- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Montgomery County’s school board yesterday 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,” said parent Steina Ruben. “It’s about 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 stopped school officials from starting the classes.

Opponents yesterday were undecided on whether they would file another suit.

“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 suit in 2005. The Friends of Ex-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 yesterday.

Mrs. Turner said she will meet with county officials to review the curriculum, then with attorneys and other organizations before deciding whether to take further action.

A school board member defended the revised curriculum, saying it was thoroughly researched and reviewed.

“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 Citizens Advisory Committee during four months of consultation last summer 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 number of years, this has been in the 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 health-development classes. Only students with written parental approval will take the course.

The three new lessons are: A two-part, 90-minute lesson for eighth-graders on “Respect for Differences in Human Sexuality”; a two-part, 90-minute segment on the lesson for 10th-graders, and a one-part, 45-minute lesson on condom use, including a demonstration video, for 10th-graders.

If the courses are successful in the 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 can do just as well as children of heterosexual 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 curriculum fails to teach the positive consequences of marriage.”

Several area school systems now talk about homosexuality in their sex-education classes.

Arlington County say a family “comes in many forms,” but they don’t specifically identify same-sex parents as a family.

Teachers in at least six area school districts discuss “sexual variations” in their sex-education classes. Those districts include Fairfax and Arlington counties in Virginia, Baltimore city, the District, and Prince George’s and Howard counties in Maryland. Many of the school districts also address homosexuality if students ask about it during class.

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