Tuesday, May 31, 2005

On Balance, Mandates, and Parents' Wishes

A CRC spokeman had this letter in the Washington Times this morning:
Halfway to a reasonable sex-ed policy

Regarding "County schools ditch sex-ed class" (Metropolitan, May 24), Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum approves the resolutions adopted by the Montgomery County Board of Education. However, we wonder why, despite hundreds of letters, 4,000 petition signatures against the curriculum, dozens of statements and detailed objections by medical experts, it took a federal lawsuit to convince the board to do the right thing.

At the board meeting May 23, Superintendent Jerry D. Weast indicated that the whole nation and other superintendents are watching how Montgomery County handles this situation. We would add that parents on both sides of this issue are watching as well. The decisions made here will be felt across the country. Considering this national spotlight, the board should keep in mind that respecting parents' wishes in this highly sensitive area is no longer an option but a mandate.

If solutions are what we're all looking for, then we're halfway there. Before the curriculum can be rewritten, a balanced citizen advisory committee that is committed to respecting the values of all parents and citizens in this community and is open to a range of professional advice on this controversial issue needs to be in place. This is vital. The tightly controlled nature of this committee in the past was vastly responsible for the production of a one-sided curriculum that was more indoctrination than education.

Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum
Montgomery Village
Halfway to a reasonable sex-ed policy

Do you know what she means, when she says, the board should keep in mind that respecting parents' wishes in this highly sensitive area is no longer an option but a mandate?

Think about that. Montgomery County education can go several ways that I can imagine:
  • Schools can teach the facts as they are understood by scientists and experts
  • Schools can teach all sides of all controversial issues
  • Schools can teach what the majority of parents believe to be the facts
  • Schools can teach what a loud minority, backed by out-of-town lawyers on a mission, believe

To me, the first option is the only reasonable one. Parents don't vote on material that's presented in classrooms, fer cryin' out loud! Can't you just imagine, if math teachers taught the method for factoring polynomials that got the most votes from parents? Oh, these people think that sex is "obvious," you just do what's natural (wait, I mean, you don't do what's natural) (oh, never mind), and the only qualification you need is to be a parent.

Because when you're a parent you know everything.

Sorry. The problem is that none of us know very much about things like sexual orientation. Since only a small percentage of the population turns out to be gay, and since the whole subject has been such a taboo for so many years, the public's knowledge, what you could call the "folk science" of sexual orientation, is very weak. Parents are totally unqualified to teach their kids any facts about homosexuality and other variations.

So it's a dumb idea to say that the school board needs to teach what "parents" want taught.

That's the first thing.

The second thing is: the CRC does not, remotely, represent "parents" in Montgomery County. Their "mandate" that this writer talks about is a legal one. They baffled a judge into thinking that certain things were going to be taught, which were never part of the curriculum. So instead of simply removing some questionable materials, the judge shut down the whole program. Baby and bathwater thing. Some teachers' background resources talked about different religions, not always admiringly, and once somebody noticed that, they could have been taken off the list. But no-o-o-o. Instead, the whole thing was halted.

"Parents" in Montgomery County want their kids to be exposed to facts, not some kind of ignorant bigotry. Some of their kids are going to grow up gay, all of them are going to know someone gay, and we aren't a county of haters. We want our kids to understand what's going on, even if we didn't learn it when we were in school.

This letter-writer blames the "tightly controlled nature of this committee" for, uh, for what? A one-sided curriculum? Listen, does it sound right to you, that the facts should be balanced with bigotry? Is that balance? Naw, she's complaining because they hope to get even more people on the next citizens committee.

And as far as being tightly controlled -- look at this. The previous committee had:
  • Ms. Henrietta Brown, Daughters of the American Revolution
  • Dr. Kimberly Y. Campbell, the Peoples Community Baptist Church
  • Dr. Michael Caruso, Archdiocese of Washington
  • Ms. Ethel Jerlean Eader, Parents Against X-rated and R-rated Books
  • Ms. Jackie Rice, Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX)
  • Ms. Rosa Urquart, Maryland Coalition Against Pornography
  • Ms. Michelle Turner, Member-at-large (now President of CRC)

--how one-sided could that be?

And keep in mind, people, if a bunch of PFOX and CRC members get on the next committee, and they try to introduce all their church-generated junk about how sick gay people are, how dirty and immoral, well, what's good for the goose ...

Hopefully, History Doesn't Always Repeat Itself

The school board has voted to disband the citizens advisory committee and start over from scratch. No one is sure what happens next, if "educational professionals" will develop a curriculum for approval of a new citizens committee, if the advisory committee will recommend a curriculum to the educational professionals, how long anything will take, exactly what will change and what will stay the same ... nobody knows.

As we sit at this crossroads, it seems useful to review how we got to this point. David Fishback, who chaired the citizens committee in recent years, has written a piece describing some of the issues and giving some important historical detail on the working of the citizens advisory committee.

