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A recent assignment in a 9th grade health class at Churchill High School in Eugene, OR, which has been reported on in the news as based on the Our Whole Lives (OWL) curriculum, was an unapproved adaptation that was taken out of context from an out-of-print version of the curriculum.
As Unitarian Universalists, our faithful values hold that the full expression of the diversity of gender and sexuality is a gift. Our commitment to love and justice, to inclusive ministry and prophetic action, is deep and life-affirming.
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. OWL promotes self-worth, responsibility, consent, sexual health, justice and inclusivity. This is especially important in areas where the surrounding culture may not be supportive of people with LGBTQIA+ and other marginalized identities. 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 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 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.
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. With this in mind, we also provide training to schools and other organizations seeking to offer the OWL program.
As an organization and a religious denomination, we believe in the importance of teaching comprehensive sexuality education to build self-acceptance and self-esteem, foster healthy relationships, and improve decision making. OWL has the potential to save lives and it must be taught and facilitated with consent, care, and concrete skills.