The program expands nationwide next year.
A health teacher at Argyle Middle School in Silver Spring spoke to eighth-graders yesterday about sexual orientation. And so began a pilot program in Montgomery County schools that delves deeper into issues of sexual and gender identity than most other school systems in the Washington region, if not the nation.
The field test, which will start in five other schools by the end of the month and -- barring legal intervention -- the rest of the county in fall, marks the first time Montgomery teachers have broached homosexuality as a part of the official lesson plan in eighth- and 10th-grade health classes.
About 30 students attended the first session yesterday. Teacher Katie Becker held to a rigid script because of legal concerns. She read, "Today, we will look at behaviors that can have an effect on relationships, including stereotyping based on human sexuality."
Students also studied a "word tree" that showed the effect of derogatory remarks such as "You walk like a girl." And they were asked in a homework assignment to "describe a school where there is empathy, tolerance and respect."More than 60 Argyle students will receive the new sex-education lessons this week, said Carol Boyd, president of the school's PTSA. The lessons, which require parental permission for students to take, are taught to two classes on alternating days and raise the topic of sexual orientation at grade 8 in a discussion that centers on tolerance, stereotyping and harassment. Grade 10 lessons define the terms in greater depth as part of a frank discussion about the search for sexual identity. These are the lessons that have stirred most of the rancor.
Opposition centers on passages, mostly from the more candid high-school curriculum, that describe gay, lesbian and transgender people "celebrat[ing] their self-discovery" and transsexuals choosing sexual reassignment surgery to "match how they feel."
And we wonder why America's young leave school so stupid?