It might be a good idea to learn from history, so we can avoid repeating it.
With the decision of MCPS to start the curriculum revision process from scratch, the major substantive issues in the upcoming months will be (1) whether the simple proposition accepted for decades by every mainstream American medical and mental health professional association that homosexuality is not a disease should be mentioned in the Family Life and Human Sexuality unit of the MCPS 8th and 10th Grade health curriculum; and (2) if so, whether the contrary view -- i.e., that homosexuality is something that people choose and is a disease that can be "cured" -- has any place in the health education curriculum.

In order to shed some light on these issues, I provide here a summary of what transpired in the course of the deliberations of the now-disbanded Board of Education Citizens Advisory Committee on Family Life and Human Development (CAC):

From October 2003 through May 2004, the CAC spent hours on these issues and examined them closely. Those propounding the view that homosexuality can be "cured" had ample opportunity to present their views and documents purportedly supporting that position. The vast majority of the Advisory Committee was utterly unconvinced.

The approaches set forth by advocates of "reparative therapy" are, at bottom, all premised on the proposition that homosexuality is a "disease" -- a premise completely at odds with the mainstream scientific/medical consensus. Indeed, efforts early in the last century to "change" homosexuals through psychotherapy and other techniques typically resulted in extremely bad outcomes. It was such bad outcomes (suicide, depression, alienation from families and society, etc.) that led American mental health groups to reexamine the conventional wisdom, and ultimately conclude that being gay or lesbian was just another way to be, and not itself a mental disorder. Moreover, close examination of reparative therapy-related materials and statements of their most prominent proponents demonstrate that they are premised on the proposition that there is no such thing as healthy sexual orientation that is not heterosexual. Because these materials are in direct conflict with all modern mainstream learning, the CAC rejected their inclusion in either the curriculum or the background teacher resources. Inclusion of such "information," moreover, would be unnecessarily hurtful to those who happen to be homosexual or who have homosexual family members and friends. I know that some may say that we should not avoid tough issues because someone's feelings might be hurt. In this case, however, such logic would lead to presentation of discredited pseudo-scientific assertions regarding miscegenation or the superiority or inferiority of different races.

CAC members who advocated reparative therapy had ample opportunity to convince a majority of the Committee of the appropriateness of these materials. Their suggestion that all they wanted to do was to "offer another view" may have surface appeal, but examination of the details demonstrated otherwise. For example, one document offered as a teacher resource was a pamphlet from Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX), which, on its face, contained simple generalities. See http://www.pfox.org/Downloads/Teenbooklet%20(Read-Only).pdf. However, an examination of the websites presented in the pamphlet for finding more information revealed that every single site was premised on the proposition that homosexuality was a disease and/or that homosexuality was forbidden by scripture. None of these sites presented credible scientific or mental health studies to support their contentions that homosexuality is a defect and a defect that is "curable." Following a report of this examination, the pamphlet was rejected for inclusion by a vote of 18-3. Similar materials were offered, and were also overwhelmingly rejected for the same reasons. While individual citizens are certainly free to have any views they wish (whether theological or otherwise), materials in the public school health education classes should be based on the best science and should serve to help children and their families.

Those holding the minority view on the Committee were given the opportunity to submit a dissent to the Committee's June 2004 report, but chose not to do so -- instead waiting until just before the May 2005 piloting of the curriculum revisions (which were approved unanimously by the Board in November 2004) to bring a lawsuit in federal court.

I hope this discussion has been enlightening. Anyone wishing to express their opinions to the Board of Education may do so via e-mail at boe@fc.mcps.k12.md.us.

[David S. Fishback is former Chair of Board of Education's Citizens Advisory Committee on Family Life and Human Development (CAC)]

That committee made a lot of good recommendations, but the end result was that a small group of extremists was able to stop the whole thing. I do hope the next committee learns from this lesson.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Parents and Community Groups -- and "Ex-Gays"

It has been interesting learning a little about the press. Sometimes it seems like they all get the same idea for a story at the same time. For the last couple of weeks, it's been "What do the kids think?" This morning The Examiner published that story, and inevitably it favored our perspective.


Well, yes. Do you remember The Gazette's coverage of the Great Cucumber Video story, when the condom video played in the health classes at the pilot schools? The headline could have been "Students Say Ho Hum." Because, see, high-school kids -- and yes, middle schools kids -- talk about sex all the time. They've heard everything, including a whole lot of stuff that isn't accurate. So when you go into their classroom and tell them about it, for most of them the most important part is telling them what parts that they heard that are not correct. They're not shocked to learn what a condom is, but they might be surprised to learn that you shouldn't open the package with your teeth. Kids favor our side because they want knowledge, they need knowledge and they know that.

