Tuesday, June 14, 2005

BOE Comments by Lara Akinbami

Here is the statement made today during the public comments section of the MCPS Board of Education meeting by Lara Akinbami, former member and co-chair of the citzens advisory committee:
Good morning. My name is Lara Akinbami. I am a pediatrician who works with teenage mothers and am an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. I am also a former member-at-large and vice chair of the Citizens Advisory Committee on Family Life and Human Development.

The Committee recommended the revised sex-ed curriculum that was recently cancelled. The cancellation has been very upsetting to those who support accurate, comprehensive health education. The hard work of the drafting team, the careful review of the Citizens Advisory Committee, and the decision of the Board to pilot the curriculum have all been derailed by a small vocal minority using a campaign of misinformation.

The revised curriculum did not promote a "gay life style" as charged, it did not encourage promiscuity, and it did not urge children to identify as homosexual. To the contrary, the curriculum presented a definition of homosexuality from major medical organizations and sought to dispel myths by using accurate statements such as, "All major professional mental health organizations affirm that homosexuality is not a mental disorder."

The Citizens Advisory Committee did discuss diverse opinions and materials, but rejected materials that were at odds with the mainstream medical consensus. We did err in including some background teacher resources that expressed opinions on theological matters. Our intention was simply to demonstrate that there is a diversity of opinion among and even within religions on homosexuality. Although teachers know not to express opinions on theology in the classroom, we were planning on recommending the removal of those resources just before our committee was abruptly disbanded.

I am confident that the Board, in its upcoming review of the health curriculum, will preserve the goal of teaching the facts and promoting respect for all students by providing science-based information about human sexuality-including sexual variation.

Let us not forget the reason behind the revision of the curriculum: for too long, the silence in health classes about homosexuality gave tacit approval to the idea that homosexuality was a shameful disease. The Board realized that it was the wrong message and acted wisely to address the problem. The fact that an overwhelming majority of parents in the pilot schools gave permission for their children to take the pilot unit is just one more indication that this approach is consistent with the views of most MCPS stakeholders. Thank you.


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