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Court Rules in Favor of MCPS in Challenge to Health Curriculum

February 1, 2008
Circuit Court for Montgomery County Rules in Favor of Montgomery County Public Schools in Challenge to Health Education Lessons

Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge William J. Rowan III ruled in favor of Montgomery County Public Schools today, February 1, 2008, in a challenge brought by Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum and other opponents to revised health education lessons taught in eighth and tenth grades.

On January 16, the Montgomery County Circuit Court heard oral arguments in Citizens for Responsible Curriculum v. Montgomery County Board of Education, the long-running challenge to the revisions of the comprehensive health education curriculum.

"We hope that we can put this litigation behind us now once and for all and move forward with our primary mission—educating our children," said Dr. Jerry D. Weast, superintendent of schools. "Unfortunately, a small group of opponents has forced us to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to defend this curriculum in legal proceedings. We have successfully implemented this curriculum in our middle and high schools and it has been well-received by our parents, students and staff with 97 percent of tenth graders and 95 percent of eighth graders choosing to participate in the lessons."

The Montgomery County Board of Education approved the lessons for implementation in middle and high schools on June 12, 2007. The opponents asked the State Board of Education to prevent implementation and the State Board rejected their request. The Montgomery County Circuit Court Case was an appeal of the State Board’s decision.

The eighth and tenth 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 tenth 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.

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. Parents overwhelmingly have chosen to have their children participate in the lessons this year. In fact, 95 percent of eighth graders participated in the lessons last October and 97 percent of tenth graders participated in the lessons last month.

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