As an aside, my son said that in his History class they saw a movie about a soldier who had had his arms blown off in war. When the movie finished, a girl in the class said, "Why was he so upset? They're just going to grow back!" That high-school student actually thought that arms grow back. At the Einstein health teachers' presentation, we were told that one of the most important things they do is to tell students what parts of their bodies are called. And not just the private parts, either. Elbows, molars, stuff like that.

So kids have heard everything about sex, but you could say the foundation is weak. They've heard everything from their friends, but they need some educatin' to get it right.

The Examiner inteviewed some kids and found that they were dismayed that the changes to the curriculum were blocked. They don't see the big deal.

But look, there's a problem. The Post did it this week, too. The Examiner summarizes for the Rip Van Winkles who are just hearing about this:
Two parents groups filed a lawsuit back in April, saying the school system didn't take into account all viewpoints when they developed the new educational materials, which are part of the 8th- and 10th- grade health classes. Particularly, they felt the new curriculum ignored the views of ex-gays. In addition, they said a 10-minute video featuring a how-to with a condom and a cucumber glamorized sex.
Amid the controversy, the school board passed a resolution on May 23 that would scrap the proposed changes and go back to the drawing board... Sex ed outcry has kids shaking heads

Now, I guess this is our job at TeachTheFacts.org, to educate the public. Let me point out what's wrong here, and what was wrong this week at The Post.

There were not "two parents groups." Or as The Post put it, "two community groups." As far as we can tell, the CRC began as a community group, though it is very shy on parents, at least parents of MCPS students, those who would be affected by the curriculum. We'll give them that, they're from here mostly, they have their point of view, they are actually responding to the curriculum -- they have a dog in this fight, as the saying goes.

But the co-signer on the lawsuit was PFOX, which is not a parents group, and not a community group. PFOX must have a member in Montgomery County, they did find somebody who qualified to be on the citizens advisory committee, so there is at least one member here (that is not to say that there is even one "ex-gay" in this county).

PFOX is not a local group, it is a political creation of the religious right, a clever invention designed to confuse the issues. PFOX, the Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays, claims to represent people who "used to be" gay. I once heard Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council say that there were "tens of thousands" of these ex-gay people out there. PFOX has never actually produced one for public scrutiny, and I strongly doubt that anybody actually matches the job description, when you get down to it. But -- how ya gonna prove him wrong? (PS While checking some facts, I just came across a quote by the leader of Exodus, another Christian ex-gay organization, claiming that "hundreds of thousands" of people undergone this transformation. Um, why won't they show us one?)

You can see that were would be, shall we say, "implications" if tens (hundreds) of thousands of gay people were able to just stop being gay. It would mean that sexual orientation is a choice. That means that anyone who is gay has chosen to be that way, in other words, according to these characters, they have chosen to be sinners. They have chosen the devil's ways. And so they get whatever's coming to them, whether that's being beaten up on the schoolyard, discriminated against in the workplace, whatever. They don't need to be taken seriously and they don't need to be treated kindly.

It is bizarre, but in our particular situation, the MCPS sex-ed curriculum, it appears that the PFOX people are actually arguing that the public schools should list "ex-gay" as a kind of sexual orientation. It doesn't make sense, of course. If you're "really gay" but practice heterosexuality, maybe you marry and have children, then ... listen, you're still "really gay." It's called "being in the closet." If you "used to be gay" but now you're not even attracted to people of your own sex, then you're straight. The ordinary person would say you weren't gay to start with. Regardless, what you were is not what you are, and there doesn't need to be a special category for you -- maybe "person with a past." If you're bisexual and choose not to act on your homosexual impulses, your sexual orientation is still bisexual. There's no special sexual-orientation category for people who pretend to be something they're not.

So the goofy guys at the Family Research Council made up this concept, and started this organization. It was a clever idea, you'll never go wrong capitalizing on people's ignorance. Just because Joe and Jane America never heard of an "ex-gay" person, well, what do they know? They're just proud that people can change. They're willing to believe it, without suspecting that the whole idea is made up.

And, while we're discussing whether it was "parents groups" who fought the curriculum, let's not forget Liberty Counsel. These out-of-town lawyers go around the country filing lawsuits to challenge the separation of church and state, They think America should be a Christian country, they think the Founding Fathers intended that, and they go everywhere to file these suits, so that the government can impose evangelical morality on its "flocks." If CRC had used their own J. Cheever Loophole to press the issue, the outcome would have been quite different.

Oh, and one more thing -- ya gotta love this part of The Examiner's story:
...Steve Fisher, spokesman for Citizens for Responsible Curriculum, said students' education should rest with parents, not teenagers. "We encourage their input, but when it comes down to it, the parents should have the final decision," he said.

"We're not quite ready to turn our kids over and let them be the final deciders and arbitrators." Fisher said his group hopes for a new curriculum that includes all viewpoints, but they are happy for now with the current classroom lessons, which include a discussion on abstinence.

