April 15, 2024

Health Education

Dear Members of the Hartford School District,

With some of our schools beginning their health curriculum after the break, we wanted to reiterate the district's stance on inclusion and access for all students.

The mission of the Hartford School District is to provide and ensure a caring and dynamic learning community. Students will develop personal and social skills and behaviors that will support their physical, emotional and mental well-being. Students will demonstrate an understanding of how nutrition, exercise and athletics, creative outlets, self-reflection, and personal relationships contribute to a healthy, well-adjusted and productive person.

Health Education is an essential component to student well-being and is intentionally being taught in all HSD schools. It is a requirement of Vermont Law and follows Hartford School District Policy, which requires that schools provide education around topics relating to sexuality, sexual orientation, transgender issues, family composition and gender identity.

First, Vermont law requires all public schools to provide a course of study that includes "comprehensive health education," presented in a way that is "adapted to a student's age and ability" (16 V.S.A. § 906). The term "comprehensive health education" is defined at 16 V.S.A. § 131. State statutes do include a "religious exemption" relating to just one part of this curriculum, namely, lessons about disease (16 V.S.A. § 134). Additionally, Act 1 of 2009 requires schools to provide all students in grades pre-K to 12 with a developmentally appropriate sexual abuse prevention education, which includes teaching about the human body. 

Second, in 2018 the Hartford School District passed EL 10 - Race and Equity, the Transgender and Other Gender-Diverse Students Policy and the Anti-Racism Policy. These policies require Hartford School District teachers to create a safe and positive learning environment for all students regardless of perceived or actual gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation. 

To accomplish this, the policies state that gender diverse individuals deserve the same acknowledgement of and inclusion as to who they are that cisgender individuals do. Creating an inclusive learning environment includes ensuring that everyone feels valued and seen within our classrooms. To accomplish this, teachers must intentionally read literature that includes a diverse group of people including people who are gay, trans, and gender non-confirming. It is important that every child has the opportunity to see themselves in the content, stories, and history that they learn about in class. Additionally, for students to feel positively acknowledged teachers and classmates must take the time to learn about each child's gender identity to ensure that everyone feels seen for who they are. 

Because inclusion is enmeshed in the fabric of who we are as a district, it is not possible for us to exclude your children from lessons, activities and discussions that may touch on issues of sexual orientation, transgender issues, family composition, or gender identity. 

Everybody is welcome within the Hartford School District and this includes making sure everyone is seen for who they are. We always welcome conversations about how these practices play out in different grades. Thank you for trusting our professional staff with providing thoughtful, caring, respectful, and age-appropriate learning experiences for your children.

Have a wonderful school vacation.

Tom DeBalsi
Superintendent of Schools