The Harford County Board of Education has approved a number of changes to the middle school sex education curriculum slated to make its way into classrooms in September next year.
A recommendation by Superintendent Jacqueline C. Haas that physical education/health teachers would teach the class, which features some sensitive material, in the eighth grade instead of the seventh grade.
That the Focus Area III curriculum be updated, something that has not happened since 1983.
That the school staff and the superintendent prepare a curriculum on what would be taught in the eighth grade and present it to the school board by March next year.
That the school system work with the county Health Department and establish workshops where parents can learn what is being taught in the schools.
Haas and school board President Terry R. Troy stressed in a letter to parents that certain Focus Area III topics would not be taught in the class, including issues relating to sexual orientation, contraception, abortion and techniques of sexual activity. The three-week classes would include information on sexually transmitted diseases.
It would also teach the advantages of abstinence, such as pregnancy prevention, prevention of sexually transmitted diseases and preservation of self-esteem.
Parents also have the right to keep their children from taking the class.
During the school board meeting last week, Haas said that each child is different and that some seventh-graders could handle the study course, while it would be better for others when they were in the eighth grade.
Molly P. Harris, the student representative on the board, advocated teaching the class to seventh-graders. "In the eighth grade, it may be too late," said Harris, who is a senior at C. Milton Wright High School.
Robert B. Thomas Jr., a board member from Joppatowne, made the motion for the curriculum to be presented to the board for its approval before going into the classroom. "We need more than outline," he said.
The board will have to approve the curriculum before it can be taught.
Haas acknowledged that sex education in middle school is controversial, but she thanked the parents who participated in the public discussion. "This type of dialogue should never be viewed as a negative thing," she said. "All of you are right. None of you are wrong."
Gerald E. Scarborough, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said that parents contacting the school system supported the sex education program by a margin of five to one.