Maryland: A New Focus on Students' Sex Ed -- Subjects Tailored to Grade Level
May 16, 2005
Nationwide, 89 percent of the country's estimated 20 million public school students in grades 7-12 take sex education, according to a 2000 survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Without national guidelines, however, what students learn can vary widely from state to state and school system to school system.
In Montgomery County, Maryland, health education begins in pre-kindergarten and continues through high school, with different topics introduced at varying grade levels. Earlier this month, a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order blocking the school system from teaching a new sex-education curriculum for eighth and 10th grades. Two groups, Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum and Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays, sued the district, charging that the new curriculum was biased.
The curriculum would have allowed teachers to initiate discussion about homosexuality at the eighth-grade level and to show 10th-grade students a seven-minute video that includes information on how to put on a condom.
Educators in Montgomery County have addressed contraception since the 1970s and condom use since 1984. However, it was only in the early 1990s that teachers were allowed to show various contraceptive devices such as condoms. Parents must give permission for high school students under age 18 to take two health education units: family life and human sexuality, and AIDS prevention.
While the Bush administration has supported abstinence-only education programs, the Kaiser survey found that 81 percent of parents back an approach that includes an abstinence message and information about how to prevent unplanned pregnancies and the spread of STDs.
Course outlines of Montgomery County public schools' health education curriculum can be found at www.mcps.k12.md.us/curriculum/health.
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.