- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 8, 2007

Montgomery County public-school officials are asking students and teachers to review a new sex-education curriculum, irking some parents who want to include their feedback.

The lessons, which include discussions on homosexuality and condom use, were taught in six schools last month, and officials intend to introduce them countywide this fall.

Parents who oppose the curriculum are angry that their responses will not be included in the review, which will be presented to the county school board.

“I find this to be very one-sided,” said Michelle Turner, spokeswoman for Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum, which opposes the new lessons. “It would be nice if they could contact the parents who opted their kids out and get feedback from them.”

Almost 9 percent of the 901 students who were enrolled in the health classes in which the curriculum was presented did not attend the sex-education lessons, schools spokeswoman Kate Harrison said.

She said parents who opposed the curriculum were given opportunities to review it and voice their opposition before it was taught in the classroom.

“In terms of specific solicitation of parent views after the field test, those views were gathered beforehand,” Mrs. Harrison said. “All the reports are that things went smoothly.”

CRC and Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays opposed the curriculum because of how it portrays homosexuality.

School officials are asking questions about the logistics of the lessons rather than about content, such as whether the lessons were clear and understandable and whether they were completed in the allotted time.

Parental permission slips were required for students to attend the lessons. School officials said the slips also allowed parents to refuse to grant permission.

Some of the students who did not attend the lessons returned the slips with that option checked. Others didn’t return them at all, and others were absent, school officials said.

Mrs. Turner said the permission slips at one of the schools did not have an option for parents to indicate that they denied permission for their children to attend the lessons.

“The school system was saying that a lot of parents just didn’t return the forms,” she said. “But if there’s no box on the form to check to opt out your child, then not turning it in for many parents would be saying, ‘I don’t want my child participating,’ and I don’t think the school system is acknowledging that.”

Mrs. Harrison did not return calls about the permission slips.

The lessons were taught over three weeks at Watkins Mill, Bethesda-Chevy Chase and Sherwood high schools and at Argyle, Julius West and Westland middle schools.

The county school board approved the curriculum in January, but critics appealed to the state Board of Education to stop the schools from teaching it. State schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick declined to issue an emergency stay to halt the pilot lessons, but the appeal is pending before the state school board.

This is the second attempt by the board to rewrite the curriculum. A federal judge halted the first version just before it was to be taught in 2005 because of similar objections.


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