Lessons about sexual orientation may be implemented countywide by fall
Six Montgomery County schools will begin field tests to pilot lessons that introduce the topic of sexual orientation into 8th and 10th grade health curriculums for the first time. If approved by the Maryland State Board of Education this summer, the lessons will be implemented countywide next fall.
After holding a required parent meeting, Argyle Middle School began piloting the lessons March 6. Julius West Middle School, Westland Middle School, Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, Sherwood High School and Watkins Mill High School will hold parent meetings and begin the pilot lessons by the end of this month. The six schools were selected based on letters of interest from the principals.
The new lessons mark the first time Montgomery County health curriculums have included the topic of homosexuality, raising concern from local groups. Following the Montgomery County Board of Education's approval of the lessons in January, three citizen groups, the Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum, Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays and Family Leader Network petitioned the State Board of Education to halt the pilot lessons. According to the groups' petition, the new lessons promote only one moral viewpoint on sexual orientation and compromise the values of those families whose religion dictates that homosexuality is a sin.
On March 8, Dr. Nancy S. Grasmick, State Superintendent of Schools, denied the petition, allowing the county to move forward with the pilot program. Grasmick has instructed the state school board to rule no later than July as to whether the new lessons should be implemented countywide next year.
Health and Physical Education Resource Teacher Cynthia Changuris supports the new lessons and hopes that by providing accurate information about sexual orientation, the lessons will promote respect and understanding for homosexuals. "I support the lessons because kids are going to get information about homosexuality, so why not get accurate information and get it from trained teachers?" Changuris asked.
Assistant Athletic Director and health teacher John MacDonald agrees with Changuris, saying that the lessons will provide factual information in "an area where there is a lot of misinformation," and thus work to reduce prejudice.
While health teacher Richard Porac does not oppose the new lessons, he states that he is largely impartial because the lessons will constitute a small part of the whole health curriculum. "We're talking maybe a 30 minute discussion over an entire semester. If kids want to know about homosexuality, then why shouldn't we talk about it," Porac said.
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