State News Roundup

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Under fire from conservative groups and some parents, the Texas state board of education is considering recalling a set of AIDS-education materials that critics say contains inaccuracies and is too sexually explicit.

The board conducted public hearings on the package, called Self-Responsibility III, this month and said it would vote in November on whether to revise the materials.

The materials were developed under a grant from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and sent to school districts without board approval in 1990. Since then, parents have objected that teachers have given children explicit information meant for teachers only, and that some graphic information is introduced too early.

A panel of educators, physicians, and parents has recommended changes, which are now under review by the state.

Commissioner of Education Lionel R. Meno recommended that the board correct and update information in the curriculum and make clear which portions are not to be given to students. The new version would also further stress abstinence.

Currently, districts must begin teaching about AIDS in junior high, but may begin earlier. Districts may choose to use the state materials or any others.

Officials of various conservative and religious-right groups have said they will oppose even a revised version.

These groups, which include the Eagle Forum and the Texas Council for Family Values, argue that the state should teach only abstinence and emphasize that sex among minors and homosexual conduct is illegal in the state.

Gov. L. Douglas Wilder of Virginia last week announced he would not support a move toward outcomes-based education by the state school board, saying that he is not comfortable endorsing a move toward "values-based education.''

Last spring, the state board, with the backing of the state superintendent, approved its Common Core of Learning, which specifies the skills students should gain in order to graduate from the state's schools.

The Governor said that while some critics had acted on misinformation and hysteria, he had concluded that the curriculum overhaul would reduce the authority of local school boards in developing their own programs.

Mr. Wilder's retreat from the policy adopted by a board he appointed was seen by many observers as a victory for conservative Christians who had loudly objected to the changes. Activists in many states, notably Pennsylvania, have argued that outcomes-based programs are wrongly focused on social values rather than academic knowledge. (See related story, page 1.)

Vol. 13, Issue 03

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