From March to May of 2005, Montgomery County, Maryland garnered national attention as a few fringe right-wing groups, many from outside the area, let loose an all-out campaign against a new sexuality education curriculum for the county’s public schools. Yet a recent victory in this same community just outside of Washington, D.C. shows that extreme opposition to common sense sexuality education can be overcome.
In 2005, the county’s school board gave approval to a revised sexuality education curriculum that spoke positively of gays and lesbians and expanded instruction on the importance of contraceptives in protecting the health of sexually active students. Outside groups from Florida and Virginia, as well as major national right-wing groups like Concerned Women for America and Family Research Council converged on this community to usurp local decision-making, forcing the school board to go back to the drawing board.1
The determination of the county’s school board paid off on January 9, when revised sexuality education lessons for eighth and tenth graders were approved by a unanimous vote. The new program is set to be field tested in some middle and high schools as early as this spring and utilizes a curriculum titled Respect for Differences in Human Sexuality. The new lessons discuss sexual orientation and gender identity in the eighth and tenth grade Family Life Curriculum, and the tenth grade health classes will include expanded information about the importance of using condoms for sexually active youth.2
Jim Kennedy, a member of the citizen’s advisory committee which includes parents, teachers, students and other community members, said that the revised curriculum remains gay friendly because it uses non-judgmental language in discussing sexual orientation and gender identity.3
The two main instigators of the 2005 uproar, Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum, and Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (P-Fox) have not been assuaged. They continue to argue that the new curriculum offers only a biased view on premarital sex, anal sex, and homosexuality. The two groups called for any lessons on sexual orientation to include perspectives that “homosexuals can change, that transgenderism is a mental disorder and that anal intercourse is dangerous,”4 despite the fact that no major medical or psychological organization considers homosexuality as a mental illness or disorder. These two groups are considering legal action.
In response to the continued threats, Montgomery County’s School Superintendent Jerry Weast responded that the new curriculum was written by his staff and had been built on specific academic objectives and “circumscribe liability”.5
“Montgomery County, MD Cancels Controversial Sex Ed Program,” SIECUS Policy Update, May 2005, < http://www.siecus.org/policy/PUpdates/pdate0178.html#MON>.
- Daniel de Vise, “Board of Education Approves New Sex-Ed Curriculum,” The Washington Post, 10 January 2007, accessed 15 January 2007, < http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-
- Joshua Lynsen, “Montgomery Co. approves Gay Friendly Sex-Ed Curriculum,” Washington Blade, 10 January 2007, accessed 15 January 2007, <http://www.washblade.com/thelatest/thelatest.cfm?blog_id=10830>.
- de Vise, “Board of Education Approves New Sex-ed Curriculum.”