Steve, you don't even have kids in the public schools -- what's this "we" stuff?

Saturday, May 28, 2005

And By Comparison...

You probably already noticed this story, from the Copenhagen Post, but I just came across it. Seems this teacher got a little talking-to by the principal for violating copyrights. I guess you have to get permission first, before you use video materials and publications in class.
A female schoolteacher has been reported to the police for showing a pornographic film to her eight-grade students

A female teacher's attempts to spark her eight-grade students' interest in sexual education have earned her a police report, daily newspaper Frederiksborg Amts Avis reported on Friday.

The newspaper said a group of parents had reported the teacher for offending their children's decency, after she showed them a 5-10-minute episode from a pornographic film as a part of a longer education program on sexuality and puberty.

The clip showed two adults having oral sex. In addition, the teacher distributed pictures from a pornographic magazine.

The school's principal immediately reprimanded the teacher for showing the material - not for its explicit content, but because it could be considered a breach of copy rights. The teacher was subsequently removed from sexual education ...

I'll tell you what. I can think of some really funny things to say right here, but, look, we'll just leave it at that.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Notes By A Random Kid

I was sitting at the kitchen table, goofing around at the laptop, when I came across some kid's blog, it's called Because I choose to" (motto: "I don't know, anything I want. If the pictures don't load, hit refresh.") He seems to be a regular kid. And he's blogging about his health class.

This one kid, this one class, is probably pretty unexceptional. But that's what makes it interesting. Here's how a regular kid is seeing his health class. I've formatted the text a little to make it easier to read -- this was one long paragraph:
Health Stuff (pt 2)
This is part two of my ongoing coverage of our health class. We saw some nasty slides today, but I don't know why people can't just be mature and deal with it. It's just a bunch of diseased body parts. Big deal. Our speaker from MAP really screwed up a lot today. First, she made us suck on a Jolly Rancher and then wrap it up and put it into a paper bag. At the end of class, she asked us to pick one and eat it. That was supposed to represent having sex. There are two problems with that. One, who chooses their partners randomly? And two, if spit was an STD, there should have been another 90 or so clean Jolly Ranchers because of the 1/4 statistic. She uses that number to try and frighten us and ignores it when it suits her.

The slideshow wasn't all pictures. She gave us some more statistics too. All of them were from 1998 or before. And because her data was out of date, she got to revise it. So she could have been making it up! I've seen several studies that show that the rate of STDs has gone DOWN. She always revised the data up.

She also did what I said I hate in the last blog: she said that if you had four friends who where sexually active, then one of them would have an STD. No, sorry, you lose. That is a broad statistic. In Cincinnati it might be 1/10 or even 1/2. And just because the statistic is 1/4 doesn't mean that if you test four people, one will have it. It means that if you test 100000 people, about 25000 will have it. Statistics are not accurate at those small numbers.

She told us that STDs don't discriminate. Once again, she's wrong. Let's create a hypothetical study. If you assume that everybody in the study has access to the same quality of healthcare and has sex with one person with a specific STD, then they won't ALL get the STD. Different people have natural immunities or even just stronger immune systems. And the world isn't a laboratory. People DON'T have access to the same healthcare. People have sex with different numbers of people depending on their socioeconomic background.

Also, she told us that if your urethra was blocked (by a STD), you wouldn't be able to urinate and you would die. Well, nope, you lose again. According to Scott's mother, total urethra blockage is almost unheard of. And even if it did happen, your body has ways of getting around barriers. First it would try to dissolve the barrier and then, if that failed, it would widen the urethra until urine could flow. It would be very painful, but you wouldn't die.

Finally, she told us that a cold sore could become a STD. Sure. Right. Whatever you say. I'm not even going to argue on this one.

And then there were things that she said that were just dumb. For one, she said, "Remember guys, if you want to have a healthy pregnancy later, think about what you do today." Sorry, but I DON'T WANT TO HAVE A HEALTHY PREGNANCY! And then she told us that if we choose abstinence as a life style, we won't have financial or emotional problems. We also won't have to worry about our goals. Well, sorry again, but WRONG!

Okay, whatever, I probably left something important out, so comment.

PS: Scott and I talked about this on AIM and he helped my come up with a lot of this. Health Stuff Part 2
Do you see what happens when you try to BS a kid? The grown-ups can come up with any kind of scary "facts" and pictures and exercises but a smart kid is going to see through it. The guy who wrote this understands the fundamentals of statistics and probabilities -- well, he should, they teach that in high-school, too. So when you try to baffle him, he sees the trick, he knows you're going to reach up your sleeve and he's watching, and he sees you do it.

He also realizes that Scott's mom is a better expert than some schoolteacher trying to con him into being a good boy, in other words, he's able to prioritize the sources of information, and chooses to believe information from the better source. Worst of all for this teacher, he knows what he wants and has some idea what path you follow to get there. He's not interested in getting pregnant, no, that's clear. He also perfectly well understands that abstinence has nothing whatsoever to do with financial and emotional problems in the future.

