The Montgomery County [Md.] public sachool system yesterday announced the three high schools and three middle schools that will participate in a pilot program for a sex education curriculum that has riled some parents and activist groups throughout the county.
Bethesda Chevy-Chase High School in Bethesda, Seneca Valley High School in Germantown and Springbrook High School in Silver Spring will take part in the high school course in which 10th-graders will be shown how to put condoms on cucumbers.
Martin Luther King Middle School in Germantown, Tilden Middle School in Rockville and White Oak Middle School in Silver Spring will participate in the middle school curriculum in which eighth-graders will learn that homosexual couples are the newest American family.
School system officials have noted that some schools were unenthusiastic about testing the new curriculum, which also will teach students to “develop” a sexual identity and that gender identity is “a person’s internal sense of knowing whether he or she is male or female.”
“We have some schools that stepped up to do it, and we have some schools that were recruited to do it,” Russ Henke, the county school system’s health education coordinator, said in an interview days before yesterday’s announcement.
“A school may not be real pleased because of the controversy involved, but we need the representation from that area,” Mr. Henke said.
Bethesda Chevy-Chase’s acting principal, Sean Belson, yesterday said his school did not volunteer for the curriculum but was selected “by central office folks.”
“We were asked so that different folks around the county would be represented,” Mr. Belson said. “I felt it was something we could do.”
Seneca Valley Principal Suzanne Maxey said her school also was selected. “They were looking for schools in different geographic areas,” she said.
Mrs. Maxey said she and the school’s health teacher met with 30 parents on the parent-teacher association’s executive board, and there was “no controversy” about the curriculum.
“It was the same kind of feedback you’re going to get from the kids: ‘OK, thank you,’” she said.
Principals at Springbrook, Martin Luther King and Tilden were not available yesterday, according to their staff. White Oak’s principal did not return phone calls seeking comment.
Advocates supporting and opposing the curriculum agreed yesterday that the pilot schools are well-distributed across the county.
“I think it’s great. It sounds like a representative sample,” said Christine Grewell, a parent and organizer for Teach the Facts.org (TTF), which backs the curriculum.
Steve Fisher of Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum (CRC), which opposes the curriculum, said: “You can make the case that the schools are representative of the county as a whole.”
Mr. Fisher said his group is “disappointed that the pilot program is going forward. We think there’s a lot of misinformation, biased information. We would have preferred that the county would have gone back to the drawing board and made it more balanced before they tested it.”
The pilot program will be the first chance for parents to see how the curriculum will be taught and to provide feedback.
The county school board unanimously approved the curriculum in November.
The new curriculum was crafted with materials provided to the schools by a citizens advisory committee of about 20 people. The committee will collect feedback from students, teachers and parents, and include it in its report to the board this summer before a final vote on the curriculum is taken.
TTF and other curriculum supporters say the new course introduces information about homosexuality that students will find out regardless of whether they are taught about it. They have said morality has no place in the debate.
CRC and other curriculum opponents say schools are trying to displace the parents’ role in teaching their children about morality and its implications on sexuality. They say the curriculum does not include all the facts about the health effects of homosexuality and the moral and religious objections to homosexuality.
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington has said the curriculum is “clearly not reflective of our values.”