The Anne Arundel County School Board overwhelmingly approved tonight a film and textbook for a high school sex education course. The action came at the end of an emotional three-hour meeting during which speakers invoked the deity, the Bible and Nikita Khrushchev to make their points.
The 7-to-1 vote came in an auditorium overflowing with more than 300 people, a majority of whom appeared to oppose the materials with a fervor that exploded in frequent bursts of loud applause and an occasional "amen."
In the end, the torrent of words from 23 speakers -- including five ministers -- against the materials were all the opponents had to show for a month-long debate that had apolarized many county parents into warring camps over the sex education course mandated nearly nine years ago by the state and just now being implemented here.
"This course is neither a universal panacea nor a nuiversal threat," said Dr. Frederick Hegge, a board member and a college educator. "But ignorance is destructive, more than knowledge ever can be."
The board's vote also was a rejection of the recommendation offered by Superintendent Edward J. Anderson to drop the controvesial materials rather than offend a sizable segment of the community. Speaking for that segment, board dissenter Barbara Wagner said the film and book were "heavily laced with eugenics and far from being value free in philosophy."
What the opponents objected to was the film "Are You Ready for Sex?" which they said failed to make the case for premarital chastity, and a textbook, "Human Sexuality," which they said challenges the concept of the Virgin Birth, presents homosexuality as an acceptable alternative lifestyle and offers an uncritical view of incest and pornography.
The opponents also opposed "Learning About Sex," a paperback book proposed to be used as a teachers' reference and which critics said contains objectionable language and passages. The board neither approved nor disapproved the teachers' book.
These three items were among a variety of course materials recommended by a citizens committee. In the course of its deliberations, a deep division developed within the committee, with 12 of the 15 members recommending the controversial materials and three vociferously dissenting.
At last night's meeting, those who signed up to speak against the materials outnumbered the supporters by nearly 2 to 1. "I'm quite concerned with what this great nation we're supposed to have is trying to put in our school system," said Shirley Tuck, who identified herself as a mother of three, a former Sunday School teacher and a church member.
"Khrushchev said not too long ago he'd destroy our country without firing a gun," Tuck said. "There is no better way than to destroy our youth. So many of our American people are falling into the pits of hell with Khrushchev and doing what communism wants us to do."
At this point, board president Raymond Smith interjected, "I'm sorry, lady, I'll have to call a point of order on you."
Siding with Mrs. Tuck was the Rev. Tom Hawkins, who said he "represented my savior the Lord Christ as I stand before you tonight." To loud applause he asserted, "The Bible is the best standard of sex education. God said parents should teach sex education. It really doesn't belong in the school system."
Those speaking in support of the materials included a rabbi, representing Annapolis area clergymen, and a former nun, Anne Marie Romillard, who said her view represented that of the "silent majority." The supporters argued that the other side had taken the material out of context and posed "irrelevant objections."