While students in kindergarten are busy learning their ABC's, this year in Worcester, Mass., children will also start a sexual health education curriculum -- something garnering mixed reaction among parents.
"I don't think it's appropriate. They're way too young for that," one parent said.
During a virtual forum for parents, a consultant for the Worcester Public Schools district explained that for the youngest children in kindergarten, lessons would start with what makes each student unique, while also teaching them about "my space and your space."
"Students will be able to explain that all people have right to tell others not to touch their body when they do not want to be touched," a forum presenter said over Zoom.
Students in first grade would learn about understand and preventing sexual abuse and how to identify a trusted adult with any concerns or questions.
Anatomy and reproduction wouldn't start until 5th grade.
"Kindergarten through third grade need to learn tools to help protect themselves," the presenter said.
It's all a part of the "Advocates for Youth's Rights, Respect, Responsibility" -- an evidence-informed sexual health education curriculum, district-wide. The curriculum will be implemented in an age-appropriate manner by trained health teachers, according to the National Sex Education Standards and the Massachusetts Health Education Frameworks, the district said.
"I'm happy for them to offer it," Worcester parent Ann Lambert said. "We can always opt out. I think it's great to have the information available to parents and kids if they want it."
William Bush has a daughter in kindergarten and says he has mixed feelings about it. He wants to do more research before making a decision.
"Part of me that says no they're too young, protect the innocence," he said, "but then there's another part of me that says I definitely didn't learn enough."
Parents can choose to opt out of the lessons for their children by signing a form on the district's website and submitting it by Sept. 10. Or, they can give it directly to the school's principal if later than that date.