June 14, 2022
Dear Croton-Harmon Community:
Today, gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino held a press conference in front of CHHS in which he made a statement about what he believes should and should not be taught in Health Education classes in New York State. He specifically referenced one lesson from our high school, calling it “inappropriate.” Mr. Astorino has not contacted the district for background or context, and I would like to provide that to you now.
There are many factors that go into curriculum planning, including teaching standards, best practices, teacher professional development, responsiveness to students, and reflection of current events. Many may not be aware that some aspects of our Health curriculum were developed several years ago after some school district students were involved in a reported off-campus sexual assault. In the aftermath of that situation, the district formed our Culture of Respect Task Force, which continues to be active with participation from parents, students, and community members. At that time, the district also engaged with professionals in the area of mental health and health education to design relevant learning experiences, with the goal of updating how our Health curriculum addresses consent and sexual health.
One of those learning experiences begins with a discussion about consent, including the nuanced and sensitive language around that topic. Students are then asked to anonymously generate words or phrases they have heard or used related to sexual activity, some of which depict potentially unhealthy dynamics about sex. The individual words and phrases shared by the students are not defined within the class; instead, there is a discussion about the overall connotation of these terms, and the importance of using respectful language around this sensitive topic. This and related learning experiences have been implemented over the past several years and are documented on our district’s curriculum maps, which are available on our website for public viewing. In addition to these activities’ alignment with the national standards and State guidance, they have been presented as examples to professionals throughout the state at a conference of the New York Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance.
Learning experiences such as this one are important for our students. We also trust and stand firmly behind our highly trained, dedicated, and passionate professionals in their facilitation of these experiences.
If you have any questions about this communication, please feel free to contact me directly.
Superintendent of Schools