Eight years ago Montgomery County parents claimed sex education would destroy their children's morals.
Last week Montgomery County junior high school students complained to the school board that sex education is repetitive. They said they would rather be in gym.
"What we have on the reproductive system in eighth grade is 50 percent what we've had in seventh grade," said David Levine of Thomas Pyle Junior High. "It cuts into our gym time."
"I understand," said school board president Daryl Shaw. "At that age, you'd rather be active."
Levine was one of three junior high student government representatives who appeared before the board for a scheduled discussion of student complaints about the school system. High school student government representatives also met with the board.
Eighth grade students now have a three-week family-life course during their physical education period. The three junior high school representatives explained to the board that most of the material taught in that calss was covered by their life-science course in seventh grade.
"We learn about our glands and why we get acne," said David Arkin, from E. Brooke Lee Junior High. "In Eighth grade we go over the same thing and you're thinking, gee, I could be playing basketball."
Although the three-week eighth grade course is not required and students cannot take it without parental consent, Levine told a reporter that most students do enroll.
"If you don't, you're sent to the library to do a report on nutrition," Levine said, frowning. "So most kids con their parents into signing the form."
The eighth grade course also covers the emotional aspects of physical deveopment, and emphasizes family and peer relationships during adolescence. The students asked the board to consider incorporating that material into the seventh grade science course, so they wouldn't have to miss gym in the eighth grade.
Edward Masood, one of the school system's health education coordinators, said, "Understand that if you're a youngster and you have six periods of sitting down, you look forward to getting up and running around. The kids are being deprived of their daily physical activity."
School board president Shaw said the board would review the health education program.
Montgomery County students first study reproduction and body systems in the fifth and sixth grades, according to school health coordinators. Students advance to increasingly more complex courses on humans, animals and plants, up to an optional 12th grade course that covers contraception.
But students are apt to learn more about the double helix and DNA than the double standard and sexuality in school, health officals say, since most of the courses are scientifically oriented to cells, chromosomes and glands.
Students at the meeting last week said at the end of the three-week course, they are tested by having to label parts of the body.
"Well," joke health education coordinator Michael Tartamella, "They must get amnesia by the time they get to 12th grade. You talk about fallopian tubes and urethra and they think those are parts of charts on a wall. They don't realize those are parts of their bodies."
Tartamella agreed it was unfair to make students take life sciences during a class period set aside for gym, but said he strongly believed that when it comes to studying life sciences, once is not enough.