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PrEP
November 2004 (To print, click the print icon on your browser
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Montgomery County Board of Education Passes New Health Education Curriculum

In November, Maryland's Montgomery County Board of Education unanimously passed revisions to its health education curriculum which will now include a video that shows students in the 10th grade how to put on a condom. The board also approved a pilot program in selected schools that will address homosexuality. Updates to the curriculum were recommended by the Family Life and Human Development Advisory Committee. The committee is comprised of 29 volunteer members and is one of four advisory committees to the Montgomery County Board of Education.

The decision to incorporate the video of a condom demonstration is part of a long history of an evolving health education curriculum. Maryland requires county school boards to work with their county health departments to establish a health education curriculum with specified goals. One of these goals addresses sexuality education and asks that students be able to "develop and use skills for making responsible decisions about family planning and preventing pregnancy."1 General condom information has been in the Montgomery County health education curriculum for roughly 30 years and school nurses have been allowed to provide condom demonstrations to individual students.2 In the fall of 2002, the school board agreed to increase condom education by implementing a pilot program featuring the condom demonstration video on a trial basis in three schools. The responses at Montgomery Blair, James Hubert Blake, and Northwest high schools were positive and influenced the larger decision this November.

The same goal of "develop[ing] and us[ing] skills for making responsible decisions about family planning and preventing pregnancy" also aims to teach students about a "variety of family structures and roles of family members" and to "recognize the family as a basic unit of society that perpetuates life and promotes healthy growth and development."3 In keeping with this goal, Montgomery County board members decided to run a pilot program in select schools during the 2005-2006 school year to include discussion of homosexuality in the 8th and 10th grade Family Life Curriculum. Since the 1970s, teachers have been allowed to address homosexuality only in response to specific questions raised by students. The expanded curriculum would eliminate this restriction and include lessons on how to reduce verbal and physical attacks against gay or bisexual teens.4

The vice president of the board explained this decision by saying, "Historically, we've avoided this issue in not a very educated way. Homosexuality is part of the world we live in. There's no moral judgment there. But we've been pretending it doesn't exist, sweeping it under the rug, and it's good we're going to address it finally."5

A number of individuals and groups, however, are not pleased with the change. A local pastor has said he is interested in suing the school board because of the inclusion of homosexuality.6 In addition, a website entitled RecallMontgomerySchoolBoard.com has been launched as an organizing tool for those opposing the new curriculum changes. Messages, letters, and calls to action are posted on the website in protest of acceptance and public health information calling the school board members "irresponsible."7 One parent writes: "What I don't want is [expletive] like you (and your liberal friends on the school board) teaching my children your lies and theories (homosexuality is not a choice) as facts. . . . if you want [expletive] that's your business. I won't stone you. But don't try to tell my children (thru [sic] your representatives) that it's 'normal'!"8

The 29-member Family Life and Human Development Advisory Committee will submit its final recommendation on the issue of addressing homosexuality sometime in the coming year.

References

  1. Maryland Regulations 13A.04.18.02, 13.A.04.18.03, and 13A.04.18.04, accessed 22 November 2004.
  2. Maryland Regulations 13A.04.18.02, 13.A.04.18.03, and 13A.04.18.04, accessed 22 November 2004.
  3. Dana, the Washington Post, 10 November 2004, Page B01.
  4. Jon Ward, "Sex-Ed Critics Intend to Fight," the Washington Times, 16 November 2004.
  5. Wendy Moody, Action Group [Msgid=742501], 22 November 2004, accessed 23 November 2004.
  6. Ben Patton, Parents' Comments [Msgid=742375], 22 November 2004, accessed 23 November 2004.

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