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Mont. sex-ed controversy could open parents’ eyes

HELENA, Mont. (BP)–A controversy over proposed sex-ed curriculum in Helena, Mont., for students as young as kindergarten should lead parents elsewhere to be more in tune with what their schools are teaching, an expert on the topic says.

The proposal, which has drawn nationwide attention, attracted an overflow crowd at the Helena School Board Meeting July 14, when more than 300 people attended, although the board had time to hear from only 64. It could take a vote next month on whether to approve the curriculum.

Among the more controversial elements, the proposal says kindergarteners would learn the “basic reproductive body parts (penis, vagina, breast, nipples, testicles, scrotum, uterus)” and first-graders would learn “human beings can love people of the same gender & people of another gender.” Fifth-graders would learn that “sexual intercourse includes but is not limited to vaginal, oral, or anal penetration” and seventh-graders would learn about Supreme Court opinions on abortion and “reproductive health.”

It’s at least the second controversy over public school sex-ed in recent weeks that has made the national news. In June the school board of Provincetown, Mass., adopted a policy to make condoms available to all students — without parental consent — and did not set an age or grade limit. Several weeks later the board amended the policy so that it’s “age-appropriate” and dependent on “specific circumstances,” although parents still will not be notified.

Chad Hills, an analyst for sexual health with CitizenLink, an arm of Focus on the Family, said parents in both communities have plenty of reasons to be upset.

“Parents are the primary teachers of sexuality to their children,” Hills told Baptist Press. “This is not an issue that is without morals, without values. This issue is highly specific to families, and it’s not the school’s place to impart values and morals to the children. It’s the parents’ place to do that. The school is there to educate them in English, math. Parents should be outraged.”

Hills added, “Parents should be neck-deep in what their schools are teaching their kids, especially in science class or physical education class, where sex-education is typically taught. Parents need to attend board meetings. Parents need to be involved in local elections of the offices within their schools.”

Among the other controversial elements of the Helen, Mont., policy:

— Kindergarteners would learn “a baby grows in a woman’s uterus.”

— Third-graders would learn “the ovary produces eggs and the testicles produce sperm.”

— Fifth-graders would learn that “sexual orientation refers to a person’s physical and/or romantic attraction to an individual of the same and/or different gender, and is one part of one’s personality.”

— Sixth-graders would learn that “the penis, fingers, tongue or objects” can be used in sex. They would also learn that “gender identity is different from sexual orientation.”

— Beginning with seventh-graders, students would discuss Supreme Court decisions that have given people “the right to make personal decisions concerning sexuality & reproductive health matters, such as abortion, sterilization, and contraception.”

— Ninth-graders would begin learning that “erotic images in art reflect society’s views about sexuality & help people understand sexuality.”

Parents would have the opportunity to opt out of the curriculum, but some parents say that’s not sufficient.

“Much of this information is weaved into curriculums other than sexual [education],” Mikal Wilkerson, a parent who attended the board meeting, said on FoxNews’ “Hannity” program. “So even if I opt my child out of the sexual [education], they will still receive much of this information in other curriculums. In addition, if my child goes out to recess, you know they’re going to hear it from the kids. Now it’s even in a different context.”

The sex-ed curriculum, Wilkerson said, puts the child “in the middle” of the controversy.

“The school teaches one set of values,” she said. “I teach another set of values. And now the kid’s stuck right at the middle. And it undermines the authority of both the parent and the teacher in the school.”

Supporters of the curriculum say it is needed because children and young teens already are having sex. It will help cut down on teen pregnancy and STDs, they say. Hills, of CitizenLink, says supporters are off the mark.

“My answer for that is that the school nurse should not be handing out condoms,” Hills said. “Instead, the school nurse should be sitting down with these kids, in the same room with their guardian or their parent, and saying, ‘Look, this is not a healthy direction for you to be traveling. Here are the potential outcomes if this behavior continues in your life.'”

A handful of organizations, Hills said, are promoting similar sex-ed program nationwide. Among them are Planned Parenthood, SIECUS (Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States) and Advocates for Youth (AFY). The controversy will be “coming down the pike” in a “lot more states,” he said.

“There’s such a thing as awakening passions before their time,” Hills said. “This is exactly what these types of groups do, because they’re focusing on sexuality. Many teens are pursuing sex instead of relationships. And a lot of the college students are beginning to rebel against that because they’re saying, ‘There is no lasting satisfaction in that. There’s only temporary pleasure and there’s this hollow emptiness left inside of me after that experience.’

“What they’re beginning to realize — without even being told this — is that sex has context, and that context is within the stable lifelong commitment of marriage between one man and one woman, the way God designed it to be.”
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press. Read the curriculum online at http://www.helena.k12.mt.us/images/documents/curriculum/HealthCurriculum/K12FinalHealth.pdf.

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  • Michael Foust