Step 2

Secure Commitment from Key School District Stakeholders

Results 
  • Established team comprised of people with policy and program decision-making authority engaged in reviewing and reflecting on the current status of sex education in the district and goals for moving forward
  • A documented action plan to improve sex education
  • A signed agreement is in place (e.g., Memorandum of Understanding or letter of engagement; this is only necessary if you’re working from outside an educational system)

Now that you’ve determined a school district is ready and willing to achieve their sex education goals, it is time to establish which school district stakeholders will have ownership and accountability for the sex education efforts. You’ll need a “sex education team” within the school district and this team should include at least one administrator that has policymaking authority (e.g., assistant superintendent, curriculum director, and/or principal) as well as a health coordinator, teacher, and/or other school health staff that can make informed programmatic decisions.

Tips

  1. Ensure foundational support from school district leadership.

    The support from superintendents and leaders (e.g., principals and curriculum directors) is critical for sex education change and sustainability. Clear commitment from these stakeholders and the buy-in from teachers is necessary for successful classroom-level implementation. Without this level of support from school district administration and school building leaders, teachers may become fearful and/or hesitant to move forward.  

  2. Choose the right champions.

    Engaging the right champions can mean the difference between the smooth execution of an implementation plan and being bogged down in process and/or indecision. Each school district is unique in terms of the power structures and decision-making channels, so do your homework to find the right committees, processes, and decision-makers to engage.

    Do not rely on one person to "carry the water." Changes in staffing in public education systems are common, and so institutionalization requires a group of champions, not just one individual teacher, to ensure success over time. Being thoughtful and inclusive regarding sex education team membership in the beginning of the project will pay dividends down the road. If you only have one key champion and that person leaves you are back to square one. Cultivating foundational support for sex education may require different messages for different stakeholder groups. For example, school district administrators will likely need to connect to the school’s mission and vision, whereas teachers may need to see how sex education connects to education standards. Check out the Sample School District Message Development Tool for more. 

  3. Create and document a plan.

    One successful way to establish a plan is through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). MOUs provide an opportunity to articulate project outcomes and expectations, including roles and responsibilities. These MOUs help to set clear goals and are an important planning document. Including details such as articulating the primary steps and including timelines and key activities ensures that all stakeholders can share not only a vision of what will change in the school district, but also when those changes – and the steps along the way – will be realized. MOUs can be especially helpful during times of turnover so that if there is a new school district liaison, they can quickly understand the project scope and have the confidence of school district buy-in that MOUs help document.  Here's a template for a MOU to get you started.

  4. Cultivate effective relationships with school district stakeholders.

    Once the work ensues, relationship building and maintenance continue to be of paramount importance. Schools are very relational and often rely on in-person meetings to commit and engage in the work. Email and phone calls can keep some momentum going, but meeting and spending time at the school and district office are often a necessity to maintain the relationship.

  5. Manage the fear of controversy.

    Many school districts fear that community stakeholders, especially parents, will react strongly against school-based sex education. However, in practice, the fear of backlash is much greater than what actually transpires. School districts may simply need support to understand that sex education efforts are unlikely to be as controversial as they fear when planning is done well.  One of the easiest ways to mitigate this fear is to conduct a short and simple parent poll to gauge the actual level of support for sex education. Despite national, state, and regional polls consistently showing broad approval for sex education, school district stakeholders often want to see those supportive responses holding true for their specific communities.  

  6. Family engagement approaches and intensity will vary by district.

    Family engagement in sex education is critical, however it is important to be thoughtful about the best way to engage parents and guardians. Before you begin, you should answer the questions “How could engaging families further our sex education efforts?” “What information would be helpful?” “When we decide to engage families, what is the best way to involve parents and guardians?” Check out these Best Practices for Family Engagement and consider what you can do before, during and after implementation of sex education efforts.