Worcester School Board Reaffirms Health Bill Opposition

Worcester School Board Reaffirms Health Bill Opposition
Dr. Margo Gill speaks in support of a comprehensive health education curriculum in February's meeting of the Worcester County Board of Education. Photo by Charlene Sharpe

NEWARK – The Worcester County Board of Education agreed to send state officials a second letter of opposition to a controversial state education bill.

The school board voted 6-1, with board member Elena McComas opposed, to send state officials a second letter of opposition to House Bill 119. The bill, which has drawn a variety of criticism in recent weeks, initially addressed health education but has been amended to give the state superintendent the authority to withhold funds from local school systems if they’re not following the guidelines set by the state.

“I feel like we need to keep the pressure on,” school board member Katie Addis said as she asked her peers to send another letter of opposition.

Numerous community members attended last week’s meeting to express opinions on House Bill 119. Speaker Jennie Rice expressed concern about the contents of the comprehensive health education framework the bill mandates.

“I cringe at the mention of these topics being introduced to our children,” Rice said. “It’s repulsive and demonic. Is it not the parents’ place to inform our own children when we feel the time is right? Are you not charged with educating our children on core subject matters?”

Ocean Pines resident Kate McCloskey said she felt HB 119 was being pushed despite public outcry against it. She pointed out that if Worcester didn’t adopt the framework and the state withdrew funding as result, the decrease wouldn’t be significant since Worcester receives just a small portion of state aid anyway.

“I don’t think these radical political ideas are helping us or our proficiency levels,” McCloskey said.

Ocean Pines resident Debra Fisher Reynolds said the school system’s own data showed the need for a comprehensive health framework. She said students needed health information to make good choices.

“They deserve to have medical information to protect them,” she said.

Ocean Pines resident Stacy Wilkins expressed unease about the information available in schools already.

“We’re not talking STDs here, we’re talking about blow jobs and anal sex,” she said. “My children do not need to know about those things.”

Berlin resident Lyndsay Greenan-Tyre, a second-grade teacher, said students needed age-appropriate sex education.

“They need to know how to put a condom on at a certain age,” she said. “That age is not 4 and 5. At 4 and 5 they’re learning how to hold a door for each other, say please and thank you, use manners, understand we don’t all look the same… At age 7 and 8, in my classroom, we’re still not talking about blow jobs. We’re talking about different cultures. We’re sharing our family experiences.”

She said schools were meant to create future leaders and people who were capable of learning and working together.

“This bill is not the devil,” she said. “Nobody’s teaching your kid to give a blow job … Please protect our kids from this extremism.”

Later in the meeting, school board member Bill Buchanan noted that the array of opinions expressed showed how difficult it was to be a school board member. Addis said she felt the school system needed to send a second letter of opposition to HB 119, as it trampled on the rights of local citizens.

“This is best left up to each local county, who understands the needs of their community,” she said.

Andes, who noted at the last meeting that the Maryland Association of Boards of Education (MABE) opposed the bill, agreed that a second letter should be sent. He said the bill mimicked COMAR regulations that were already in place.

“If it gets passed, it will become law as opposed to regulation,” he said.

McComas said in addition to MABE, the Maryland State Board of Education opposed the bill.

“It’s getting very dicey for the legislators …,” she said.  “Nobody’s for it. I can’t even imagine this thing is going to pass.”

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.