Norfolk County Agricultural High School Teaching Students Fetal Development

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Did you know that an unborn baby develops a heartbeat in the first trimester of pregnancy?

You would if you went to Norfolk County Agricultural High School in Walpole.

Since 1998, the school has taught its freshmen the RAPPP (Responsible Attitudes Toward Pregnancy, Prevention, and Parenting) sex-ed curriculum, as the school disclosed to NewBostonPost as the result of a public records request.

Part of the curriculum deals with fetal development.

Its sex-ed curriculum teaches students that in the first trimester, an unborn baby’s major organs begin to function and that the baby has a heartbeat. It tells them that in the second trimester, the baby’s hair begins to grow and that it can swallow and hiccup. Additionally, it says that in the third trimester, the baby gains weight and its organs mature.

An unborn baby’s heartbeat becomes detectable by ultrasound around six to seven weeks into the pregnancy, according to the American Pregnancy Association.

The curriculum also teaches students about teratogens — things that harm an unborn baby. Those include alcohol, smoking, drugs, and x-rays, as well as certain foods and medications.

Massachusetts Citizens for Life executive director Patricia Stewart praised the curriculum’s inclusion of fetal development.

“We applaud Norfolk Agricultural High School for teaching students the truth about fetal development,” Stewart said in an email message to NewBostonPost. “Humanizing the unborn child with medical facts, including the start of fetal heartbeat, can change minds and hearts that will end the savagery of abortion. For this reason, Massachusetts Citizens for Life filed bill H.662, currently before the legislature’s Joint Committee on Education. This bill seeks to mandate similar instruction for all 7th, 8th and 9th grade students in the Commonwealth. It’s not too late to call legislators on the Committee and urge support for this important addition to required sex-education curricula.”

As Stewart mentioned, H.662 would require school districts to teach fetal development to middle schoolers. The bill’s primary sponsor is state representative Joseph McKenna (R-Webster).

Massachusetts Family Institute communications director Mary Ellen Siegler said that the curriculum could lead to children making more responsible decisions later in life.

“The unborn are life from the moment of conception. Between fertilization to birth, an unborn baby’s heart beats approximately 54 million times,” Siegler told NewBostonPost by email. “Teaching fetal development helps students see the reality that the unborn baby is a living person. A living person with a beating heart. This is game-changing information. With this knowledge, students might be more careful about the choices they make regarding early sexual debut and unplanned pregnancies. Teaching human development can save lives.”

Norfolk Aggie, as the school is known, is a public agricultural vocational school in Walpole, Massachusetts, about 18 miles southwest of Boston. It serves students from grades 9 to 12, primarily from Norfolk County. The school serves fewer than 600 students.

Norfolk Aggie superintendent John Martin could not be reached for comment over the weekend or on Monday this week.


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