What if this teacher had thrown in a nugget of truth? The question is whether a kid like this, a smart kid, would discount the true statement because it was buried in the bull-oney, or would he recognize that one gleaming diamond in the mud?

I'm afraid that if you start lying to teenagers they probably won't believe anything you say. This does not appear to me to be a good educational strategy.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Transcript From Monday's School Board Meeting

There was a lot said the other night at the Board meeting, besides the resolution that was put online. Here is Dr. Weast's statement and Board members' comments as they occurred during the meeting. Thanks to our CillyGoose for laboring over this.
Pat O'Neill: On to Section 2.5 Rescission of the Family Life and Human Sexuality pilot and other actions. Dr. Weast?

Dr. Weast: Thank you Madame President and members of the Board. I believe you are all aware of the litigation that happened with regard to a two day health curriculum, part of a larger health education, but this was the two day section that had issues. I have had a chance, through my staff, to examine the issues with regard to this two day unit, and I have had our attorneys join with me in looking at that and they are in the audience with me tonight. And after looking at it and thinking about what is the best way to deal with this issue. And knowing full well that we would like to have a curriculum on the ground next year, and knowing full well that I would like to spend the money that could be spent on litigation on our students, and knowing full well that I want to move ahead because the State Law requires us to do certain kinds of things and processes, I'm bringing to you for....and recommend that you approve this green sheet and I will read it.

Whereas: (He reads this entire document: The Resolution)

PO: Is there a motion?

Gabe Romero: So moved

PO: A second?

Female voice: Second

PO: Before I open it up for discussion with Board members, there are just a few general comments as I'm sure this is somewhat surprising. Some people have questions about what this means. But I just want to state that members of the Board of Education are strongly committed to comprehensive health curriculum for our students and we will continue to work diligently to ensure that our students receive the very best instruction in this important component of our educational program. It is important that parents, students, and staff are confident that we will uphold the standards of our school system and we will fulfill our duty in ensuring that students receive competent instruction about family life and human sexuality including sexual variations as authorized by State law. At this point if this action is adopted by the Board of Education, we will start anew, we will have a clean slate, a fresh beginning but we will not waiver in our commitment to the comprehensive health education program. We will make sure that it is developed with the best professional staff, with medical advice, and we will proceed to move on in our endeavors. I'd like to thank all of the members of the Citizens Advisory Committee who served this past year and all of those who served in previous years, and we will reconstitute the committee if this is adopted and move on in revisions of the curriculum.

Dr. Weast: Before you say something, Madame President, I just wanted to agree with you and give you a perspective of mine. Should you pass this, I believe it gives us an opportunity now to move ahead with a fresh look at our curriculum. The health education program deserves the same rigorous attention to a professionally developed sequence of studies that we would expect of all of our instructional areas. And I think we're really fortunate to live in a community that has access to some of the best minds in the nation if not the world, on the factual matters related to family life and human sexuality including sexual variations. You know many school districts out there across this country are watching us closely, looking for some leadership. And finding ways to provide our students with an instructional program that is responsive to the needs of our society and respectful of the wishes of our parents. We can achieve that goal by proceeding in a professional manner to conduct the kind of in-depth research that is necessary for the complexity of this topic. And once that's completed, to develop the appropriate revisions to the curriculum. Then and only then will I bring back my recommendations for review by the Board of Education. This is something that is important to our students now and in the future and important to our teachers now and in the futures and important to our parents now and in the future. And we stand ready, should you pass this resolution, to give it full force and effect and do it in the exemplary manner that MCPS can do its curriculum.

PO: Board member comments? Sagar?

Sagar Sanghvi: First of all I'd just like to say I'm happy that in our second Resolved to see that recommended to tolerance in accordance with COMAR but my real comment comes with the first Resolved and I just wanted to state for the record that it's my belief and what I believe is the opinion of my constituency that the concepts behind this video are appropriate and necessary for students and why I hope that we ensure and are committed to factual correctness in information and I believe that's something we'll do when we start with this clean slate.

PO: (unintelligible)

Gabe Romero: Yes, thank you. On the first Resolved, I'd like to ask just a clarification question. When we're officially withdrawing the suspended pilot changes, what is it that we actually mean by that?

Dr. Weast: The pilot curriculum. And all of the things that went into that particular pilot.

GR: So by passing this resolution at this point, we will be suspending...

Dr. Weast: Yes, the same curriculum that I suspended.

GR: All

Dr. Weast: The two day part of the curriculum that deals with sexual variations.

PO: Sharon?

Sharon Cox: I just wanted to go on the record as supporting Sagar's statement, that I believe that that is the intent of this Board and it's certainly my intent as we move forward with the revisions.

