanding boundaries to information on pregnancy and sexual assault.

Superintendent Teresa Murphy said school faculty has been working for the past couple of years on materials to update the curriculum and fill in existing gaps. She said the updated material complies with the existing Massachusetts Comprehensive Health Curriculum frameworks.

Parents have been notified about the upcoming changes and will have an opportunity to opt out of lessons on behalf of their child if they wish.

Changes in the curriculum were based on Advocates for Youth, an organization that advocates for young people’s access to sexual health information.

In seventh grade, students would be exposed to six lessons dealing with gender roles, changes in adolescents’ bodies, understanding boundaries, understanding relationships and varying ways of showing affection.

In eighth grade, a total of eight lessons would focus on influences on decision making, healthy versus unhealthy relationships, texting and basic information concerning birth control and sexually-transmitted diseases.

Additional changes to the sixth-grade health curriculum are planned next year, the superintendent said.

Murphy said the school department recognizes that sexuality is a sensitive topic and that some parents may prefer to educate their children about sex at home.

“It’s very important for parents to be able to opt out of these lessons,” she said.

The new lessons would begin in January for some students, with additional roll-outs in mid-March and early May.

School committee members, who approved the new lessons unanimously Tuesday, generally praised the updated curriculum as comprehensive and age-appropriate.

Rick Foster can be reached at 508-236-0360.

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