(Editors Note: This is a correction for a story we aired on Monday, February 13th. The story had a few factual errors, which have been fixed in the below article.)
MARYLAND — A bill making its way through the Maryland House of Delegates would mandate local school systems to create an age-appropriate curriculum for health education. The curriculum would be based off of a Comprehensive Health Education Framework, established by the Maryland Department of Education in 2021.
The framework is designed for primary and secondary education, which is pre-kindergarten through high school. Two of the units outlined in that framework, “Family Life and Human Sexuality” and “Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation” have received pushback from parents, as well as local and state officials.
Beginning in pre-kindergarten, when it comes to the unit of Family Life and Human Sexuality, the framework shows the topics of “healthy relationships and consent” and “gender identity and expression” should be covered.
In grades 3-5, the framework shows topics that expand to “sexual orientation and identity” and “puberty and adolescent sexual development”.
The framework does not establish any guidelines for “sexual orientation and identity” until grade 4.
The Health Education Framework mandates all grade 4 and 5 content must be taught by the end of grade 5. The framework outlines in grade 4 that, when it comes to sexual orientation and identity, students should be able to “identify sexual orientation as a person’s physical and/or romantic attraction to an individual of the same and/or a different gender.”
By grade 6, the framework states students should be able to “explain sexual orientation” and by grade 7 “define sexual identity and explain a range of identities related to sexual orientation.”
In grades 6-8, for the Family Life and Human Sexuality unit, the framework adds the topics of “harassment, teasing and bullying”, “anatomy and physiology”, “sexual health” and “sexually explicit media”.
There are no guidelines in this framework for “sexual health” until grade 7.
No further topics are added to the unit of Family Life and Human Sexuality in high school, but it does provide more in-depth guidelines for those topics for grades 9-12.
Republican State Senator Mary Beth Carozza, District 38(R), said she has received concern at the state level regarding this legislation.
“You have local superintendents, members of local school boards of education and parents drove by thousands across the country, bombarding us with emails and phone calls in strong opposition to this legislation,” said Carozza.
Worcester County Commissioner Ted Elder said this legislation is an overreach by government.
“It’s getting into subjects that they have no business being into, sexual orientation and all that types of things,” said Elder. “That belongs in the home, that doesn’t belong in our school districts.”
According to HB 119, local boards of education would also need to establish a method for parents or guardians to opt-out of certain topics.
Kim Schissler, who has two students in Worcester County Public Schools and one in Wicomico County Public Schools, said the opt-out policy is a crucial aspect of this legislation.
“I think it would be a good plan as long as parents have the option of opting out if they choose not to have their child participate in that class,” said Schissler. “And if they do choose to have them participate in the class, be able to have open conversations with their kids to go along with the curriculum.”
In Worcester County, there is already an established opt-out policy, according to, Carrie Sterrs, Coordinator of Public Relations and Special Programs for Worcester County Public Schools. The opt-out policy applies to the sexual health units the county already has in place for grades 5-12, which Sters said will continue for those grades.
Grades 5-12 in Worcester County are intermediate through high school.
WCPS did provide WBOC with a statement on this matter: “We are aware of the concerns raised regarding House Bill 119, and we want to reassure our school system community that we will continue to provide a comprehensive and age-appropriate health curriculum to our students . We encourage everyone to educate themselves on the content of this bill, and we certainly encourage our students and their families to carefully read the communications from your child’s school regarding the health curriculum and lessons as well as options for declining participation where appropriate.”
Again, that framework was established back in 2021, but the bill states the Maryland Department of Education needs to update the framework if and when the state superintendent deems it necessary.
From there, local boards of education would be required to create an age-appropriate curriculum that lines up with the already established framework.
To develop the curriculum, each county board will need to form a committee made up of educators, health experts and members of the local community. The committee would be responsible for reviewing curriculum materials to determine if they are consistent with the comprehensive health education framework.
According to the bill, each county board of education, with assistance from the county health department, would be required to provide adequate school health services and instruction in health education, including the importance of exercise to maintain good health and a healthy school environment.
The Maryland Department of Education and Maryland Department of Health, together, will develop public standards and guidelines for school health programs. Both state agencies would also offer any assistance to county boards and county health departments with the implementation of this framework.
The bill also states each county board of education would be required to report each year to the State Department of Education to discuss their establishment of the health education framework in their respective schools.
That framework, according to HB 119, would at least need to include: health promotion; mental and emotional health; substance abuse prevention; family life and human sexuality; gender identity and sexual orientation; safety and violence prevention; healthy eating and disease prevention and control.
HB 119 states “each board shall establish policies, guidelines, and procedures for a parent or guardian to opt out of the family life and human sexuality or the gender identity and sexual orientation topics for the parent or guardian’s student in each grade in which those topics are taught.”
House Bill 119 is currently in committee, and if passed and signed by Governor Moore, would go into effect on July 1st of 2023.
If you’d like to read over the bill, the link for it can be found here.
The link for Maryland’s Comprehensive Health Education Framework can be found here.