Dr. Weast: Thank you.

PO: Anybody else? Steve?

Steve Abrams: Well, first of all, I thought that when I took two years off the Board, I was going to be able to skip this issue. (Laughter.) Apparently that's not the case. I certainly support the action that's being taken. I also too want to commend the Superintendent. The cornerstones of the curriculum are grounded in our overall policies. One of those policies being tolerance and another one being recognition of the partnership that we have with parents in the general education of students but more specifically as we get into more sensitive areas that parents have strong views as to what is appropriate. I certainly... I simply want to counsel the Superintendent and their staff that tolerance is not a one sided concept and that in fact tolerance means tolerance for a range of views without necessarily advocating views, and a respect of parental involvement and parental rights, which I believe was included in the opt-in nature, not be lost nor be depredated by either side. Someone asked me the question as the only Jewish member of the school board, how did I respond to this. I said to them, "Well you have to really bifurcate that question because if you're going to tell me there is one view in the Jewish community as to the appropriateness of the curriculum, I would suggest to them that nothing challenges Talmudic scholars more than the discussion between Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform Jews on interpretation of appropriateness of morality in practices. And I think this is something that we need to always be cognizant of as we are treading into interesting areas and never forget what our appropriate role is and where we should focus rather than transcending and trying to (unintelligible) the issues of others

Dr. Weast: Madame President, I wanted to comment on what Mr. Abrams said. Mr. Abrams, what will come back will be also that you have to choose to be in. It is a two day program but even if we put an accurate program that depicts appropriately how this issue is put forward, children will still, through their parents, under 18 years of age, have to elect to be part of it. We will also try our very best to have other various programs should they not elect this program for the two day portion, that they can go to that are of equal quality with regard to health related curriculum.

PO: Any other Board member questions or comments?

Valerie Ervin: I just have a comment...

PO: Yes..

VE: Pat, I know that since we're in litigation there's a lot that we cannot discuss in public at the Board table so I would just like to reiterate what Miss Cox said about Sagar's very eloquent remarks and I am also on record in support of that and there's not much else we can do other than vote.

Dr. Weast: Thank you.

PO: All those in favor? Mr. Sanghvi, Miss Cox, Mrs. O'Neill, Dr. Haughey, Mr. Romero, Mr. Abrams, Miss Navarro. Opposed? Miss Ervin. On to public comments....

And there you are.

Ex-Gays: It's a Social Phenomenon, Not a Sexual One

PFOX seems to feel that, since they were in on the lawsuit that forced MCPS to re-start the whole development process, they should have control of it.

In case you're new to this story, PFOX is "Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays" (though that would actually be "PFX-GAG", it's really just "Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays"). This group, formed by national religious-right organizations, claims to represent hundreds, uh, I mean thousands -- what's that? Oh, I mean tens of thousands of people, mostly guys, who have stopped being gay. They call them "ex-gays."

Now, if you're like me, and you first hear about this, you're thinking, Wow, I didn't know there are tens of thousands of ex-gays... You feel a little naive. You've lived such a sheltered life that you've never met an ex-gay person.

Well, yeah. That's a problem, isn't it? In reality, it isn't really clear that there is any such thing as an ex-gay person, except for the few who speak for this well-funded group.

Our hearts go out to the poor kid who hits puberty and discovers that his eyes are attracted to other boys, especially if he's being raised in a very strict evangelical household. That has got to be horrible, he's got to feel like the biggest freak in the world, and we know that suicide is the option chosen by many such young people.

That kid or young adult has to choose between leaving the church and staying. He may find that his sexuality feels natural to him, even if it is not shared by the other kids at Sunday school, and he may choose to live without the shame that will be imposed on him with every reminder that he is a sinner, an aberration. He can always leave.

Or he may choose to stay with the church, and obey its dictates. In this case, he can be celibate or he can pretend to be straight.

And some groups demand that of their members. That they live a lie.

Let me analyze this "ex-gay" concept for a second. You have a two-by-two matrix here. On one hand, you have a guy who is either gay or straight, I mean, really. And on the other hand you have a social group, the church is usually the relevant one, that either accepts or rejects the guy's true sexuality. So in the world there are four possibilities:

1. Straight, Accepts
2. Straight, Rejects
3. Gay, Accepts
4. Gay, Rejects

I don't know of any instance of #2, but it's possible. Maybe a straight guy at a gay picnic, I don't know.

Anyway, the group that PFOX represents comes from possibility Number Four, where the social group rejects the gay orientation. Because why would somebody in #3 try to pretend they were something they're not?

So the issue is not the person's orientation, it is rejection by the social group.

The concept of "ex-gay" is not about sexual orientation, it is about the group's ability to enforce its values and norms on its members. The "ex-gay" person is gay, no matter what people think. He's just pretending to be straight because of pressure from his peers and from authorities. The subject has very little to do with sexual identity, sexual orientation, or any of the other things taught in a sex-ed class.

