Cumberland schools suspend sex ed program after parents complain

Posted October 19, 2017 6:07 p.m. EDT

— A sex education program that was supposed to start at nine Cumberland County middle schools this month has been put on hold after parents complained.

Hundreds of parents packed an informational meeting Monday night to get an outline of the "Get Real" program. The 10-day program from Planned Parenthood is aimed at sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders and is designed to reduce risky sexual behavior.

"I don't need somebody else teaching my kids, as they put it in there, 'the myths and facts about your sexuality.' That's something the parents need to do," parent Nick Quello said. "I just don't think that's appropriate for a 12-year-old, whether it be a boy or a girl, to be teaching them that."

Quello and other parents expressed concern about some of the language and items used to teach the course, such as discussions on sexual preference and demonstrations of how to use a condom. They're also concerned that it comes from Planned Parenthood.

Shirley Johnson, director of health services for Cumberland County Schools, said the curriculum has been modified to target students in the county. Also, she said, sixth-graders can't take the course unless their parents want them to, while the parents of seventh- and eighth-grade students can opt their children out.

"They can opt out of any lesson, or they can opt out the program as a whole," Johnson said. "I don't really have any real data to say how many opt out, but our numbers were relatively low."

Quello said he wants more than just the ability to opt out. He said he doesn't want the program taught in local schools at all.

"The school board needs to stay out of our homes. That's something that parents need to teach their kids," he said.

The Cumberland County Board of Education is now reviewing the "Get Real" program in light of parental concerns.