Three months after some eighth graders in Montgomery County schools began a controversial unit on contraception, a survey by the school system found that parents and students overwhelmingly support the instruction.
The two-day unit on pregnancy prevention is being taught on a trial basis to 677 students at Redland Middle, Pyle Junior High and Westland Intermediate schools.
The unit marks the first time that contraception information has been taught below the high school level.
Forty-six of the parents surveyed by the school system said they thought eighth grade or earlier was the right level to start such instruction, while 10 said that later was better.
Of the students who have taken the course, 324 said the instruction on pregnancy prevention should begin no later than eighth grade. Another 45 said it should be taught at an older age. Only two said it should not be taught at all.
The survey came at a time when school officials and County Board of Education members are confronting what one board member has called a "crisis of confidence" in health education. The board is scheduled to decide whether to accept the pregnancy prevention unit when it votes on a revised health curriculum this month.
Sex education has become a hot topic in the county, causing friction within the board-appointed citizen's group assigned to recommend sex education materials. Pamphlets containing excerpts from two sex education books several parents said had been approved for use in the schools and libraries have been widely distributed. But the director of the school's health programs said the books were only recommended and will not be used.
"People have been phoning in and calling us perverts," said Edward G. Masood, director of the school system's driver, health, and physical education and athletics department. "We've gotten letters from church members saying it is appalling to use these books in class. The point is, these books have not and will not be used at all."
Materials that are to be used for classroom or library use first are reviewed by a five-member Health Education and Selection Committee composed of school system employes. The materials then go to a 29-member citizens advisory committee appointed by the board. Both committees are advisory and final selection is made by the school board and superintendent.