Teacher’s Guide & Additional Resources
It is strongly recommended that you review the curriculum Teacher’s Guide in your preparations to bring Rights, Respect, Responsibility into the classroom.
Below you will find a listing of general topics covered in more extensive detail in our Teacher’s Guide.
Advocates for Youth created Rights, Respect, Responsibility and intends it to be used in its entirety, while recognizing that districts will select which lessons best meet the needs of their students. In doing so, any adaptations to Rights, Respect, Responsibility must be noted with the language ‘Adapted from Rights, Respect, Responsibility: a K-12 Sexuality Education Curriculum. Advocates assumes no responsibility for the content or quality of those adaptations.
Frequently Asked Questions
Read through our Frequently Asked Questions for additional guidance.
Sexuality education should be a partnership between parents/care givers and schools. Many schools find that sending a letter to parents/caregivers letting them know about upcoming sexuality education lessons can not only help keep parents informed but also gives them opportunities to follow up with questions and/or preview materials. Some districts send a letter as a courtesy, some districts require a parent notification letter to be sent (called opt-out) and other require active parental permission to be obtained for a student to participate (opt-in). An opt-out policy ensures that many more students receive sexuality education and are not prevented from attending due to letters never arriving home or mistakenly not being sent back in. Advocates for Youth is a proponent of opt-out policies and the following is a sample parent letter which districts can use as a template and modify to fit their unique needs.
Fostering Respect in Your Classroom
Rights, Respect, Responsibility is designed to involve young people in discussing personal, sometimes sensitive, topics. To do this effectively, it is important to create and maintain a safe, respectful environment in which participants can share freely. You can create and maintain a safe, respectful environment by introducing and reinforcing ground rules. Engage all students in creating, understanding, agreeing to and respecting the ground rules. Post the ground rules on a wall for every session. Remind students, when necessary, that everyone has agreed to abide by the ground rules. See the section on creating and using ground rules starting on page 14 of the Teacher’s Guide.
Trusted Adults: Within this curriculum we use the phrasing “parent or caregiver” to acknowledge the variety of family formations. We also use “trusted adult,” to refer to a parent, coach, faith leader, teacher, or other adult who may not be an immediate family member but is someone a young person knows and can trust who may be able to respond appropriately as well.Gender Identity: Advocates for Youth strongly believes in the rights of youth of all genders, including the importance of intentional and authentic inclusion of transgender issues. In younger grades, where students may not yet be familiar with non-binary gender identities or equipped to process them, this curriculum uses gender binary terms. However, as students age, the curriculum introduces gender-neutral names and a range of identities, and is careful to note that biological sex characteristics are separate from gender identity. Learn more about gender identity and how gender lessons are incorporated into this curriculum starting on page 23 of the Teacher’s Guide.
Pros and Cons to Separating by Gender
In order to be fully inclusive of all genders and gender identities, with very few exceptions, noted below, it is important to avoid separating students by gender when creating smaller learning groups. In particular, transgender and gender non-conforming students may find the request to choose a group based on their gender almost impossible. In addition, dividing students by gender reinforces a gender binary concept that is incongruent with the foundations of this curriculum.Exceptions to this general policy may occur during some of the fourth and fifth grade lessons on puberty. For lessons that delve into the physical and emotional changes of puberty, students at these grade levels may find it useful and more comfortable to have a session with other students of their own gender in which they can ask personal and potentially embarrassing questions that they might not otherwise ask in a mixed gender setting. If the teacher is aware of a transgender or gender non-conforming student for whom such a binary split would create discomfort or cause them to feel ostracized or otherwise isolated, the teacher is advised to keep mixed gender groups.
Growth and Development
Human development is a lifelong process of physical, behavioral, cognitive, and emotional growth and change. In the early stages of life—from babyhood to childhood, childhood to adolescence, and adolescence to adulthood—enormous changes take place. Throughout the process, each person develops attitudes and values that guide choices, relationships, and understanding.Sexual development is also a lifelong process. Infants, children, teens, and adults are sexual beings. Just as it is important to enhance a child's physical, emotional, and cognitive growth, so it is important to lay foundations for a child's sexual growth. Adults have a responsibility to help young people understand and accept their evolving sexuality. Each stage of development encompasses specific markers. Developmental guidelines apply to most children in the age groups specified. However, each child is an individual and may reach these stages of development earlier or later than other children the same age. When concerns arise about a specific child's development, parents or other caregivers should consult a doctor or other child development professional.
Gender, Gender Identity, and Sexual Orientation
Rights, Respect, Responsibility is designed to be inclusive of all genders, gender identities, gender expressions and sexual orientations. To that end, the language used and examples provided within lessons recognize the spectrum of gender, gender identities and expressions and sexual orientations. Teachers are strongly encouraged to model this inclusivity in their teaching. The information included here is intended to aid teachers in their efforts to support all students across these spectrums. Defining some key concepts is a useful place to start. There are many good sources for defining gender- and sexual orientation-related terms. The ones provided below are either directly quoted or adapted from various definitions in order to provide the clearest guidance for teachers using this curriculum.
