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Writing on the Rightness of Sex-Ed Changes

Many who have complained point to Election Day, when 11 states passed same-sex marriage bans, in arguing that the board's action is radical, or at least anomalous.

"I think you're going to find many parents, even in Montgomery County, who don't want their children exposed to this," said Michelle Turner, a mother of six, four of whom are in county schools. She is the dissenting member of the Family Life and Human Sexuality Committee, a community group that advises the school board on health education matters.

Sharon Cox, president of the Montgomery County school board, said public response to changes in the sex-ed curriculum "did not surprise me, either in its tenor or volume." Students, on the other hand, consider the changes "not really as big a deal," said the board's student member, Magruder High senior Sagar Sanghvi. (Lois Raimondo -- The Washington Post)

In the region, some school districts do have leaner sex education curricula.

In Howard County, sex education is abstinence-based with no planned discussion of alternate sexualities, said Dulcy Sullivan, the district's instructional facilitator for character education and drug-free schools.

In Prince George's, a condom display kit is used in high school health education classes, and students see a condom demonstration on a wooden phallus, said John White, a schools spokesman. In Arlington, Fairfax and the District, high school students learn about condoms and alternate sexualities, health education curriculum coordinators for those districts said.

Fairfax, which teaches sexual orientation in high school biology and health classes, is considering adding a video using drawings to illustrate how to apply a condom, said Tamara Ballou, head of the county's family life education curriculum. Arlington teaches about homosexuality in a unit about tolerance and discrimination, a school spokesman said.

Meanwhile, a group of Montgomery residents met in Kensington yesterday to discuss censuring or recalling the school board.

The Montgomery school board began considering changes to its health education curriculum in November 2002, when the Family Life and Human Sexuality Committee suggested including a condom demonstration and discussion of homosexuality, which teachers then were barred from discussing except in response to student questions. The schools' curriculum has included material on contraception since 1970 and condoms since 1984.

For their part, many Montgomery students say the changes in the sex-ed curriculum have proven far less provocative for them than for their parents.

"I think in schools it's not really as big a deal," said Sagar Sanghvi, 17, a senior at Col. Zadok Magruder High School in Rockville and the board's student member. "Everyone's pretty much already aware of these things existing."

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