An Anne Arundel County delegate says parents ought to know what schools are teaching their children about AIDS, teen pregnancy and drug abuse.
What once was taught only in high school with parental consent is now taught to elementary and middle school students, often without parents' knowledge, said Delegate John Gary, R-Millersville.
Gary has introduced a bill that would require schools to obtain written parental consent by mail before instructing any students on health and sexuality, which includes family life, interpersonal relationships and AIDs.
"The human sexuality courses were originally intended for high school students," Gary told members of the House Constitutional and Administrative Law Committee on March 6. "But the schoolsystems are deciding they are reaching the students too late.
"I'm not implying the schools are doing anything wrong," he said. "I'm not saying the stuff they were teaching high school students they are now teaching sixth-graders. It's watered down. But parents should have the right to know what their kids are learning."
Nancy Jacobs, aparent, told the committee, "It seems odd to me that my children can't go on field trips without me knowing, but they can take sex education without me knowing."
The Maryland Association of Boards of Education opposed the bill. Margaret-Ann F. Howie, legislative liaison, said it is unnecessary and could be costly for financially strapped school systems.
Parental consent is already required in high schools, Howie said. Middle and junior high school parents are informed about the curriculum through open houses and newsletters and can requesttheir children not participate, she said.
Some questioned the wisdom of restricting AIDS information.
"My district has the highest number of AIDs cases in the state," said Delegate Elijah E. Cummings,D-Baltimore. "Are you saying that before the schools can give students information that will save their lives, they have to get a consentform from home?"
Margaret Copeman, a Prince George's County parent, said, "When we're talking about AIDs education, we're talking about protecting them from death. I'm not sure any of us have a right to decide whether they'll receive that education."