Thursday, August 9, 2007

Proposed guidelines for a sex-education curriculum to be used in D.C. Public Schools recommend that middle-school students learn to define sexual orientation and be taught about homosexuality.

The guidelines — contained in a 43-page draft document titled “Health Learning Standards” — 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.”

The guidelines also say that 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 document states.

The District’s draft document includes standards for students in pre-kindergarten through the 10th grade and also contains guidelines for teaching nutrition, emotional health and drug awareness, among other health-related topics.

It recommends abstinence as “the most effective way to prevent disease or pregnancy,” and also call for teachers to “discuss strategies to remain abstinent and resist pressures to become sexually active.”

The standards, dated July 2, were printed with the name of the new schools chancellor, Michelle A. Rhee, on the title page. Asked about the proposed standards, Mrs. Rhee said they fall under the purview of the Office of the State Superintendent of Education, Deborah Gist.

John Stokes, a spokesman for Miss Gist, said the standards were developed by the staff of former schools Superintendent Clifford B. Janey.

The standards, which are posted online at, must be approved by the school board. The school board will address the standards sometime in the fall, Mr. Stokes said.

A public comment period ended last Thursday, but Mr. Stokes said Miss Gist “is still willing to take a look at comments should any more come in.”

Moira Gaul, director of women’s and reproductive health for the District-based Family Research Council, said she has concerns over the “age-appropriateness” of the standards when discussing topics such as abortion.

She also said the guidelines may not contain enough information about the consequences of certain activities.

“Homosexuality is a high-risk behavior, and certainly adolescent sexual activity in general is a high-risk behavior,” she said.

Curriculum tenets that address homosexuality and contraception have drawn fire elsewhere in the region.

Parents groups in Montgomery County filed suit two years ago over that school system’s proposed sex-ed curriculum, which opponents said promoted homosexuality and discriminated against those with religious beliefs against the practice.

A federal judge agreed that the course was one-sided and issued a restraining order, and school officials later scrapped the entire course. But the county school board this year approved a revised curriculum that teaches about homosexuality and condom use, and the Maryland State Board of Education denied requests to stop the lessons.

The curriculum is slated to be taught in all county middle and high schools this fall, although opponents last month filed an administrative appeal seeking to reverse the state board’s decision.

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