- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 4, 2007

The Maryland State Board of Education yesterday decided that Montgomery County’s school board may go forward with a new sex-education curriculum, denying requests to stop the lessons on sexual orientation and condom use from being taught in middle and high schools.

The lessons will mark the first time the county has included topics on homosexuality in the curriculum.

The groups Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum, Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays, and Family Leader Network opposed the curriculum, saying it excluded the view that homosexuality is not morally acceptable and that it did not explain the risks of homosexual behavior.

The groups also opposed the curriculum’s assertion that homosexuality is innate.

The decision clears the way for teachers to present the lessons in all county middle and high schools in the fall.

“The state board rejected each and every legal challenge brought by the opponents and determined that there was no valid reason to overturn our decision,” said Montgomery County Board of Education President Nancy Navarro. “It is my hope that the litigation in this matter will finally come to an end as we move forward with the lessons that teach that all people deserve to be respected regardless of their sexual orientation.”

Four of the 12 board members abstained from the decision.

The lessons, which students must have parental permission to attend, were taught at six schools on a trial basis last semester after State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick denied an emergency request to halt them.

More than 90 percent of students participated, and Montgomery County Superintendent of Schools Jerry D. Weast approved the lessons for all county middle and high schools in the fall.

Michelle Turner, spokeswoman for Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum, said the fight was not over.

“There are many, many parents in Montgomery County who do object to this curriculum and do not want to see it implemented,” she said. “We’re going to have to weigh our options. We have talked in the past about taking this to the courts, and that is still an option.”

She said she was disappointed that the opposing groups were not allowed to address the state board before the decision was issued. The fact that four board members abstained from the decision raises red flags, she said.

“I think it was a narrow-minded decision, ” she said. “I don’t think they understand the full scope of this curriculum and the full impact it will have on the students.”

The state board’s decision marks a triumph in the county school system’s five-year effort to add sex-education lessons to its health classes. Teachers previously were allowed to address the topic of sexual orientation only if a student asked about it during class.

A federal judge halted the first proposed lessons just before they were to be taught in 2005.

The curriculum, two-part lessons for eighth and 10th grade called “Respect for Differences in Human Sexuality” and one lesson for 10th grade on condom use, examines homosexuality, homophobia and transgendered people.

The segment on condom use includes a brief video demonstration. The lesson also teaches that abstinence is the most effective way to avoid sexually transmitted diseases.

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