Plans for a family life, or sex education, program are expected to be at the top of the Alexandria School Board's agenda later this month when board members are expected to direct school staff to begin preparations for instituting the program in September 1982.
At its meeting last week, the board heard little opposition to a recommendation that family life program be adopted. And from all indictions, the board will approve a plan at its meeting June 24 that will pave the way for setting up a course for eighth graders beginning in the fall of 1982.
The relative quiet in Alexandria was in sharp contrast to neighboring Fairfax County, where sex education proposals have brought strident opposition. After several months of debate, the Fairfax school board recently adopted an expanded sex education program.
Based on the experience in Fairfax County, Muriel W. Test, who headed a special committee on sex education that reported to the Alexandria school board at its meeting last Wednesday, was braced for a brouhaha.
"I don't know what to say," she said after the routine, 10-minute discussion of her report at a board work session. "It's unusual to me. We've been reading the paper about Fairfax (County). It's just so different here."
The 10-member Family Life Education Advisory Committee, appointed by the school board in January, met 13 times and interviewed community leaders, clergy and parents. Its brief report to the board last week concluded that Alexandrians want a family life program and recommended that such a course be instituted for eighth graders in September 1982.
"We'll probably follow very closely the recommendations of the committee," board chairman Shirley N. Tyler said after the meeting. "No one even called individual board members to complain."
Board member Lou Cook reiterated Tyler's comments and said she planned to seek approval for developing a specific program. "I don't feel like following the route taken by Fairfax County," she said, "discussing it endlessly and adopting it anyway."
The family life report did not discuss specific subject matter that would be included in the course. Instead, it suggested that two or three teachers from each of the two junior highs in Alexandria write proposed curriculum next year, with the help of outside consultants. The school board then would have to review the curriculum before actually approving it.
The committee, however, did make some generl recommendations: That the course be required for all students, unless parents request exemptions; that sex education be taught in coeducational classes; that students who pass the course be given science credit.
"I have no doubt that this curriculum is necessary in the school system," said board member J. Harvey Harrison Jr., who then asked rhetorically, "but what about a value system to go with it?"
John O. Peterson, another board member, said he was distressed that the course would be taught only in the eighth grade at first, rather than at all levels. The advisory panel recommended that a course for kindergarten through 12th grade be developed over the next five years.
"At the moment, I'm not sold on the eighth grade course," Peterson said, "especially if it displaces one of the current required courses."
Two members of the audience also commented on the issue, but neither opposed the plan.
Wendy Schwab, a 16-old-junior at T.C. Williams High School and the only student who attended many of the advisory committee meetings, said she was in favor of the new course.
The other speaker, Richard Dwyer, who said he was an interested citizen and former PTA member, expressed only slight reservations.
"The important thing," he said, "is that parents not be undermined."