Md. school board OKs sex-ed courses
MontgomeryCounty,Md.’sschool board on Jan. 9 unanimously approved a revised sex-education curriculum that teaches middle- and high-school students about homosexuality and condom use, despite opposition again from parents.
“This isn’t about homosexuality,” saidparentSteinaRuben.“It’sabout there being no emphasis on family values.”
Fifteen persons testified against the curriculum, revised from the 2004 version that created a fierce public debate then a lawsuit that stoppedschoolofficialsfromstarting the classes.
Opponents were undecided on whethertheywouldfileanothersuit.
“I was absolutely hoping we wouldn’t be facing this again,” said Michelle Turner, a member of the parent group Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum, which filed the suitin2005.TheFriendsofEx-Gays and Gays also participated in the suit, which required the board to cancel the classes or re-write the curriculum.
“Once again, we are looking at a curriculum that seeks to introduce young children to acts and lifestyles that are proven medically to be hazardous to one’s health, both physically and emotionally,” Mrs. Turner testified.
Mrs. Turner said she will meet with county officials to review the curriculum,thenwithattorneysand other organizations before deciding whether to take further action.
Aschoolboardmemberdefended therevisedcurriculum,sayingitwas thoroughlyresearchedandreviewed.
“I believe it is an appropriate and correct curriculum,” said Sharon O. Cox. “That it will meet any court challenges.”
The new curriculum was prepared by the 15 members of the Cit- izens Advisory Committee during fourmonthsofconsultationlastsummer with four physicians from the Maryland Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
“We spent hours going through every recommendation,” said Dr. Carol Plotsky, chairman of the Citizens Advisory Committee. “For a numberofyears,thishasbeeninthe making. This curriculum needs to move forward.”
She also said 270 physicians signed a petition for the lesson plan to include more data about condoms and vaginal intercourse. But that information was not included.
Three county middle schools and high schools now will be selected to offer the new course in their healthdevelopment classes. Only students with written parental approval will take the course.
Thethreenewlessonsare:Atwopart, 90-minute lesson for eighthgraderson“RespectforDifferences inHumanSexuality”;atwo-part,90minute segment on the lesson for 10th-graders, and a one-part, 45minute lesson on condom use, including a demonstration video, for 10th-graders.
Ifthecoursesaresuccessfulinthe six schools this spring, they will be included in the health development classes of all 38 middle and 25 public high schools for the 2007-2008 school year.
Board member Stephen Abrams approved the new curriculum that describes homosexual origins and sexual relations, saying, “It’s not the parents’ responsibility alone.”
Mrs. Turner vehemently disagreed.
“It is the parents’ responsibility,” she said.
The Rev. J. Grace Harley called the course a “sex education experiment” with life-altering consequences, adding “science has proven that the teenage brain is not fully developed.”
Matthew Marguia, a member of Family Life and Human Development group, said he is a homosexual but did not choose his sexual orientation.
“Children of same-sex couples candojustaswellaschildrenofheterosexual couples, and children of gay or lesbian couples are no more likely to be gay than children of straight couples,” he said.
Dr. Ruth M. Jacobs held a football and a U.S. flag as she called for the curriculum to avoid political and religious positions.
“We must remember this is a health class, not a political agenda,” she said. “Don’t kick the children around like a religious political football.”
RoseMarie Briggs, executive director of Family Leader Network, said: “We are disappointed that the curriculumfailstoteachthepositive consequences of marriage.”
RoseMarie Briggs (left), executive director of the Family Leader Network, and Dr. Ruth M. Jacobs spoke to reporters about their concerns over proposed sex education curriculum in Montgomery County, Md. Behind them are protesters from Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum.