- The Washington Times - Monday, November 22, 2004

An increasing number of area school systems talk about homosexuality in their sex-education classes, a topic that Montgomery County wants to include as part of its curriculum next fall.

However, Montgomery County is one of the few school districts that want to identify homosexual couples as a type of family. Several school districts including Arlington County say a family “comes in many forms,” but they don’t specifically identify same-sex parents as a family.

So far, teachers in at least six area school districts discuss “sexual variations” in their sex-education classes. Those districts are Fairfax and Arlington counties in Virginia, and Baltimore city, Prince George’s and Howard counties in Maryland. Schools in the District also talk about “sexual variations.”

Many of the school districts address homosexuality if students ask about it during class.

But Montgomery County wants its teachers to discuss homosexuality without prompting by students and list “same-sex parents” as one of nine types of families.

The Montgomery County Board of Education will test a newly revised curriculum for eighth- and 10th-graders in six schools next spring, after a recommendation by the Citizens Advisory Committee on Family Life and Human Development. The board will vote next summer on whether to implement the curriculum countywide next fall.

The revised curriculum also teaches that “sexual orientation is not a choice” and states as “fact” that “sex play with friends of the same gender is not uncommon during early adolescence.”

The board earlier this month also approved a video for 10th-graders in which a young female demonstrates how to fit a condom onto a cucumber and talks about the dangers of unprotected sex and cheap condoms that might break.

Montgomery County administrators defend the new curriculum against opposition from parents and local parishes and questioning by a newly elected school board member.

Last night, about 75 people attended a meeting of parents at Damascus High School, where they expressed outrage over the new curriculum.

School officials have said parental permission would be required to take the sex-education classes, although critics have said the permission slip is vague.

Russ Henke, Montgomery County’s health education curriculum coordinator, said the county is not covering any new ground.

“This was something other school systems had been doing for, in some cases, several years,” he said.

Arlington County has not identified same-sex parents as a type of family, said Debbie DeFranco, a supervisor of health, physical education and athletics for Arlington County Public Schools.

“We haven’t got that concrete,” she said.

Instead, the county says a family “comes in many forms,” Ms. DeFranco said.

Several area school districts including Arlington County offer condom demonstrations, either on video or in person. A school nurse usually conducts the demonstration on a model of the male and female genitalia, Ms. DeFranco said.

Montgomery County has produced its own video.

“Some school systems actually bring condoms into classrooms, and teachers do demonstrations,” Mr. Henke said. “We weren’t real comfortable with that, so that was why we produced the video.”

There are numerous videos on file teachers can use, and it is up to each teacher’s discretion as to what videos are shown, Mr. Henke said.

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