Primary Educators League

Assisting parents in the eternal vigil of protecting the freedom and holiness of their families.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

"Out of Harms Way" Assessment: Grades 5-8

The "safe environments" programs have kicked off in full force during the month of March as the parish schools need to complete the four lessons before the school year ends. This e-mail is concerning the “Out of Harms Way” program for our 5th – 8th graders.

We have confirmed that the 5th – 8th graders must take this assessment (click here to launch the PDF of the assessment). (Remember that a 5th grader is usually 10 years old). It will be given prior to the first lesson as well as after the fourth lesson. The same assessment is given to all grades (5-8). They will then be able to track the improvement based upon how each child answers the pre/post assessment.

All across the Twin Cities, parents received, or are soon likely to receive, a parents pack of information concerning the upcoming “safe environment” program for their 5th-8th graders. From what we've seen, there's very little information about the specific lessons that will be taught in the classroom for the “Out of Harms Way" program. We have not seen or heard that any parish mailed out copies of the assessment for the parents to review prior to their child being exposed to it. If your parish is hosting a curriculum night for the “safe environments” programs, we highly encourage you to attend and participate. If you can’t make it, schedule an appointment with the school/parish administration to review the materials.

Many who are on our e-mail list probably don't have their children at one of the parishes using this material. However, roughly 60-70% of the parishes in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis are using the "Out of Harms Way" program and their children will need to take this pre/post assessment. We encourage you to pass this on to people at other parishes.

Given that some parishes have started their “safe environments” programs, your child may have already been exposed to the “Out of Harms Way” assessment by the time you receive this e-mail. If you have an issue with this assessment, we would encourage you to call your school administration, school board members, pastor, and parish council members to discuss this matter.

It is unclear as to how this information might be reported. Having assessments are standard practice in education, but given the sensitive nature of this material, and the circumstances surrounding why the Church is pursuing this path, is this really the rightful position of the Church to step in and assess our children about these issues without the parents giving their blessing?

Here are some questions that you may want to have answered before your child takes the assessment:

1) Will parents receive copies of their child's pre/post assessment results after the completion of the program for each year?

2) Does the school/parish keep copies and a record of each child's assessment for each year?

3) If the school/parish keep copies or a record of each child's pre/post assessment, who has access to that information? What is the guaranty of confidentiality and privacy? (After all, this isn’t just another math test).

4) Do the results get sent back to the archdiocese and/or to the KidWISE Institute?

5) Is the school, parish, and/or archdiocese keeping a "safe environments" file on each student in the school for the duration of their attendance in that Catholic school?

The parishes and schools are diligently keeping track of each child who is in attendance for each lesson and which ones that are not in attendance. Additionally, they are keeping track of the reasons why your child is not attending...i.e. did he/she just happen to be sick that day, or did the parents opt him/her out. It seems like the Church doesn't pay nearly this kind of attention to those who receive the sacraments of First Confession, First Communion or Confirmation.

Please contact us if you run in to any challenges in discussing this information with your school and parish leadership. It is likely you will need to go beyond the level of your child's teacher and principal to make any headway. You may want to discuss this with your pastor and school board members to see if they agree as to whether or not they believe this assessment is appropriate for 5th – 8th graders in Catholic school.

Please consider joining our e-mail list at We don't send out a lot of e-mails, but if you want to stay informed please join the list. The issue with the "safe environments" does not appear to be going away any time soon.

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Friday, March 23, 2007

"Talking About Touching" 3rd Grade Lesson - Kerry's Story

Here's what our third graders will be learning in our Catholic schools across the Twin Cities during the months of March and April.

This is one of the required lessons as part of the "safe environments" initiative. It's also known as the Kerry lesson plan. If you'd like confirmation, you can listen to these clips from the Relevant Radio broadcast last year. There are two clips here and here.

The Archdiocese has published information on its site as well.

If you have difficulty viewing this lesson plan, you'll find it on our web site.

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"Talking About Touching" 2nd Grade Lesson Plan - Ian's Story

Here's what the second graders will be learning in Catholic schools across the Twin Cities during the months of March and April this spring.

For more information about the "Talking About Touching" program for our K-4th graders see here, and here. If you'd like to confirm that the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis is using this material, you can find it on its web site here.

If you have difficulty viewing this image, you can download it here.

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Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis Policy on Safe Environments - Under Revision

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis is in the process of updating its policy on safe environments called, "A Time to Heal: Preventing and Responding to Ministry-Related Sexual Misconduct." It is currently being revised. It will be interesting to see what the revisions bring.

It's good to know that we're only talking about misconduct here and not abuse.

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Should you sign the opt-out form?

Since the "safe environments" initiative has begun in earnest, the Catholic schools are being told to keep very accurate records as to who is attending the lesson plans and who isn't. For the kids who are not in attendance, they want to know why that child was missing. Was he/she just sick? Did his parents opt him/her out? Did the parents sign the opt-out form? Did they refuse to sign the opt-out form?

The question of whether or not parents should sign the opt-out form was discussed in the following blog entry .

If you have further questions, please don't hesitate to call the Office of Child and Youth Protection at the USCCB headquarters in Washington, D.C. at 202-541-3000. Teresa Kettlekamp is the head of the deparment. Sheila Kelly is her deputy.

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"Safe Environments" begin in the Twin Cities

We've heard that the "safe environments" programs have either kicked off or are about to once kids get back from spring break this week.

Many parishes have mailed out the parents package of information to inform the parents about the initiative. As usual though, there appears to be very little information about the actual lessons themselves included in the parents pack.

While the archdiocese encourage parishes to have public meetings for parents to come and review the material, it's doesn't appear that many did. Most parishes made some kind of note that parents could come in and review the materials. From what we've heard it sounds like very few came in to look at the material, thus there's very little outcry over the content that will be taught to our children.

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