ANNAPOLIS, FEB. 24 -- Maryland schools are encouraging teen-age pregnancy and the spread of AIDS by failing to deter students from promiscuity, according to parents and grandparents who came here today to beg legislators to restore "family values" to public education.
To curb such behavior, they said, the General Assembly should compel school systems to preach abstinence before marriage -- and fidelity afterward -- when teaching students about sex.
"Our schools have become the tool of family planning groups, contraceptive salesmen and other vested interests that are making a lucrative living through the exploitation of the teen-age sex urge," said Malcolm Laurence, who represented a group called the Maryland Coalition of Concerned Parents.
"Kids are never taught sex is an act that is best saved for marriage. Kids are being instructed in perversion," said Nancy Jacobs, a mother of two children in Harford County. "We need guidelines that strictly define what can and cannot be taught in our sex education classes."
Traditionally, the General Assembly has balked at the idea of dictating what public schools should teach.
At today's hearing, a representative of the main state teachers union argued that point, and several committee members appeared to agree.
But Del. Ellen R. Sauerbrey (R-Baltimore County), who is sponsoring the "family values" bill, told members of the House Constitutional and Administrative Law Committee today that the state has the prerogative to require such a curriculum.
"The state is spending a lot of money now dealing with the consequences of AIDS and teen-age pregnancy," Sauerbrey said.
"There has been a tendency not to want to tell kids a strong message of right and wrong," Sauerbrey said. "I think teen-agers are too young to bombard with the message that sex is all right."
The effects of teen-age sex have grown more ominous, she and other witnesses said, because of rising teen-age pregnancy rates and the epidemic of the fatal acquired immune deficiency syndrome.
Specifically, the bill would require the State Board of Education to require teachers to promote premarital abstinence when teaching about sexuality or AIDS. Sauerbrey also is the primary sponsor of a resolution that would simply encourage the board to create such a requirement.
However, the president of the main teachers union, which opposes the legislation, argued that teachers already discuss values when presenting such topics and that it is inappropriate for the legislature to dictate the content of courses.
"We have no disagreement with the goals of the legislation or the facts and figures," said Beverly Correlle, president of the Maryland State Teachers Association. "Our bone of contention is the method of reaching the goal.
"We ask you to leave this to boards of education, to teachers, to parents," Correlle said.