- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 18, 2004

A new Montgomery County Board of Education member said yesterday he does not want the public school system to become a pioneer in sex education by teaching students that homosexual couples are families.

“This is not an area in which I would prefer to see Montgomery County schools develop its own curriculum,” said Stephen N. Abrams, 61. “With regard to lifestyle options, I have adhered to a policy of promoting tolerance but not advocacy.”

The school board voted 6-0 last week to test the revised curriculum for eighth- and 10th-graders in six schools, following a recommendation by the Citizens Advisory Committee on Family Life and Human Development.

The revised curriculum for 10th-graders includes a video of a young female using a cucumber to demonstrate how to put on a condom correctly. And it teaches students that same-sex parents are one of nine types of families, homosexuality is not a choice and that gender identity is a person’s “internal sense of knowing whether they are male or female.”

The curriculum also states as “fact” that “sex play with friends of the same gender is not uncommon during early adolescence.”

The board will vote this summer on whether to implement the curriculum in all of the system’s middle and secondary schools.

“My perspective has always been that first and foremost the appropriate first presenter [of sex education] is the parent,” Mr. Abrams said.

He did not commit on which way he would vote, but said he has “faced uphill battles on the board before [and] hoped only that reason and common sense would prevail.”

Mr. Abrams is one of two newly elected board members and is chairman of the county’s Republican committee. He has served two other terms on the board.

Students must have parental permission to participate in the curriculum, but some members of the advisory committee are saying the form is too long and vague.

There will be eight board members by this summer when the committee presents the results of the pilot program and when the vote is scheduled to occur.

Mr. Abrams defeated District 2 incumbent Walter Lange on Nov. 2. He will begin his four-year term Dec. 1 along with Valerie Ervin, an aide to County Council member George L. Leventhal, who won the open District 4 seat. She did not return phone calls seeking comment.

The final open seat will be filled tomorrow, when board members interview four finalists for the District 5 seat vacated by Derwood dentist Henry Lee, who retired.

The four candidates are Mary Edwards, a married mother of three and PTA president at Benjamin Banneker Middle School; Philip S. Kaufman, a Department of Veterans Affairs attorney and father of two Blake High School students; Nancy Navarro, a married mother of two who runs an economic and educational development organization for the Hispanic and immigrant community; and Leslie Ridgeway, a married mother and a lawyer.

Sources said yesterday that the front-runner is Mrs. Edwards, who said she has not seen the changes to the curriculum so she could not comment on them.

However, she said sex education is necessary and that parents have the right to say, “My children will not participate.”

Mrs. Navarro also declined to comment on the issue, but said she would like to “open up the board to the community” and that parents need to be involved “in these types of decisions.”

Many parents said last week that they were not sufficiently notified about the potential changes.

Mrs. Ridgeway said her inclination was “to accept that homosexuality is likely, from a scientific model, biologically predisposed.”

She also said that scientifically addressing homosexuality doesn’t mean one must advocate for homosexuality.

“It needs to be very neutral,” she said.

Mr. Kaufman did not return phone calls seeking comment.

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