It has everything to do with the group's power over the individual, whether the group -- religious or otherwise -- is able to force him to conform to the group's demands even in the most intimate details of his life, even when his true nature is completely opposite.

PFOX is about social control, it isn't about sexuality, and it does not deserve a place in the discussion over this sex-education curriculum. Maybe in the "Cults and Mind Control" section of a Psychology class, but not here.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Sometimes Everything Is Not Enough

This is just too good for words. CRC and PFOX sued the school district. They won a temporary restraining order, and then the district kicked in a little more, the end of the school year. Oh, and the video, which wasn't mentioned in the judge's opinion. And then a little more, the end of the calendar year.

And then everything, the district gave it up. Surrendered. Cancelled the whole curriculum. Dismissed the citizens committee. Promised never to use the objectionable teachers' resources again. Said they were going to start over from scratch.

Man, you can hear the champagne corks a-poppin', can't you? Uh, can't you?

Mmm, no, you can't. Everything in the world still isn't enough. Here's the latest press release from the Ex-Recall and Ex-Gays:
May 24, 2005 Contact:
John Garza 301 340-8200
(CRC attorney)
Steve Fisher 301 385-6766
(CRC spokesman)
Regina Griggs 703 360-2225
(PFOX executive director)

Montgomery County, MD – Two parent groups suing the Montgomery County Board of Education over a new, controversial sex ed program voiced concern over the board's unilateral action in tossing out the entire program and voting to start from scratch. The board voted 7-1 Tuesday night to discard the new curriculum, along with its nationally ridiculed "cucumber video," as well as terminate the Citizens Advisory Committee which came up with the curriculum.

"While the board is obviously feeling the heat from parents who learned about the offensive tone of the curriculum from our lawsuit, we feel it is trying to do an end run around the suit, which Judge Williams said we were likely to succeed in winning. In fact, in its public statements, the board claims absolute authority over the curriculum. Nowhere does it state a willingness to come together with us parents to make sure the curriculum meets community standards," said Michelle Turner, president of CRC. She added that CRC includes several parents willing to serve on the new CAC.

Judge Alexander Williams, Jr. of the U.S. District Court granted the two groups' request for a temporary restraining order regarding the implementation of the curriculum.

He agreed with CRC and Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays that it discriminated against certain religious faiths and unconstitutionally excluded ex-gay material in an attempt to present only a pro-homosexual viewpoint. He granted the stay in part because of "the likelihood that the plaintiff will succeed on the merits [of the suit]."

PFOX also is troubled by the board's vote. "PFOX is not confident that the board is willing to do the right thing and include ex-gay material in any curriculum it now constructs. Our issues remain. In fact, the termination of the current Citizens Advisory Committee also eliminates Jackie Rice, our representative on it as well as CRC's representative, Michelle Turner. We will be interested to know who will be included in the new committee," said Regina Griggs, PFOX's executive director.

"The school board says it will continue to address 'sexual variations' as part of the revisions to the sex ed program," said Griggs. "But will MCPS continue to define sexual variations as everything but ex-gay? Transgendered, intersexed, homosexual, lesbian, and questioning were acceptable, but ex-gay was not. That's discriminatory. The board cannot pick and choose which sexual orientation they like."

Liberty Counsel, which filed the suit on behalf of the two groups, is cautiously optimistic of the board's newest step. "We are pleased with the board's decision to scrap the curriculum and continue to work hard to resolve all the remaining issues in the case. The curriculum was openly discriminatory against ex-gays, failed to factually inform our children of the real health risks of sexual activity and used certain pro-gay religious opinions to support its agenda, while discriminating against the viewpoints of mainstream religions," said Rena Lindevaldsen, one of Liberty Counsel's attorneys handling the case.

The board recently hired the one of the country's premier law firms, Hogan and Hartson, to assist in the litigation. Hogan and Hartson's hourly rate is among the highest in the country.

John Garza, attorney for CRC, claims the board has a history of hostility toward religion and points to two recent suits. In 2003 he filed suit against the board on behalf of a Walter Johnson High School student denied the community service credits needed to graduate because he volunteered for a religious organization.

Joshua Gale offered to work with children on the Cheyenne River Sioux Indian Reservation in South Dakota. The service was performed through the Vacation Bible School program and involved setting up games, cleaning and performing puppet shows with a Biblical theme. The case was settled out of court with the board changing its policy of denying service credits to students who choose faith-based volunteer work.

In another case, the board was sued by the Child Evangelism Fellowship of Maryland for refusing to let the Fellowship distribute its after school Good News Club flyers through the public schools' take-home flyer forum. A variety of 225 other groups were distributing flyers through the forum at the time. However, the board claimed the forum was not open to "proselytization" or "evangelical" groups. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled in June 2004 that the board's action constituted viewpoint discrimination in violation of the Fellowship's free speech rights and remanded the case back to the District Court. In the interim, the board revised its flyer policy, making it compliant with the court's opinion.

