The sex education
curriculum in Maryland's largest school district will be
overhauled and materials that had come under fire from two
community groups and a federal judge will be tossed out. The
Montgomery County school board voted on Monday to rethink
its approach in the face of charges that teacher resource
materials for the new curriculum implied that homosexuality
is a biological trait, not a lifestyle choice, and excluded
the viewpoints of so-called ex-gays and those who believe
that same-sex attraction can be overcome. The board said it
would not use those materials. It also voted to drop a
seven-minute video for 10th-graders that demonstrated how to
put on a condom. The board said it would reconstitute a
27-member citizens advisory committee to help oversee the
process of writing a new health curriculum.
Superintendent Jerry D. Weast told The Washington
Post the board's decision gave the county an opportunity
to take a "fresh look" at its approach. "Many school
districts across the country are watching us closely and
looking to us for leadership," Weast said. "This is
something that's important to our students now and in the future."
The system had planned to launch a pilot program on
May 9 designed to teach eighth- and 10th-grade students
about the dangers of unprotected sex and about human
sexuality, including homosexuality. Previously, health
teachers could discuss homosexuality only in response to
questions. Under the program that had been approved in
November, teachers would have been able to bring up the
issue on their own. The 10th-grade class also included the
video that featured a segment in which a woman puts a condom
on a cucumber to demonstrate its use.
That curriculum was challenged in U.S. district court
by two groups: Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum, a
county group composed mostly of parents, and the
Virginia-based Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays. U.S.
district court judge Alexander Williams Jr. granted the
groups a temporary restraining order on May 5, citing
teacher resource materials that he said seemed to single out
certain religious faiths for not being tolerant of gays and
lesbians. Weast suspended the proposed program hours later.
It was unclear how last night's action would affect
attempts to reach a settlement in the suit. Attorney Erik
Stanley, who represents the groups, said he was not told the
school board would be taking any action in the matter. "I
can't really tell if it's a step in the right direction," he
said. "I would have hoped they would not have moved unilaterally."
According to the board's resolution, the curriculum
will be rewritten by professional educators and consultants.
The citizens advisory committee also will be consulted and
review the changes. The board will consider the revisions
next school year. "The board remains strongly committed to a
comprehensive health curriculum for our students, and we
will continue to work diligently to ensure that our students
receive the very best instruction in this important
component of our educational program," said Patricia
O'Neill, the board's president. (AP)