Wednesday, September 19, 2007

”Should my child attend Montgomery County’s new sex-ed classes?”

A parent has asked me about the new Montgomery County Health Education Curriculum as her Catholic daughter is in one of the grades in which this will be presented. There is a good website which a friend of mine, Mary Lee O'Connell, has set up which will help Catholic parents with this difficult situation. Mary Lee is a Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner (CRNP) who has provided great service to the Archdiocese of Washington for over twelve years, specializing in family-centered sexuality education. The following are excerpts from her site which can be viewed by clicking on the title of this page:

Parents’ Rights & Responsibility
1. All parents have the right and responsibility to be their child’s primary sexuality educator...
Parents need to have dialogues with their child BEFORE their child attends any formal human sexuality education class.

2. Parents have to decide whether to give written permission (opt-in) for their child to participate in the Family Life and Human Sexuality unit and/or the Disease Prevention and Control unit in the health education class. Even if a child does not participate in the classes, he/she may hear about the class content from their friends.

3. ”Should my child attend Montgomery County’s new sex-ed classes?”
Parents have a dilemma: Kids aren’t going to want to be singled out and “punished” with a packet of alternative lessons. On the other hand, parents don’t want their child to receive misinformation that is contrary to Catholic/Christian teaching on so vital a topic as human sexuality. There is no easy answer. But this does present a great opportunity for parents to take the time to teach their children the truth. This may require parents themselves to learn more about what God teaches on human sexuality and to share this with their children, but it will be worth the effort.

Unless children are thoroughly informed about God’s teachings on human sexuality, they run the risk of believing the misinformation presented in the new curriculum. Many years of religious education classes can be undone if only one or two of the messages from the new curriculum are accepted as truth by our children. While we as Catholics believe in “respecting differences” among all people, the most important thing for children to understand is who they are from a Christian/Catholic perspective. Parents have the right and responsibility to be their child’s primary educator especially in the area of sexuality.

4. What happens when parents do not opt-in?
Under the new policy, students whose parents do not sign the opt-in form must substitute independent study for whole units of course content, not just several classes. Students who do not opt-in must engage in independent study in another academic area in the school for three weeks or more. These students will not attend the entire Family Life and Human Sexuality or the Disease Prevention and Control unit (7 or 8 classes for each unit)...

5. To prepare for a discussion with their child, parents must know

-The key areas of the health education curriculum for their child’s grade – parents MUST get this information from their child’s school. What do the classes include? What are the alternative lessons? Where will their child go for the alternative lessons? Who supervises the students? How are the lessons graded? When will their child meet with the teacher to get their instructions and then a follow-up review with the teacher? Some parents have decided to use the opt-in form to ask the principal to have their child attend the Family Life and Human Sexuality or Disease Prevention and Control units but skip the sexual orientation classes and condom demonstration lesson.

-The Church’s teachings about these key areas

-How their child’s health class content aligns or conflicts with God’s teachings as revealed by the Catholic Church

6. How the Montgomery County Health Education Curriculum classes are presented.
Format of the Classes - presented with the boys and girls together, sitting side-by-side. Many students report being uncomfortable and/or embarrassed when they are shown diagrams of the male and female anatomy.

PREPARE your child - Some report they felt something was WRONG with them for being “overly modest.” How could this make your child feel? If a child has been taught that they should respect their body, this male-female format can be embarrassing and confusing.
How the teacher presents the content - Academic authority teaching. The teacher’s way of presenting, “this is your world,” may cause children to be frustrated or angry.

PREPARE your child - Mention before the classes that this might happen and anger about this is OK. Please note that the way the religion is presented in this class and history classes can also create feelings of confusion or anger.

7. Context of the Lessons
The lessons do not teach that sexual activity belongs within marriage between a man and a woman or that abstinence until marriage is a worthy goal. In short, the lessons attach no moral significance to sexuality – – an approach completely contrary to our deeply held Catholic beliefs.


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