If the results of a recent Fairfax County sex-education survey are valid, most parents support a more liberalized curriculum for county high schools -- one that touches on the presently forbidden topics of birth control, homosexuality, abortion, masturbation, rape and incest.
If the parents who filled out the questionaires believed the new data would prompt action by the school board, however, they were wrong.
At last week's board meeting, members were greeted with a reminder of the volatility of the issue, and the board reacted cautiously, deciding for the time to leave well enough alone.
Citizen participation, which starts each school board meeting and usually lasts about 15 minutes, went on for almost an hour last week as speakers marched to the podium to plead for more sex education or to remind the board that opponents of the program were ready for a fight.
"To teach school children that homosexual activity, masturbation, practicing contraception, having an abortion is acceptable within society, or even a legitimate topic for discussion in public schools, constitutes a disparagement of cherished Judeo-Christian spirtual values and violates minority rights," argued James A. Edgren, a Fairfax County parent who asked the board to continue the present sex education program, which does not allow discussions during class.
But proponents of a more liberalized program contended that the survey results had given the board a mandate to update the sex education program, to provide students with a place to get accurate information about sexuality.
"Teens often hear myths, such as you can't get pregnant standing up . . . young people need better information," said Sheila Todd, who spoke for the Fairfax County Commission for Women. "Discussion must be allowed.
"We urge the school board to work toward . . . developing new cirriculum. The mandate from parents and students is clear."
The anti-sex education lobby at last week's meeting did find friends on the board. Veteran school board member Robert E. Smith refreshed the other board members' memories by recalling the 44 sex-education hearings that were held in 1978 -- the last time the issue came up.
Board member Gary Jones became the hero of the conservative set when he said, "We can't teach religion or pray in the schools, but when you're talking about abortion you're talking about some people's religious beliefs," Jones said as he was interrupted by applause. "I think we've done enough with it (the survey.)"
Opponents of sex education lined up to shake Jones' hand during a recess in the meeting.
School board Chairman Rodney F. Page pointed out that the survey, which was administered by the curriculum services department, was the result of sex-education guidelines put forth by the state Department of Education, and not a brainchild of the Fairfax County schools. Board members agreed with Page that the budget and school consolidations were issues that overshadowed the sex-education question, and the move to put the issue aside met no objection.