School Curriculum Subcommittee discusses sex-education curriculum and COVID-19 policies



The School Subcommittee convened virtually to revisit the sex-education curriculum and COVID-19 related policies.

The School Curriculum Subcommittee convened virtually via Zoom on Oct. 17 at 5 p.m. to discuss the sex-education curriculum and COVID-19 related policies.

Director of Guidance and Clinical Services Maria Letasz said the district received a grievance in June which alleged that how the sex-education curriculum was implemented violated state law, federal law and district policy.

The policy in question is that of the Parental Notification Law, requiring all families of students in the Public Schools of Brookline (PSB) to be notified of any sex or sexuality education that their children receive, and subsequently have the opportunity to review or opt out of the curriculum.

“Our policy itself is in line with what’s required of the Mass General Law 71 section 32A, in fact some of the language exceeds what is required,” Letasz said.

Letasz said that the current sex-education policy not only acknowledges strong religious and moral beliefs about sex-education, but aims to respect and adhere to parental voices. However, Letasz said the real issue lies in the implementation of the policy.

The subcommittee unanimously voted to look over the curriculum and make any additional necessary changes.

The subcommittee also discussed policies related to COVID-19, specifically looking at vaccination requirements for staff, policies on face coverings and other general issues.

Student Health Services Coordinator Tricia Laham said the town will continue to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for COVID-19 issues, including protocols for isolation and masking.

“Those who test positive [continue to be] isolated for five days. They can come back to school on day six and need to wear a mask on days six through 10,” Laham said.

Laham reminded the subcommittee that masking is not required in PSB with the exception of people testing positive for COVID-19, which allows for policy makers to be flexible in responses to increasing or decreasing COVID-19 cases.

“I think that the language created for the mask mandate is really good, just when we think we understand it, something changes, so I think we have to be flexible in that regard,” Laham said.

School Committee member David Pearlman said the COVID-19 policies will be useful to others in the future.

“The way we define masking is helpful. It provides guidance and can inform future leadership on how to handle pandemics,” Pearlman said.

The current vaccination requirement for PSB staff includes the first and second dosage of the vaccine, as well as the booster shots. Letasz said she is concerned about the impact of the current policy on specific groups.

“I question whether the other town departments [have gotten rid of] the vaccination requirement. I question how these policies have impacted specific groups such as our educators of color and paraprofessionals,” Letasz said.

According to Laham, continuing to track the booster vaccine status of PSB faculty has become unrealistic.

“With the changing nature of things, keeping track of the vaccines has become untenable, and who could possibly keep track of that? I like the idea of continuing with the primary series [of vaccination] as a requirement, but I don’t think it’s realistic to expect we are going to know all the booster information,” Laham said.

The meeting unanimously agreed to support the rescinding of the current vaccine and testing policies. Policies that track require tracking of both booster vaccine information and testing status. This would allow Superintendent Linus Guillory to work in consultation with Director of Public Health Sigalle Reiss, to enact health policy as needed.