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Maryland district
removes pro-gay references from sex ed

Maryland district
removes pro-gay references from sex ed

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)

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