Textbooks and sex-education tapes await school board action today

June 08, 1994|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Sun Staff Writer

Two issues that have caused controversy in the past -- textbook approval and videotapes for sex education -- appear to be causing little concern as they come before the school board today.

The Carroll County Board of Education was to vote on those and other issues beginning at 9 a.m. today at the school administration headquarters, 55 N. Court St., Westminster.

Also, the ad-hoc School Discipline Committee of 25 teachers, parents and other staff members will present recommendations that have emerged from the 10 months of studying the issue. Superintendent R. Edward Shilling created the committee after teachers repeatedly raised concerns about a growing lack of respect among younger students, and more serious problems with older ones.

The board is not scheduled to vote on the discipline report, but will vote on materials for use in the sex-education units and about 115 new textbooks, novels, plays and other materials teachers have asked to use.

In contrast to two years ago, when hundreds of parents turned out to comment on "Teen AIDS in Focus," only 14 people showed up to watch seven videotapes for the family life/human sexuality units.

"All of them focus on abstinence, which is our current policy," said William Piercy, supervisor of health education.

"They mention it [safe sex], but they don't go into depth," he said.

In 1992, a group of parents organized to fight "Teen AIDS in Focus" because the video did not stress abstinence enough, they said.

Superintendent R. Edward Shilling eventually recommended that the board not approve that video because of the number of parents who threatened to remove their children from the whole sex-education unit because of it.

The roughly 115 books up for approval for all other subjects -- from math to literature -- were screened first by the Curriculum Council, a group of about 90 parents, high school students and community representatives.

The council members met for 90 minutes May 26 to vote on the books.

But one precedent set this year was that the staff sent back to the council a book it had voted down last year, and the council voted to use it after all. The staff felt strongly that the book was misunderstood and that several members of the council had not even read it, said Gary Dunkleberger, director of curriculum for the county schools and council chairman.

"If You Lived at the Time of Martin Luther King" passed by a 30-7 vote. The rest of the books all passed unanimously in one bloc.

Parents who raised concerns about the Martin Luther King Jr. book said the book doesn't represent white people who supported the civil rights movement.

The book, by Ellen Levine, says on the second page: "It is the story of blacks and their white supporters working together to make a better world for themselves and their children."

It later mentions support from Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.

The Curriculum Council meets every spring to vote on all books that will be used in the classroom and ordered in large quantities. Library books go through a separate process.

Dr. Dunkleberger said the policy always has been the same: If even one parent has a concern about a book, the book is pulled for a separate vote. At the end of the meeting, all other books are approved in one vote.

Last year, parents asked that eight books be pulled.

The seven other books were questioned by a few parents at the meeting for various reasons.

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