The topics of birth control, abortion, homosexuality and masturbation should be included in a sex education program for Alexandria schools, according to recommendations by the city's Parent-Teacher Association.
The recommendations were part of a report issued last week by a PTA committee that has been studying the issue for over a year and a half. If accepted, the recommendations would introduce the first-ever major revision in the school's sex eduction curriculum, creating a separate sex education program and allowing discussion of topics that teachers now are prohibited from taking up in the classroom.
The report, while accepting the prerogative of homes and religious institutions as the first sources of information about sex, calls on the school system to revamp its present curriculum and to offer students who want to know and have parental permission information that would allow the students to make reasonable decisions about their own sexual development and "family life." In particular, the report urges that all methods of contraception be taught.
"The students are given, at best, cursory information that does not even seem to aproach the level of information suggested in the (1978) state guidelines," said Sandy Lindsey, president of the Alexandria PTA Council. "It (the sex information available) just is not effective at the level of sexual activity we know exists."
The report now goes for approval to individual PTAs before being submitted formally to the school board. However, several observers believe there is no guarantee that the school board will act to implement any of the suggestions.
Whatever the outcome, the report's authors expect it to ignite community outcry. Some school officials say privately that an updated sex education program would have been implemented long ago is anti-sex education forces were less vociferous. Currently, fifth and six grade students see one film on sexual development -- "Boy to Man" or "Girl science classes.
"I have looked at the books they usedand they seem to spend an awful lot of time talking about washing hands," said school board member Lou Cook, one of the board's most vocal advocates of improved sex education.
The report's recommendations differ markedly from neighboring Fairfax County where proposals to liberalize the sex education program have rallied thousands of parents in opposition. Fairfax parents gathered more than 10,000 signatures last May asking the board to make no changes in the program.
"We are well aware of what happened in Fairfax County where discussions of changes weakened the cirriculum because of negative parent input, rather then improving it," said Lindsay. "But I just wish parents would be more understanding and realize that they should not deny some children the right to know about this information just because they don't want their child to know."
The report recommends information be available on an optional basis and no child be allowed to participate in discussions without parental permission.
"If they (the parents) don't want it, that's fine . . . It's their choice," Lindsay said. "But other children and other parents should also be allowed a choice. That's all we want."