Readers Speak Out About New Sex-Education Curriculum
The Montgomery County Board of Education recently approved Montgomery's new lessons on sexual orientation for all middle and high schools beginning in the fall. Two 45-minute lessons will introduce homosexuality and gender identity in health courses in grades 8 and 10, along with a 10th-grade lesson and instructional DVD on the correct use of a condom. Two weeks ago, the Maryland State Board of Education rejected an appeal to overturn the curriculum.
County educators have been in a pitched legal battle for several years over the sex-education curriculum. Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum, which led a consortium of opposition groups, had appealed to the state board to block the curriculum and had convinced a federal judge in 2005 to halt the first revision. Another group, TeachtheFacts.org, organized to support the changes. Representatives of both groups and others served on the Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Committee, which offered recommendations on what should and should not be taught in the lessons.
Montgomery Extra invited readers to comment on the curriculum, and several dozen people responded. Most favored the new curriculum.
Here are some of the letters. Some have been edited for space and clarity.
Lessons Should Go Further
I have had two students graduate from Montgomery County public schools, and three years ago started teaching at Magruder High School, where I also sponsor the gay-straight alliance student organization. In addition, I spent a decade doing volunteer contraceptive counseling for Planned Parenthood. I completely support the changes, and I think that in spite of all the discussion and counter lawsuits, they still do not go far enough to put Montgomery County into the realm of those who deal with sex education in an enlightened manner.
The more students learn about how to use contraceptives and condoms in particular, the better. It would be preferable if they could actually handle the contraceptives themselves, which the curriculum still does not let them do. Many sources, including some good surveys from the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, show that those students who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered or just questioning their sexual identity suffer more than other teenagers during their school years. They are depressed, feel victimized, experiment with drugs, attempt suicide and drop out in disproportionate numbers. I have seen anecdotal evidence to support this during the short time that I have been working with these students. The curriculum change is a small step toward discussion and acceptance of differences. The lessons are too structured and scripted to allow for meaningful conversation, but let's hope that can happen somewhere else. Let's stop pussyfooting around this issue and give our teenagers some real information.
Props From a PFLAG Parent
As the parent of two graduates of Montgomery County public schools and as a member of the Metro DC chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), I support the action taken by MCPS to include in the eighth-and 10th-grade health education curriculum information regarding sexual orientation and gender identity. Teenagers, particularly those who are gay or transgender, need this information, as do their families. I wish that it had been available to my children when they were in middle and high school.
Deborah S. Strauss