Fourth-graders to get intro to sex education


Staff Writer

EDISON — Around 100 parents came to information session on Nov. 30 at the New Dover Road School to view “Family Life Education” films being shown to their children in school.

And some of them weren’t happy with what they saw.

Margaret Lee, a parent who attended the viewing of the films, said that her 9-year-old daughter is “too young to learn about sex.”

James Madison Intermediate School Principal Bernard Bragen said the 10-minute films are targeted toward boys and girls who need to know that as they reach puberty, their bodies will change.

“It may happen at different times, but they need to know that it’s normal,” he said.

Rose Traficante, assistant superintendent for curriculum instruction, said that the program originally began in fifth grade, but the Board of Education approved the curriculum for fourth-graders.

Traficante said she does not consider the films sex education. She compared the curriculum to the movie “The Lion King” and said, “It’s learning the cycle of life.”

“Kids are maturing earlier than they use to in the past,” Traficante said. “Research says that people are physically maturing earlier.”

According to the state’s 1980 mandate on family life education, which took effect three years after being established, it requires school districts to institute a curriculum under broad-spectrum guidelines.

There is a growing concern among parents because fourth- and fifth-graders will be taking the same course, which the school refers to as the “Growing Up Program.”

Topics created for the curriculum include human growth development and sexuality, interpersonal relationships, and responsible personal behavior and building strong families, Traficante said.

“Pushing kids to be more mature and learn about sex in fourth grade is too early,” Lee said.

Teachers will only answer questions in the context of the curriculum, Traficante said. “They will not answer opened-ended or value-driven questions to see if something is OK or not.”

Principal Bragen declined to comment on the whether or not he believes fourth grade is too early for students.