Sex-education play is promoted by PTA group in Harford County

November 22, 1992|By Sherrie Ruhl | Sherrie Ruhl,Staff Writer

A countywide group representing Harford PTAs is mounting an aggressive lobbying campaign to keep the controversial sex-education play "Secrets" in schools.

"We've got to get on the phone and get phone chains going; we've got to get people out in support," said Lee Blake, first vice president of the Harford County Council of PTAs.

Ms. Blake said she strongly supports "Secrets," a play produced by Kaiser Permanente Health Systems and performed by a troupe of young actors. The play includes candid talk about AIDS, as well as condoms, homosexuality, bisexuality and premarital sex.

The council, made up of representatives of PTA groups at county schools, is expected to call a special meeting to develop a strategy and decide who will speak in support of "Secrets" at the Dec. 14 school board meeting.

The council's lobbying effort comes in response to a few dozen critics, who say the play condones homosexuality and premarital sex. Critics had demanded that "Secrets" no longer be performed in Harford schools and are seeking changes in the play.

While opponents have decried the play, other parents said they consider it an appropriate way to counter the ignorance that can lead to teen pregnancy and AIDS.

One critic, Nancy Jacobs, the mother of a 16-year-old daughter at Joppatowne High, said she wants references to condoms and "protected sex" removed, unless the play also gives the failure rate for condoms.

She doesn't want the play banned -- she allowed her daughter see it -- but wants the school system to give equal time to sex education that encourages abstinence.

Last year, critics persuaded the school board to ban one scene -- demonstrating proper condom use by slipping one on a banana -- in performances at Harford schools.

Teen-agers need no instruction in how to use a condom, Mrs. Jacobs said. "If these kids can pass the functional tests in reading, they can read the directions on a box of condoms," she said. "How many people do you know that read the directions to anything?" retorted Ms. Blake, the PTA member.

Ms. Blake favors restoring the banana demonstration, like many of the 30 people attending the council meeting.

Ms. Blake's daughter, a senior at North Harford High School, saw the play last week.

Like many other parents at the council meeting, Ms. Blake said she would like to have the play shown to ninth- and 10th-graders.

The school board ruled last year that only 11th- and 12th-graders could see the play.

The board also ruled that youngsters had to have their parents' permission to see it.

Dave Petr, a PTA council vice president, said he doesn't understand the opposition to the play.

"The board of education is not standing there with a gun to anyone's head saying your child must see this play," he said.

Mr. Petr said a small, but vocal, minority opposes the play.

"The schools belong to everyone, but they are trying to say they represent the majority of opinion, and they are trying to do all of this undercover," he said.

Dee Polek, president of the Bel Air High PTA, said surveys show "overwhelming" support from students and parents who have seen "Secrets."

She plans to compile results from the surveys and present them to the school board. The play has been shown at Bel Air, Joppatowne and North Harford high schools this year.

"I have three children. I pray they abstain and will be smart about it," she said. "But let's face it, we were teen-agers once. Did we always listen to our parents?"

One of her daughters saw "Secrets" at Bel Air High School in October.

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