Using Ground Rules with this Curriculum
Establishing ground rules, which are shared guidelines about how everyone – teachers and students – will interact during lessons, is an important step in creating a sense of trust, support, and safety among students and teachers. Ground rules help to increase comfort and facilitate learning for everyone in the classroom. This is especially important because the lessons in this curriculum often include discussion of personal topics such as values and sexuality.Ground rules, and the methods by which they are created and introduced will vary at different grade levels. In the earliest grades, existing classroom rules may be used for this purpose. While such guidelines are often posted in the classroom throughout the year, it can be helpful to give a gentle reminder to students about these rules before a lesson or unit on sexuality. Alternatively, the teacher may ask students if they can think of any rules they would like to have for working together in a group. A more detailed explanation and process to create and utilize ground rules starts on page 14 of the Teacher’s Guide.
Special Issues Related to Self-Disclosure
Student Self-DisclosureAll teachers need to be aware that statistically, at least one or more of their students is a survivor of sexual abuse or assault. This is of particular relevance for teachers of Rights, Respect, Responsibility or other programs about human sexuality and relationships. The personal content matter, along with a welcoming environment, and a deliberately designed process that encourages students to ask questions and share their thoughts and feelings, increases the likelihood that a student might disclose their abuse either to the teacher in private, or in front of the whole class. Because of this likelihood, teachers of this curriculum need to be prepared to respond appropriately, in the best interests of the student who discloses as well as the rest of the class. When addressing sensitive topics, ask the school counselor or another teacher to sit in the back of the room. If students disclose certain information, tell the school counselor immediately. As noted in the National Teacher Preparation Standards in Sexuality Education, be sure to adhere to state, federal and district policies that pertain to confidentiality and reporting these types of disclosures. Teachers’ Personal Disclosure to Students Teachers disclose personal information about themselves every day, whether they are aware of it or not. Disclosures of some personal information (ethnicity, style preferences, regional accents, e.g.) people have no control over. Ultimately, though, everything teachers disclose, deliberate or not, affects how students learn. Guidelines for Teachers’ Personal Self-Disclosure to Students starts on page 21 of the Teacher’s Guide linked here.
Classroom Management: Answering Students’ Questions
Rights, Respect, Responsibility encourages students to ask questions, whether in class during specific activities, or through the use of an anonymous question box. As the teacher, it is important to provide clear, accurate answers to these questions, in a non-judgmental manner. It is also important to know which questions you should not answer and how best to respond when those questions come up.
Students' Right to Learn About Sexuality in the United States
Young people have the right to learn about sex and sexuality. At the same time, however, educators need to follow applicable laws and policies. Sexuality education content, coursework, and delivery should always follow state laws and district, local and school-wide policies. Before planning to use this curriculum, it’s important to research existing policies and procedures that govern sexuality education content and requirements. Some states have health education standards with which educators must align their curricula while other states leave curricular decisions up to each school district. It is particularly important to have clarification from your supervisor or building principal about any lessons or activities about which you have questions.The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) compiled state sexuality education regulations in their annual State Profiles, which can be found here. You may also be able to find the regulations by looking at your state’s education department or state government website. Your school board or school superintendent should also be aware of these policies.
Developmentally Appropriate Lessons
Rights, Respect, Responsibility adheres to the concept of a gender spectrum, although in the earlier grades, gender binary language is used to accommodate the developmental levels of younger students. Even when there are transgender or gender non-conforming students in younger grades, they are more likely to identify with the gender binary at that age. Therefore, the terms “boys” and “girls” are used in the early grades, and this language evolves to be increasingly inclusive and non-binary at upper grade levels along with lessons explicitly exploring the concepts of gender and gender expression.Similarly, in early grades, relationships may be described using gender neutral language, such as “when two people are in love,” or “a couple…” or may discuss families with “two mommies” or “two daddies” while not explicitly discussing sexual orientation. This approach keeps the earlier grade lessons fully inclusive and supportive of all sexual orientations and relationships while remaining developmentally appropriate by not specifically discussing the more complex concept of sexual orientation. Later lessons, however, explicitly introduce and explore the concept of sexual orientation as falling along a spectrum. In middle school and high school lessons, the terms “partner” and “same-sex relationships” are used deliberately and proactively both to avoid heteronormativity (the assumption that people and relationships are heterosexual unless proven otherwise) and to help students explore, at a developmentally appropriate level, the full range of sexual feelings and expressions both in and out of relationships. Additionally, students with attention-related, intellectual or learning disabilities have a right to receive honest sexuality education that meets their unique needs. There is a strong body of research that confirms that students with special needs benefit from comprehensive sexuality education just like their peers. For professionals looking for ways to adapt curriculum to better meet the needs of these students, the Unitarian Universalist Association has published this 15-page valuable resource with recommended strategies to help students with a wide variety of abilities.
Creating Inclusive Classrooms
Gender non-conforming students can be of any sexual orientation and are at particular risk for teasing, bullying, and/or social isolation. They are also often rendered invisible by a curriculum, and rarely see themselves or people like them in the lessons and teachers’ examples throughout the curriculum. Teachers are encouraged to work actively against stereotyped assumptions of how their students should behave based on gender. By offering students the widest possible opportunities for self-expression, teachers can help all students develop more complex and nuanced ways of understanding gender.The lessons in this curriculum are specifically written to challenge the gender binary and to be inclusive, respectful and supportive of all gender identities and expressions. Additional information and resources linked below.