HELENA, Montana, February 22, 2011 ( – Parents and community members have filed a lawsuit against the Helena Public School District over a new sex education curriculum that parents say teaches too much on sexuality at too young an age.

The controversial “Health Enhancement Curriculum” was adopted by the board in October after months of debate, two public hearings, and two revisions.  But the parents and community behind the suit contend that there was a lack of public participation or knowledge of the curriculum during its development.

Since the release of the curriculum last June, the district has received thousands of complaint emails from members of the community. 

A document outlining the program released in June said that “body part language” would be introduced in kindergarten, the idea of same-sex love in grade one, and methods of sexual intercourse would be taught to fifth-graders.  These aspects were removed in the editing process, but parents are still concerned with the curriculum.  Many have threatened to remove their children from the school system.

The final draft, approved in October, still states that students should be expected to acknowledge in grade 2 that “individuals & families have a variety of values as it pertains to sexual behaviors,” in grade 6 that some states allow “marriage” between people of the same gender, and in grade 8 “that gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, and heterosexuals can establish lifelong committed relationships.”

However, one major change that was made in the final draft in an attempt to respond to criticism is the prominent placement of abstinence education.  Grade five students and up would now be taught that abstinence is a “healthy choice” and “the only 100 percent effective way” of preventing STDs and pregnancy.

The lawsuit filed on Friday claims that the school district violated right-to-known policies. It argues that documentation of curriculum developments, including correspondence and meeting minutes, were withheld from concerned parties, and that the public was excluded from curriculum committee meetings.  It requests that the budget and all information relating to the curriculum be made public.

On Monday the Montana House passed House Bill 456, which requires parental notification at least two days prior to the date of the sex education classes.  Parents must provide written consent in order for their child to attend.

Republican Cary Smith, who carried the bill, cited the passage of the Health Enhancement Curriculum as the reason for the law, reported the Helena Independent Reporter.

Under the law abortion-providing organizations, such as Planned Parenthood, would also be prohibited from distributing materials or teaching sex education programs within the schools, as they are currently able to do.

Jeff Laszloffy, president of the Montana Family Foundation, said the bill puts control back in the parents’ hands and responds to Helena’s controversial curriculum.  He maintained legislators must get involved because the curriculum would likely begin to spread throughout the state.

The bill has a final, usually procedural, House vote and then will move to the Senate.