Board Hails Sex-ed Plan For 5th Grade

Some Questions Greet Unveiled Curriculum

January 12, 1992|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Staff writer

School board Vice Chairman Dana F. Hanna had some reservations aboutthe word "fertilization," but changes in the fifth-grade sex-education curriculum sailed through the approval process last week on waves of praise.

The absence of public opposition at Thursday night's board meeting was in sharp contrast to last year, when proposed changesin the ninth-grade sex-education curriculum prompted an outcry from conservative community members. School officials modified the curriculum in response to the criticisms.

Hanna's question about whether the word "fertilization" was appropriate prompted a counter-question from board member Karen B. Campbell: "Well, don't we use that in botany?"

For plants, yes, but not for humans at the fifth-grade level, replied Helen M. Stemler, health programs supervisor. "Fertilization" appears only as a term defined in the teacher's reference glossary, not in material given to pupils. Human reproduction is taught starting at the sixth grade, she said.

Hanna also said he didn't want illustrations of male and female reproductive organs handed to pupils. Stemler assured him that the illustrations appear on a transparency for projection, not on papers handed to youths.

Fifth-graders in county schools will have 11 half-hour lessons on family life and human sexuality next year, divided into:two lessons each on families and interpersonal relationships, and taught in sex-integrated classes; two lessons each on growth and development and emotional and social changes; and three lessons on physicalchanges at puberty, taught in sex-segregated classes.

Changes from the existing curriculum include a new emphasis on interpersonal relationships and on non-traditional families. Also new is a parent handbook written by school and health officials and county PTA Council representatives. The handbook will not be sent home with pupils, but isavailable at elementary schools for parents who want guidelines on talking to their children about sex.

"I'm foursquare behind this and was really impressed with the material," Campbell said.

Hanna said he had heard "more than a dozen people comment that they were pleased" with the curriculum changes.

Board member Susan J. Cook said she initially had questions about whether some of the material was appropriate for fifth-graders, "but I realized these kids know more in fifth grade than I ever knew."

In other action, the board:

* Won praise for the proposed western middle school site on Route 99 fromMarriottsville resident Larry L. Yeager, who had criticized two earlier sites proposed for the school, both on Route 144. Officials had to abandon one site when they could not reach agreement with the owneron price and had to abandon the second when it did not meet engineers' feasibility tests. Yeager was the only citizen to comment during apublic hearing on the 61-acre Route 99 tract. The board is to vote on the site at its next meeting Jan. 23.

* Heard appointments to principal and assistant principal posts from Superintendent Michael E. Hickey. James DeGeorge, Ellicott Mills Middle School principal, will head the new Burleigh Manor Middle School. Sterlind Burke, assistant principal at Ellicott Mills, will become principal of the school. Mary Dixon, health education abuse prevention specialist, will be assistant principal at Ellicott Mills. Maria McNelis, a social studies resource teacher, will be assistant principal at Bollman Bridge Elementary. Arlene Harrison, a teacher at Deep Run Elementary, will become assistant principal at Laurel Woods Elementary.

The last three appointments may not be permanent, Hickey explained, because the budget crunch may force officials to shift the positions next year.

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