Should Schools Treat 'Sexual Orientation' as a Cultural Group?

July 7, 2008 - 8:03 PM

( - The Maryland Board of Education is considering whether to change its curriculum code in order to include "sexual orientation" as a cultural group in multicultural programs. The designation would give "sexual orientation" the same cultural distinction as race or religion in the development of educational materials.

Conservatives believe such a move would result in homosexuality being promoted in the state's classrooms.

Peter LaBarbera, a senior policy analyst with the Culture and Family Institute, said "sexual orientation" is a term that "everybody understands as homosexuality."

This, he said, had many Christians and one Orthodox Jew outraged at a recent Maryland Board of Education meeting in Baltimore May 21.

A spokesman for the Maryland Board of Education refused to comment about the proposed changes. However, according to LaBarbera, the board is trying to quell criticism by maintaining that local school districts will still be able to control their own curricula, even with the changes at the state level.

"We don't see how they can possibly say that this will not affect the curriculum. Obviously, the curriculum is used to build understanding of the cultural group," LaBarbera said. "They are saying that homosexuals are a cultural group, so this will very clearly lead to pro-homosexual instruction in Maryland classrooms."

The conservative group Take Back Maryland is also critical of the proposal to revise the language in the state curriculum code.

"Once they make sexual orientation a cultural group, it's not 'if' they are going to teach it to the kids, it's mandated," Tres Kerns, co-founder of Take Back Maryland, said. "It's mandated pre-K-12 that they are going to get curriculum instruction, the teachers will get staff development, they'll get materials that will be brought into the schools and they'll have a five-year plan they'll have to put in place."

Kerns said the same issue is currently being debated in California.

LaBarbera said the state presented its case at the May 21 meeting as "helping these victimized students, these kids who say they are gay, who are abused in the classroom.

"Our point is always the same. You can help kids to not be harassed and abused in schools. Certainly we are opposed to anybody being harassed and abused, but you can do that without promoting homosexuality as normal at the same time," LaBarbera said.

LaBarbera also accused the Maryland Board of Education of "being underhanded" in its description of the changes, because, "it will very clearly have an impact on curricula."

"Local school boards will say, 'gosh, the state school board says we have a gay component now to the law, therefore we have to take that into account in our curricula,'" LaBarbera said.

The Maryland Board of Education is expected to vote on the proposed changes sometime after June 24.

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