By Hunter Hine, Staff Writer
(March 30, 2023) When the Worcester County Board of Education opened the floor to individual comments at their meeting on March 21, many took the chance to air concerns about the Health Education Framework Bill (HB119), state legislation that outlines sex education requirements for public schools.
Most community speakers used their two minutes to criticize the bill, with only a few speaking in its defense.
Jennie Rice, of Pocomoke, made the first stand of the night against the bill, which continues to work its way through the Maryland General Assembly.
“I personally have been disgusted by parents having had to bring up such topics concerning anal sex, oral sex and things of this magnitude,” Rice said. “I along with many others represented here tonight cringe at the mention of these topics being introduced to our children. It’s repulsive and demonic.”
Kate McCloskey, of Ocean Pines, suggested that since this county’s schools rely less on state funding than other counties, they could withstand the loss of funding if they don’t comply with HB119.
The bill states that, if passed, Maryland school boards who don’t follow the bill’s programs and instructions could lose 10 percent of their state funding. Worcester’s public schools received 16.69 percent of its funding from the state in 2022, according to the FY23 budget.
“I don’t think these radical political ideas are helping us or our proficiency levels,” McCloskey said.
Richard Addis thanked the board for sending a letter against HB119. Addis said that Superintendent Taylor’s editorial in OC Today was a glowing endorsement of HB119, and questioned the rest of the board why they allowed him to contradict them.
The board offered no response to this or any other questions or comments posed by community members.
Scott and Stacy Wilkins, husband and wife from Ocean Pines, told the board that they recently removed all five of their children from public schools because, as they saw it, politics got too involved in the classroom.
“We would love our kids to be in public school, taking advantage of our taxpaying dollars, but we pulled them out to put them in Christian school, and I don’t know how long we can continue that,” Stacy Wilkins said.
Joan Roache, of Ocean City, was the third speaker, and the first to speak in favor of the bill.
“A person can decide that they don’t want to read a certain book, a person can decide if they don’t want their child to read that book, but a person can’t decide whether an entire school, or an entire town, can’t read that book,” Roache said.
“To remove from schools whatever you don’t like, or don’t want your children to learn, is not freedom, it’s tyranny.”
Linda Linsay of Ocean Pines also defended the bill, saying state and local education experts select curriculums that are best practices and based on research.
Debra Fisher Reynolds, a retired teacher from Berlin, cited data about HB-119 that was presented to the board at the meeting it had on Feb. 21.
“According to a 2017 study in the national library of medicine, and a one-poll survey in 2022, 20 percent of parents will never talk about sex-ed with their child, and 93 percent of parents want health ed and sex ed taught in schools,” Reynolds said.
Later in last night’s meeting, the board voted to send another letter of opposition to state legislators regarding the bill, which has passed its third reading in the House.
Worcester County Commissioner Chip Bertino has also criticized the bill and sent a letter on Wednesday morning affirming his position.
“This legislation is yet another effort to remove from our county local control,” Bertino wrote. “Further, and more egregiously, it demonstrates a perverse influence by many in the Maryland Legislature over parents on how best to rear children. Such condescension is alarming and it is wrong. Parents know what is best for their children.”