Friday, April 22, 2005

The Montgomery County public school system has changed parts of its new sex education curriculum after parents criticized it as favoring a homosexual agenda and encouraging promiscuity.

‘It’s a teeny little step in the right direction,’ said Michelle Turner, president of Citizens for Responsible Curriculum.

Educators have removed a sentence in the curriculum that said: ‘Sex play with friends of the same gender is not uncommon during early adolescence.’

In addition, the school system has removed a statement that said students would ‘discuss how you develop your sexual identity.’

Curriculum coordinator Russell Henke, who reports to the school board, is responsible for the changes. He did not return phone calls seeking comment on why the changes were made.

‘We think [the school system] has realized that their wording was misleading and that it needed to be corrected, and we are hoping that they will continue to realize that there are pieces of the revised health curriculum that will cause some real health issues for students,’ said Mrs. Turner, a mother of six.

Her group — Citizens for Responsible Curriculum — formed in December to protest and oppose the new curriculum after the board approved it unanimously in November.

The sex education course will be tested in three high schools and three middle schools starting this month. The school board will vote on countywide implementation this summer.

The curriculum still defines one’s sexual identity as including gender identity, which is ‘a person’s internal sense of knowing whether he or she is male or female.’

The course includes the statement that ‘most experts in the field have concluded that sexual orientation is not a choice.’

Households with same-sex parents are identified as one type of nine families, but next to that listing a new phrase has been inserted as instruction to teachers — not students. It reads in parentheses: ‘This should not be interpreted as same-sex marriage.’

An explicit warning to teachers also has been added in a section that discusses sexual identity and orientation.

‘No additional information, interpretation or examples are to be provided by the teacher,’ the warning states.

David Fishback, who heads the citizen advisory committee that crafted and recommended the curriculum to the school board, approved of the changes as well.

‘It made eminent sense,’ he said.

The phrases about sex play and developing a sexual identity ‘turned out to be pretty misleading and created a lot of confusion and there was a lot of distortion,’ Mr. Fishback said.

‘It is interesting that the two phrases that have been administratively adjusted are the very phrases that the CRC has used to try and create misrepresentations about what the curriculum is,’ he said. ‘They don’t have those two quotes anymore.’

The controversy over the county’s sex education course has drawn attention from across the country, in large part because of its teachings about homosexuality and the county’s reputation as a national education leader.

School board members are said to be leaning toward approving the curriculum this summer, though two of the nine members have serious concerns, sources said.

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