Kirkwood’s new gender and sexuality health unit

KSD+will+start+teaching+about+gender+expression+and+sexuality+in+eighth+grade+and+high+school+health+classes+this+year.

Janine Gassel

KSD will start teaching about gender expression and sexuality in eighth grade and high school health classes this year.

KSD will start teaching about gender expression and sexuality in eighth grade and high school health classes with the goal of spreading inclusion in the 2022-23 school year.

Currently, the specific lessons and topics covered in this unit are undecided, KHS health teacher Craig Dickinson said. The Health Department has agreed on using information from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association, and a handful of terminology to define and share with students, but have yet to decide how in-depth it will be.

“For now, it’s going to be about terms and definitions,” Dickinson said. “We’ll go as deep as [students] want to get. We’re just trying to give them good information.”

Another topic Dickinson said health teachers must take into account is possible backlash. While the health teachers are thinking about the potential emotional and safety benefits this unit could have, Dickinson said they also must consider the dangers that could arise. 

“It’s about all of our students in Kirkwood feeling that they belong.””

— Craig Dickinson

“With today’s political climate, I do expect [backlash],” Dickinson said. “Should a parent be concerned, they have the opportunity to opt their student out of that lesson. But for me, this is about being inclusive. It’s about all of our students in Kirkwood feeling that they belong.”

Brooks Haden, sophomore, said he is aware of these risks, and was surprised by the new addition. Though he does not have a direct connection to the LGBTQ+ community, he is aware of his peers’ experiences. So despite the dangers of the unit, Haden believes the pros this unit could have for many students outweigh the possible consequences.

“I’m glad that they’re [adding the unit],” Haden said. “Some kids, especially in eighth grade and [high school], are starting to figure out who they are as a person, and I think this course can help them.”

Bailey Walsh, an LGBTQ+ sophomore, has similar opinions. She said she also thinks that this unit could help LGBTQ+ students, as well as help reduce hate in Kirkwood. 

“It’ll give the people who may not be as accepting of it a better perspective on why people express their gender or their sexuality the way they do,” Walsh said. “It’ll make everything a lot easier, especially for the kids who aren’t out yet, who are wanting to be out.”

“One of the hardest things to do is look outside of yourself and consider different viewpoints.””

— Anonymous

While Walsh recognizes the benefits of this unit, she also sees the risks of it.  She said that she likes the idea of the new addition, but still has concerns.

“I’m glad they’re trying to be more informed,” Walsh said. “But I don’t know how well it will work with the varying viewpoints of everybody. Everyone thinks of things a lot differently, so someone might be supportive of the unit being added, whereas someone else might be opposed to it.”

An anonymous LGBTQ+ junior said despite KSD’s past claims of being supportive to the community, she feels this is the first action they have taken towards it. She has many hopes for it, and some advice for the community.

“One of the hardest things to do is look outside of yourself and consider different viewpoints,” she said. “The second you do that, it opens up a whole other world of opportunities and community. So, I think it’s a great program, but I do hope it’s implemented well.”