AUBURN Before any kindergarten, second- or fourth-grader receives safety lessons that teach vocabulary words of “breasts,” “buttocks,” “vagina” and “penis,” the Auburn School Department will ask parents to say yes or no on whether their child can be in the class, Superintendent Katy Grondin said.

That’s a change.

Before now, it was up to parents to opt out, letting their school know they didn’t want their child in the class. But last year, a father said he never received information about the class, and was upset his son was subjected to those teachings without he and his wife knowing more about the class.

On Wednesday night, the Auburn School Committee heard a report on what kind of “personal safety” lessons are given to youngsters in school by Advocates for Children.

Fairview Elementary School guidance counselor Sue Davis explained the lessons, and how students are taught the formal words to identify parts of the body used by doctors and nurses.

The lessons teach children that their bodies belong to them, that if someone is touching them it should be for “clean or healthy” reasons. The classes help students understand if someone is touching them inappropriately, they should say “stop,” run away and tell an adult they trust, Davis explained.


That lesson is given in kindergarten, second and fourth grades.

If all parents have to send in permission forms, Davis said she’s concerned that some parents would not return any forms and some students would be left out of the valuable lessons. In recent years, very few parents said they did not want their children in the classes, Grondin said.

Last year, however, Auburn father Cory Pratt was livid after his second-grader was kicked out of class when, he said, his son elbowed another student, repeating the word “breast.”

Pratt didn’t know the class was to be offered, and questioned whether the school department was overstepping its boundaries by teaching what should be taught by parents.

“You are pushing us aside,” Pratt said to school committee members. “This is my family. My son is not your child. I will raise my son, and don’t tell me how to raise my son.”

Committee members debated whether the school department should have every parent sign a permission form or if opt-out letters were sufficient.


Tom Kendall and City Councilor Mary LaFontaine favored the opt-out forms, concerned that school employees would waste valuable time chasing down signatures.

“This is our curriculum,” Kendall said, adding that the school department doesn’t inform parents that it teaches “two plus two equals four.”

It’s up to parents to communicate with their school, Kendall said.

Ron Potvin objected.

Some parents “don’t want you teaching this,” Potvin said. Parents are “trying to communicate something to their children in a way they see appropriate. The school department wedges itself in, doing its own thing.” To some, it feels like “parents don’t need to exist; you’ve got the school board. We feed them. We babysit them when they’re four years old. We’re going to teach them about sex. Parents are sick and tired about this.”

Potvin pushed for a permission slip signed by parents, and wanted permission slips mailed to homes with follow-up phone calls.


Grondin said that Pratt was the only parent she was aware of who last year had a problem with the class.

In addition to the permission slips, schools will use a variety of ways to increase communication with parents to ensure everyone knows that the classes will be offered and when they will occur. These methods include parent letters, robocalls, newsletters and postings on school webpages.

Auburn schools working on iPad insurance

AUBURN — Offering iPad insurance for parents will be coming this fall, Auburn School Committee member Bonnie Hayes told the committee Wednesday night.

The iPad insurance was not offered last year, which upset some parents. The insurance covers costs if a tablet computer is broken or destroyed.


One company has a policy with an annual premium of $58 and no deductible, Hayes said. Her Finance Committee is examining other policies from other companies.

Many parents don’t want insurance, said Auburn Superintendent Kay Grondin. The replacement costs of the iPad is $399. “But for parents who want that piece of mind, we’ll offer it.”

In other business, Hayes reported that a number of parents have not paid their students’ hot lunch bills, a total debt of $20,000.

One possible solution is offering universal lunches at five schools — Sherwood Heights, Park Avenue, Washburn, Walton and Franklin. That would mean lunches at those schools would be free to all students.

That may be possible, Hayes said, because those schools have high percentages of low-income families. The federal government would pick up the cost.

More information will given to the School Committee soon, Hayes said.

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