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La. Judge Eases Censure of Sex-Ed. Curriculum

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In a surprise move, a Louisiana state judge who last month barred the Caddo Parish school board from using a sex-education curriculum that teaches students to abstain from sex before marriage has now held that the board may use the curriculum except for certain objectionable sections.

State District Judge Frank H. Thaxton held in March that the "Sex Respect'' curriculum and a supplemental text called "Facing Reality'' are "medically inaccurate'' and promote "religious beliefs.'' (See Education Week, March 31, 1993.)

Both teach abstinence and make only passing reference to AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.

State law requires that sex-education classes contain factual information on human sexuality and may not include "religious beliefs or subjective, moral, or ethical judgments.''

In response to a request by the school board for clarification of the earlier ruling, Judge Thaxton this month said that "the school board has the authority to act as it deems appropriate ... provided the violative language is not utilized.''

Appeal, New Suit Loom

Officials of the Caddo Parish district, which includes Shreveport, were happy with the new ruling.

"I'm pleased that we will get 95 percent of our curriculum before the students this year,'' said Judy Boykin, the chairwoman of the school board.

Ms. Boykin said the board is now deleting from the texts the objectionable passages cited in the first ruling.

Fred Sutherland, the school board's lawyer, said he was pleased with the new ruling, but added that the board still plans to file an appeal to restore the full text of the curriculum.

The lawsuit was brought by a group of eight parents who sought to bar the board from implementing the curriculum, which the board adopted last fall to replace one developed by a local university that contains instruction about AIDS and contraception.

In his new opinion, Judge Thaxton scolded some members of the community for causing "harm and ill-will.'' Judge Thaxton and a few plaintiffs have been threatened, shot at, or harassed, according to Allison A. Jones, the lawyer for the parents.

"Parts of this community have been driven into frenzy by inaccurate, misleading, and inflammatory accounts of the ruling in this case,'' Judge Thaxton said in his opinion.

Ms. Jones said that if the programs are used at all, she would file a new suit.

"When you delete these passages, you create a new curriculum and that has to be approved by a review committee,'' said Ms. Jones. "None of that has been done.''

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