Sex education in Alexandria schools will be reviewed this year for the first time since the course material was introduced 10 years ago, the school board announced last week.
The news that a committee will be appointed to recommend changes for the current program was greeted with relief by some school board members and teachers who believe the study is long overdue.
"The current program is out of date," said board member Lou Cook, who has been producing the board for several years to study the area. "There are a few isolated instances where kids are taught about reproduction, but the majority of time is spent teaching kids about brushing teeth or how to take care of a pet.
"There needs to be more emphasis on changes that occur with puberty and the emotions that come with that change," Cook said.
Currently there are no separate sex education courses in the school system. Instead, said assistant superintendent Donald Dearborn, sex education is intergrated into the regular school curriculum, beginning with kindergarten. In the fifth and sixed grades, students are shown two films -- Girl to Woman," and "Boy to Man" -- and information on venereal disease is taught in ninth-grade science classes. Birth control is not taught, Dearborn said.
Neither Dearborn nor school board members would speculate on whether the new study would recommend that contraception be taught in the schools. All agree, however, that contraception is the most incendiary issue.
"It's a very touchy issue and one which I wish we didn't have to focus on, because it brings out all the emotion and the people who are against sex education," Cook said. "I agree it should be taught at home or in the church, but that's just not happening."
Some educators, however, dismiss objections to the courses and insist that it is a student's right to be taught about sex.
"There should be no distinction made between the home economics, driver's education and sex education," said James Akin, principal of Charles Barrett Elementary School. "I don't know what's wrong with these people (who object to sex education) or what century they think they are living in. A good portion of kids in this school system come from divorced families, and have parents who are living with someone outside of marriage.
"Body changes and growth are a normal part of life. I don't know what people think is the big secret."
The committee, which is expected to be appointed within the next several weeks, is scheduled to meet for four months and to present a report to the board in May. At that time, the board will consider any recommendations.
In other action last week, the board approved its 1981-82 capital improvements budget. When the school budget is presented to the city council in February the board will ask for $1,583,500 to renovate five schools, including $600,000 to upgrade the entire heating system at Francis Hammond Junior High School. The bulk of the remaining money is earmarked for making the other buildings more energy-efficient.
The board also approved a policy concerning religion in city schools. Cultural differences between religions can be taught and religious holidays observed, but school officials and teachers are to remain cultural when discussing religion in the classroom, according to the guidelines.