The D.C. State Board of Education has scheduled a December vote on proposed guidelines for sex-education classes that call for teaching students about homosexuality.
School officials have said they will hold a Nov. 28 hearing for members of the public to give their input on the proposed guidelines. The board is expected to vote on them Dec. 19 after a public comment period expires Nov. 30.
“You want the standards to also take into account the opinions, the expectations and the sound facts from the community,” said John A. Stokes, a spokesman for the Office of the State Superintendent of Education.
The guidelines initially were contained in a 43-page draft document dated July 2 and titled “Health Learning Standards.”
The guidelines say eighth-grade students should be taught the definition of sexual orientation “using correct terminology” and learn that some people “may begin to feel romantically and/or sexually attracted to people of a different gender and/or to people of the same gender.”
They also say sixth-grade students should be taught that “people, regardless of biological sex, gender, ability, sexual orientation, gender identity and culture, have sexual feelings and the need for love, affection and physical intimacy.”
Ninth-graders should be taught to “analyze trends in … contraceptive practices and the availability of abortion,” the guidelines stated.
School officials said the guidelines had to be revised because there were two separate versions of them.
One draft was finished by D.C. Public Schools staff members and another involved staff collaboration with a contracted consultant company called StandardsWork.
Staff members have worked to merge the two documents, and the revised guidelines will be posted on Oct. 30 at www.osse.dc.gov.
No significant changes in the guidelines’ content are expected. Mr. Stokes said any revisions largely would be technical.
“Some of the standards may have been moved into other areas [and] there may have been some collapsing of the standards,” he said.
Sekou Biddle, who represents Wards 3 and 4 on the State Board of Education, said he had not yet seen the revisions but was told that content of the proposals remained largely intact.
“My understanding is that the general content has not been significantly altered,” Mr. Biddle said. “The reality is these changes have more to do with there being two parallel versions of the standards in existence.”
The state board — formerly known as the D.C. Board of Education — has a reduced role after Mayor Adrian M. Fenty’s takeover of the school system this year, but members still have responsibility for approving curriculum standards.
Mr. Stokes said the health guidelines were developed in part using input from focus groups that included parents and educators. They also address topics including HIV and AIDS, nutrition and drug awareness and, if approved, would be used to develop a health curriculum for students.
Along with the health guidelines, the board also will accept input during the public hearing and comment period on standards for teaching world languages and physical education in the school system.
“Right now that’s the big thing, getting the information out to people, getting people involved and getting them to comment,” Mr. Biddle said.
Curriculum tenets that address homosexuality and contraception have drawn fire elsewhere in the region.
The Montgomery County Board of Education approved a revised curriculum that teaches about homosexuality and condom use, and the Maryland State Board of Education denied requests to stop the lessons.
A circuit court judge earlier this month also denied a request by opponents to block the curriculum from being taught this fall. The court is expected to hear a full appeal of the state board’s decision in January.