Sex Education in Anne Arundel ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY

November 15, 1993

The Anne Arundel County school board made the right decision this month when it approved a mandatory sex education class for ninth-graders, beginning next fall. The course properly stresses abstinence as the only foolproof method for avoiding pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. However, it also acknowledges that teen-agers need to know more about sex than just that they ought to postpone having it.

The schools already offer a detailed half-credit course on sex education. But that class is not required for graduation, and less than 2 percent of students take it. Of course, that doesn't mean teen-agers aren't learning about sex. They are -- from friends, television and movies. Surrendering kids to the misinformation spewed from these sources has always been dangerous, but now it is deadly. The board correctly perceives that it cannot prepare young people for life and simultaneously keep them ignorant about sex, which is such an important part of life.

The new course -- required for graduation -- includes a two-week segment on family life and human development and, with parents' permission, one week of sex education. Most parents have no problem with children receiving this information. But a minority do feel strongly. Consider the lone objector at a recent board meeting, Northeast High School Principal Joseph Carducci. Mr. Carducci -- who stressed that he was speaking as a parent -- wanted the program killed and replaced with a three-week course teaching only abstinence. His is a familiar argument: Abstinence and knowledge about sex are incompatible.

They shouldn't be. There's nothing contradictory in telling teen-agers, "This isn't something you should be doing now. But it is an important part of life that you will need to deal with at some point." Let's face it: some teen-agers are going to deal with it sooner rather than later, no matter how much society preaches abstinence. Mr. Carducci, whose school has been the focal point of the biggest sex scandal in county history, should know that better than anyone.

In requiring this course, the school board is not encouraging promiscuity, or eroding moral values, or superseding what should be the primary force for a young person's guidance -- the home. It is simply fulfilling its role to educate, protect and prepare children for life.

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