Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Maryland County Teaches ‘Sexual Variations’

By Daniel de Vise
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 16, 2007; B01

Montgomery County's overhaul of its sex education curriculum, which has inspired a lawsuit, petition drives, national news coverage and the formation of fiercely polarized community groups, was itself inspired by two words buried deep within the regulatory code of Maryland, which advises school systems to teach "sexual variations."

The county school system invoked those regulations in defense of disputed new lessons that introduce students to sexual orientation and transgenderism in grades eight and 10.

Neither Maryland nor Virginia requires school systems to teach about sexual orientation, state officials said. Maryland's stipulation that schools teach sexual variations as one of several "areas of emphasis" in health classes is open to broad interpretation.

Montgomery's new curriculum, approved last week for field tests this spring, goes deeper into sexual and gender identity than most other Washington area school systems have dared, judging by an informal survey. Some Northern Virginia systems don't teach about sexual orientation, and Maryland systems generally broach the topic in less detail or at the request of a curious student. Information from D.C. schools was not available.

"Everyone's watching Montgomery right now, in no uncertain terms," to see whether the new curriculum survives an expected legal challenge, said Jean-Marie Navetta, spokeswoman for Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, a national nonprofit organization. If the lessons emerge intact, they could be replicated.

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