School may be out in Fairfax County, but opponents of sex education are not taking a summer vacation.
Members of a newly formed group, known as Fairfax County Parents Concerned with Positive Education, say they are dedicated to protecting the morals of their children and vow to block any move to broaden the scope of the present sex education program in Fairfax County.
This past spring, the school board received results of a countywide survey indicating that 70 percent of parents supported a more liberalized courses. As a result of the survey, school officials decided to reexamine the current program. School curriculum specialists are presently studying the sex education program now and are expected to make recommendations to the school board in the next few months.
Members of the Positive Education group, however, contend that their views, not those indicated by the survey, are more representative of the county as a whole.
Many parents who oppose expanding the sex education program say they approve of the course in its present form. They say they have no argument with the teaching of biological aspects of the human body, but balk when educators propose including discussions of what they consider sensitive moral issues.
"What are they going to teach about abortion?" asks one parent. "That it's not always bad and not always good? Well, that isn't what I believe, that goes against my morals.
"Whose morals are they going to teach?"
The question of whose "morals" will be taught in the public schools historically has been a controversial issue. School officials argue they are not in the business of teaching morals -- they teach facts and try to leave moralizing up to the parents.
But some parents in Fairfax, particularly members of such groups as Positive Education, say that even presenting the facts on some issues -- such as birth control -- gives them a tacit stamp of approval. For instance, parents who believe pre-marital sex is wrong say the morals of their children will be undermined if classes on contraception are taught.
Members of the Positive Education group say that so far about 25 to 50 people have attended their meetings. While most members say they have some religious affiliation, they note the group includes a cross-section of religions. Primarily, they say, parents in the group are concerned that the schools not take over a responsibility that is best left to the family.
"Something all of us hold dear is being attacked," says member John Hinkle, who views classes which would teach methods of contraception and abortion as being in direct conflict with his family's beliefs.
Larry Stine, an outspoken opponent of an expanded sex education program, said in a recent interview that the program as it now exists is a "good, positive program," noting that he encouraged his own children to take the course. But Stine, like many other parents, sees the incorporation of presently taboo topics as dangerous ground.
Currently, the sex education program teaches basic biology. Students need parental permission to enroll and teachers are forbidden to discuss topics such as abortion, birth control, homosexuality, masturbation, rape and incest.
"All those subjects are value-laden, " he said. "Inevitably some values are attached. The question is, what values?"
Stine said he is concerned that teachers will teach students that there is no absolute right or wrong. And that, he fears, would weaken "the parental role."
"The program as it is now is completely restricted to biology," Stine said. "It should stay that way."
School officials say that only 2 percent of county students now sign up for the course.
Despite several groups' determination to oppose the expansion, their support on the school board itself was weakened this month when board member Robert Smith resigned. Smith was regarded by many observers as a strong opponent of sex education. Parents now say they have just one friend left on the board, Gary Jones.
School board terms expire this week, however, and members of the Positive Education organization say they are trying to find qualified people who share their views and would be willing to seek the open board seats in the three districts of Mount Vernon, Annandale and Providence.
Ironically, sex education opponents hve found a silver lining in the dark cloud of the nation's economy and the school budget crunch.
"With the costs of schools soaring and taxes skyrocketing it won't be long," predicted one parent, "until a lot of people say they don't want their tax dollars wasted on sex education in the schools."