Sex education in Washington County schools

May 05, 2006|by JULIE E. GREENE

Washington County Public Schools teach sex education in grades five, seven, eight and 10, following state law, said Ed Masood, the school system's supervisor of arts, health and physical education, and athletics.

Additionally, teachers who feel capable of responding can answer sexual education questions at any grade level, no matter the class subject, Masood said. The teacher must only answer the question asked.

According to Masood, here's a general outline of what's taught when:

Grade 5

Students are taught family life and human development including anatomy and physiology of reproductive systems, reproduction and birth. They also learn about HIV and AIDS.

Boys and girls are taught separately by a teacher of the same gender for the two-day lesson. Parents are notified about the lesson and given the opportunity to opt out their child.


Grades 7, 8 and 10

Students are taught physical and emotional maturation, the reproductive and birth processes, not to have premarital sex and the consequences of having it, marriage and family responsibilities, contraception and sexually transmitted infections.

The information becomes more detailed with each grade level.

Participation in lessons for all three grades requires parental consent. About 1 percent of students are opted out of all sexual education lessons.

The 10th-grade course is a graduation requirement. Students who opt out of the sexual education portion of the course are given an alternative assignment and parents are expected to discuss the topic with their child.

Grade 9

This year, Washington County Public Schools is offering assemblies for freshmen at all seven high schools this month to raise awareness about the county's teen pregnancy rate.

In 2004, the county had the fourth highest birth rate in the state among people ages 15 to 19.

There were 48.6 live births per 1,000 people ages 15 to 19 in the county, compared with 32.3 per 1,000 statewide, according to the Maryland Department of Health & Mental Hygiene's Vital Statistics Administration.

The assemblies include informing students that their school health office is a confidential resource for information about sex education and other health issues. The offices can refer students to Washington County Health Department clinics where students can get information and services regarding contraceptives and other health issues.

The assemblies also address local statistics about teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, pictures showing the effects of STDs, an opportunity for students to ask questions, and a Girls Inc. skit entitled "Sex Has Consequences."

The assemblies are expected to be attended by 1,794 students, with parental consent, Masood said. In comparison, about 270 students a year had attended a one-day conference about teen sex education in past school years.

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