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Paw Paw debates how to teach the birds and the bees

Three members of Paw Paw Public Schools sit in front of Paw Paw community members at the second public hearing regarding the sex education curriculum. Two members of the board wear formal attire, characterized by button up shirts and suit jackets. Though one member is wearing a pink, yellow, green, and blue tie-dye sweater. Three community members sit in black roller chairs in front of them, one attendee is taking notes as the board presents the curriculum. A large screen behind the board members displays the agenda for the meeting, with vibrant floral patterned wallpaper filling up the wall behind it.
Michael Symonds
Board members said public meetings would help them tailor the sex education curriculum to meet the needs of their diverse community.

Paw Paw Public Schools is working to update its sex education curriculum for the first time since about 2007.

The district's Sex Education Advisory Board has opened the revision process to parents, holding two public hearings in March.

The board heard a range of opinions. One commenter advocated for lessons on gender identity, while others suggested the curriculum was far too liberal.

Several attendees said abstinence is not prevalent enough in the curriculum, though the district says it’s encouraged in about half of the lessons.

Parent Ben Bowater sided with the board, telling parents they should be realistic.

“Is this the best course of action to help prepare our students, not for the world we wish was for them, but rather the world they're actually inheriting," he said.

Superintendent Rick Reo said the update is very much needed, since the last one was around 2007.

“It's not just about the information. It's about the materials themselves. As was mentioned in the meeting, we've got, you know, VHS tapes that teachers are trying to teach from, even DVDs that don't work anymore.”

Fellow parent Sarah Thomas also supported the curriculum.

While she expressed that she would like it to give more weight to topics like consent, she felt the curriculum had much of the most important information.

“We do have to worry about making sure as many students as possible are exposed to the meat and potatoes of it. The other stuff is, while I think important, extras right now. For our community, it has to be an extra.”

Next, the advisory board will decide whether to present the curriculum at the April 15 Board of Education meeting.

Michael Symonds reports for WMUK through the Report for America national service program.

Report for America national service program corps member Michael Symonds joined WMUK’s staff in 2023. He covers the “rural meets metro” beat, reporting stories that link seemingly disparate parts of Southwest Michigan.