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State Board Rules in Favor of MCPS in Health Ed Case

July 3, 2007
ROCKVILLE, MD – The Maryland State Board of Education ruled in favor of Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Tuesday clearing the way for the 8th and 10th grade health education curriculum to include two lessons that promote tolerance, empathy and respect for all people regardless of sexual orientation and one 10th grade lesson that demonstrates the proper use of a condom.

Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum, Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays, and Family Leader Network asked the State Board of Education in the spring to overturn the Montgomery County Board of Education’s curriculum decision to include these lessons in health classes.

“We appreciate the State Board’s careful deliberation and strong ruling in favor of MCPS in this case,” said Nancy Navarro, president of the Montgomery County Board of Education. “The State Board rejected each and every legal challenge brought by the opponents and determined and that there was no valid reason to overturn our decision. It is my hope that the litigation in this matter will finally come to an end as we move forward with the lessons that teach that all people deserve to be respected regardless of their sexual orientation.”

The State Board’s decision methodically analyzes and dismisses the various points raised by the opponents in the appeal. For example, the State Board writes, “Because the three additional lessons are not mandatory and because the Appellants have no fundamental right to control the content of the curriculum on religious grounds, it is our view that the local board’s decision to adopt the three lesson systemwide does not violate the Free Exercise of Religion Clause.”

The Montgomery County Board of Education approved the lessons for all middle and high schools on June 12, following an extensive and thorough preparation process, including a detailed review of the lessons by the Citizens Advisory Committee on Family Life and Human Development. In addition, the lessons were field tested in six schools in March.

For students to participate in the lessons, parents must provide informed written consent in advance. It is important to note that all parents have the opportunity to review the health curriculum at parent meetings before the health classes are taught. Students who do not have parental consent participate in alternative lessons on different health topics.

The 8th and 10th grade lessons comprises two 45-minute sessions in each grade on respecting differences in human sexuality. The purpose of the curriculum is to promote tolerance, empathy and respect for all people regardless of sexual orientation. The curriculum also defines terms related to sexual orientation.

In addition, the 10th grade curriculum includes one 45-minute lesson and one video detailing the correct usage of a condom. The purpose of the condom demonstration lesson is to show proper application of a condom, while emphasizing that abstinence is the only 100 percent effective method of preventing sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy.

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