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In 1988, the State Board of Education established regulations regarding the Family Life Education (FLE) program. The DOE encouraged this program in response to a decade of rising teenage pregnancy rates, rising sexually transmitted disease rates, and the growing HIV/AIDS epidemic. The regulations also required local school districts to include the following ten topics in their FLE programs:
In order to provide parents with alternatives, the regulations required that an opt-out provision be included for parents to remove their child(ren) from any lesson or all lessons at a particular grade level and that alternative, non-FLE lessons be available to students removed from FLE lessons. In addition, school districts were required to establish an advisory committee with broad community representation to review and make recommendations regarding the FLE content.
Fairfax County Public Schools’ (FCPS) FLE program was fully implemented in 1990. In order to address the issues of HIV and substance abuse with older adolescents, FCPS requires FLE to be taught in grades K-12.
The elementary FLE program is taught by the regular classroom teacher. The early elementary program emphasizes the importance of families, distinction between good and bad touch, the recognition and avoidance of poisons, the identification of common emergencies and sources of help, and the importance of friendships.
Human sexuality is first introduced in grade four. In the Human Growth and Development unit, students learn about the male and female reproductive systems. Students view age-appropriate videos and learn the maturational process, prenatal development and the changes which occur during puberty. Students study the effects of peer pressure and begin to examine the influence of media on behavior and attitudes. Students begin an understanding of HIV/AIDS and are taught that AIDS it is a disease that can be totally avoided.
The FLE program for students in grades seven and eight is taught by health and physical education teachers. Students are taught that abstinence from sexual intercourse is the only way to guarantee the prevention of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS. Students learn about behaviors that put them at risk for substance use and abuse as well as sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS. Building on information learned in late elementary school, students continue their study of basic anatomy and physiology and the development of sexuality as an aspect of total personality as well as the physical, psychological, and social changes that occur during adolescence.
Beginning with the 1997-98 school year, ninth graders participate in Family Life Education unit through their biology class and learn about the prevention of alcohol and other substance abuse during health class. In tenth grade, students study FLE during health class, while in eleventh and twelfth grades, the lessons are generally taught by social studies teachers.
During ninth and tenth grades, students continue building on their base of knowledge regarding substance abuse, sexually transmitted disease prevention, and the skills needed to make health decisions. During biology lessons students study human reproduction in greater depth, including the influence of alcohol and other drugs on fetal development. In grades nine and ten, students learn how maturation affects adolescent development and learn to recognize the development of sexuality as a lifelong aspect of personality. Students are taught that a small percent of humans are homosexual, that scientists differ as to the cause of homosexuality, and that all persons deserve to be treated with respect regardless of their sexual orientation. Students are taught that abstinence from sexual intercourse is the only way to guarantee the prevention of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS. The problem of date abuse and violence is introduced and students are taught how to avoid dangerous situations and how to get help when it is needed.
During grades eleven and twelve, students continue their study of sexually transmitted infections and grade twelve has a lesson on Virginia laws designed to protect the family.