School board rejects video, 2 pamphlets Materials presume students will have sex, members say

June 13, 1996|By A SUN STAFF WRITER

A sex education video and two pamphlets requested by health teachers were rejected yesterday by the Carroll County Board of Education.

The materials had been approved by a parent screening panel that includes teachers and a member of the local clergy. But school board members said the video and pamphlets did not emphasize abstinence.

The board voted 3-1 not to use the video "Chances, Choices, Changes," proposed for 10th-graders. The documentary shows three teen mothers, including a 14-year-old who watches her friends try out for the tennis team, as she had wanted to do.

Board member Ann M. Ballard defended the video, which she said was powerful and well done.

"The video showed her standing at the fence, and her friends were playing tennis while she was standing there with the baby on her hip, rocking him and putting in the pacifier," Ballard said. "If that doesn't teach abstinence "

She said the video was in color, but switched to black-and-white as it depicted the sometimes bleak or stressful scenes of the mothers taking care of their babies.

"The video is very powerful," said board President Joseph Mish. "If there was nothing else available, I'd say use it. But I'm going to vote against it. The message in it is 'If I only practiced safe sex.' The presumption is kids are going to have sex."

Ballard did join three board members (Carolyn Scott was absent) in a unanimous vote against two Planned Parenthood pamphlets: "Ten Ridiculous Ideas That Will Make a Mother" and "Ten Ridiculous Ideas That Will Make a Father."

Member C. Scott Stone objected to the pamphlets, saying they tell teens that confidential help and information is available to them without their parents knowing. The

pamphlets also presume sexual activity, he said. For example, the pamphlet for boys says to always assume your girlfriend is not using birth control.

"There's a presumption of the sex act," Stone said.

Ballard said she voted against the pamphlets because she thought they were too strong for middle school. The pamphlets were proposed for seventh grade.

Mish said he was less concerned about the pamphlets, because they are not as powerful as a video, but he supported Stone's concerns.

In 1988, the board approved a policy to emphasize abstinence. But the policy, in accordance with state law, also acknowledges that some students will have sex and that schools have an obligation to provide information on preventing pregnancy and disease.

"Obviously there are kids who are going to be sexually active," Mish said. "But I don't think we need to make them the focus of the program."

At the board's request, Gary Dunkleberger, assistant superintendent, drafted the abstinence policy in 1988 when he was director of curriculum.

"We cannot choose to teach abstinence only," Dunkleberger said. "We are required by [Maryland state law] to go beyond that. That's really what our policy says, if you look at it."

The policy reads: "While the instruction must be informative for youngsters who choose to be sexually active, it is the position of the Board of Education of Carroll County that abstinence from premarital sex shall be presented to students as the most appropriate choice." In addition to the parent panel, all parents are notified when new materials come up for review and can view them before the school board votes.

State law requires that parents be notified of family life unit classes and allows them to exclude their children. But in Carroll, parents must request that their children participate in the classes and sign a permission form. Nearly 100 percent of students take the courses, Dunkleberger said.

Pub Date: 6/13/96

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