Should 10-year-old boys and girls be taught about sex in the same class in school?
That question drew different opinions from members of the North Tonawanda School Board Wednesday night.
After lengthy discussion the seven-member, all-male board resolved a sharp 4-to-3 division on the question by changing a few words and voted 6-1 for a resolution to allow, if not encourage, a trial of the program for a year.
At issue was a "family life education and human growth and development" curriculum guide drafted by teachers over the past year and a half, led by Zenon Deputat, the school district's health coordinator.
Sex education has been taught in the fifth, sixth and seventh grades in North Tonawanda schools for a few years, but in segregated classes of boys and girls. The new guide calls for teaching the subject in integrated, or co-educational classes.
The board tabled action on the guide at its last meeting when member Roderick A. McConnell said that he does not believe some of the sexually explicit material in the guide is suitable in co-educational classes of 10-year-old fifth graders.
McConnell expressed the same doubts Wednesday, and was supported in statements made by Board President Patrick A. Quinlan and member Robert L. Seger.
In response to a question by McConnell, Deputat said that 10 years of age is not too early to begin sex education in today's world which includes wide discussion of sexual topics on TV shows, and that a co-educational setting is the best for teaching it.
Deputat's opinion was strongly supported by physician and board member Dr. Robert J. Reszel and member Stephen F. Lampkin who has a daughter in the fourth-grade.
Reszel said that segregated sex education tends to create "a wrong attitude about sex" in the minds of children.
Quinlan said he would not vote for any resolution calling for board "encouragement" of teaching the subject in co-educational classrooms.
At the suggestion of board Vice President Chester R. Klimek, a compromise was struck and the board voted 6-1 in favor of amended language saying:
"Teachers may want to consider (instead of 'are encouraged') to present the information . . . in a co-educational setting so that both genders may benefit from mutually learning from each other."
The only dissenting vote was cast by member Donald A. Gane.