Unitarian Universalists distance themselves from sex-ed assignment that led to teacher's suspension

Students sit in a high school classroom.
Students sit in a high school classroom. | Reuters/Stephane Mahe

The Unitarian Universalist Association says that a sex education assignment at an Oregon high school asking students about their sexual fantasies is not part of a comprehensive curriculum it helped develop in conjunction with the United Church of Christ. 

Earlier this month, Kirk Miller, a health teacher at Churchill High School of Eugene, was placed on leave after asking students in his Health 2 - Human Sexuality course to complete an assignment titled "Fantasy Story." The assignment instructed students to write a story about their sexual fantasies but not to include any form of penetration, oral sex or intercourse that could result in a sexually transmitted disease. 

"You will choose 3 items (romantic music, candles, massage oil, feather, feather boa, flavored syrup, etc.) to use in your story," the assignment reads. "Your story should show that you can show and receive loving physical affection without having sex." 

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Following backlash from parents, the Eugene 4J School District, which oversees the high school, launched a third-party investigation, as The Register-Guard reported on March 17. The school district also began a review of the "OWL" curriculum, reportedly used in the health class, which stands for "Our Whole Lives."

The district adopted the curriculum in 2016 and implemented it in 2018. Superintendent Andy Dey told The Register-Guard that the assignment was taken from the OWL curriculum for grades 10 through 12.

The OWL curriculum was originally published in connection with the United Church of Christ and the Unitarian Universalist Association and was first implemented in the 1990s. The United Church of Christ states that OWL is a set of curriculums for seven age groups initially developed for "the affirming and supportive setting of our churches."

The Unitarian Universalist Association says its offers "comprehensive, lifespan sexuality education curricula for use in both secular settings and faith communities." It is "informed by the Guidelines for Comprehensive Sexuality Education produced by the National Guidelines Task Force, a group of leading health, education, and sexuality professionals assembled by the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States."

In response to an inquiry from The Christian Post, a spokesperson for the Unitarian Universalist Association directed the outlet to a statement the association released regarding the controversial health class lesson. 

The UUA asserted that the assignment provided to the ninth-grade health class was an "unapproved adaptation that was taken out of context from an out-of-print version of the curriculum."

"The OWL curriculum is developmentally appropriate when implemented as designed, by trained OWL facilitators. According to our records, the teacher in question was not trained by certified OWL trainers," the UUA statement reads. "The best practices for orientation within our congregations ensure that adults know what the curriculum entails before giving permission to opt their children in. Overall, at-home readings and activities support parents as their children's primary sexuality educators, preparing parents to continue this role as their children grow."

"The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) and the United Church of Christ (UCC) developed OWL to help children, youth, and adults understand and affirm themselves and others," the statement adds. "OWL promotes self-worth, responsibility, consent, sexual health, justice and inclusivity."

The statement stressed that Unitarian Universalists "hold that the full expression of the diversity of gender and sexuality is a gift" and are committed "to love and justice, to inclusive ministry and prophetic action, is deep and life-affirming."

"This is especially important in areas where the surrounding culture may not be supportive of people with LGBTQIA+ and other marginalized identities," the statement continues. "The OWL curriculum is developed with national experts in health, education and sexuality for specific stages of human development, and is field tested prior to publication."

The United Church of Christ and the Eugene 4J School District did not respond to The Christian Post's request for comment. 

"OWL was intended to be used in community and educational contexts with appropriate facilitation, safeguards, and in keeping with its design, as it has been for decades in communities across the country," UUA stated. "With this in mind, we also provide training to schools and other organizations seeking to offer the OWL program."

As Oregon-based news outlet KEZI reported earlier this month, another assignment from the same health class called "With Whom Would You Do It?" involved a spinning wheel labeled with various sexual acts. When the wheel was spun and landed on a sexual act, students would write the initials of a male or female classmate they wanted to do that sexual activity with.

"My daughter was very, very, very uncomfortable in the classroom," Justin McCall, the father of a female student, told the outlet. "Especially when he put up the generated spinning wheel and it had anal penetration and oral sex up there. Her and her best friend did not participate in that. But they still got graded."

According to a March 9 report by KEZI, the superintendent gave the approval to replace the old curriculum by the end of the year.

Samantha Kamman is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: Follow her on Twitter: @Samantha_Kamman

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