Oh, man, I am laughing so hard I can't see.

Win Locally, Fail Globally

Just when they figured out how to use the National Nutty Network locally to force Montgomery County to say uncle, it appears that things might be falling apart for the religious right at the national level. Listen to Chief Bigot James Dobson on yesterday's Senate compromise:
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., May 23 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Focus on the Family Action Chairman Dr. James C. Dobson today issued the following statement, upon the announcement by members of the U.S. Senate that a "compromise" had been reached on the filibuster issue:

"This Senate agreement represents a complete bailout and betrayal by a cabal of Republicans and a great victory for united Democrats. Only three of President Bush’s nominees will be given the courtesy of an up-or-down vote, and it's business as usual for all the rest. The rules that blocked conservative nominees remain in effect, and nothing of significance has changed. Justice Clarence Thomas, Justice Antonin Scalia, and Chief Justice William Rehnquist would never have served on the U. S. Supreme Court if this agreement had been in place during their confirmations. The unconstitutional filibuster survives in the arsenal of Senate liberals.

"We are grateful to Majority Leader Frist for courageously fighting to defend the vital principle of basic fairness. That principle has now gone down to defeat. We share the disappointment, outrage and sense of abandonment felt by millions of conservative Americans who helped put Republicans in power last November. I am certain that these voters will remember both Democrats and Republicans who betrayed their trust." Dobson Blasts Filibuster 'Betrayal'

Yes, well, the Republicans were good friends when they needed your votes, weren't they? But dude, there's no election now, not for another few years, they don't need you now. You'll forget this by then ... they're counting on your following not being very smart.

This morning's Post led on the school-board decision story with this:
Montgomery County school board members voted last night to overhaul the system's disputed sex education curriculum and will begin by tossing out teacher resource materials that drew fire from two community groups and a federal court judge. Md. Board Starts Over on Sex-Ed Revisions

Get one thing straight: it was not, by any means, "two community groups." CRC, okay, that was a community group, they have members from Montgomery County. But, since we're talking about James Dobson here, the other group that complained in the lawsuit was PFOX -- a direct creation of Dobson's missionary empire. PFOX is a media fiction, a hoax organization set up by the Family Research Council to promote the illusion that there are tens of thousands of people running around who have just stopped being gay.

And the lawsuit would have been nothing if CRC's own lawyer, the local guy, had been managing it -- the plaintiffs were represented, without charge, by a Florida law firm associated with Jerry Falwell's Liberty University that travels all around the country fighting to eliminate the separation of church and state. They go from "helping" to count ballots in Florida in 2000 to the Ten Commandments case to the Terry Schiavo fiasco, to Montgomery County to jam their message down our throats. They were the ones with the bold idea of confusing the judge about the resources, and coming in at the last minute to make sure there was no discussion, no defense. (Even though CRC had planned the suit for nearly six months before it happened.)

"Community groups?" Hardly. The lawsuit was an instance of successful bullying by big bucks at the national level. The school district couldn't afford to fight them, with their free lawyers.

But what happens to local-level shennanigans if the national organizations fall apart? An awful lot of the religious right's hopes and dreams were predicated on the idea that government would function as their puppet in exchange for votes, that they could bring heavy pressure down from above to force people to do things their way locally. And largely that's worked, they've been able to erode nonfanatics' rights on every front. But James Dobson is not cheerful this morning, no. The Republicans have undermined him, have abandoned him, and no he is not a happy chappy.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Link to the Resolution

Here is the resolution proposed tonight by Jerry Weast and accepted by the Board: Rescission of the Family Life and Human Sexuality Pilot and Other Actions

More as the news breaks, I'm sure ...

MCPS Statement on Starting Over

Here is the announcement posted by MCPS.
Board of Education Begins Anew with Health Education Program Revisions
May 23, 2005

ROCKVILLE, MD—The Board of Education of Montgomery County tonight voted 8-1 to set aside earlier curricular revisions concerning sexual variations in the health education program for Grade 8 and Grade 10, as well as the “Protect Yourself” video, and asked that new changes be developed by the superintendent of schools for review during the upcoming school year.

In addition, the Board also approved the reconstitution of the Citizens Advisory Committee on Family Life and Human Development. The terms of the 27 committee members were terminated with the Board’s action, and the Board thanked committee members for their “diligent service.” A new committee is to be appointed and organized.

The new revisions to the curriculum on sexual variations for the health education unit on family life and human sexuality will be developed without any of the teacher resource materials that were cited by the Court in a lawsuit now pending in federal district court. The Board, which reaffirmed its authority to oversee and determine the curriculum and materials of the Montgomery County Public Schools, specifically prohibited the use of those teacher resource materials with any curriculum.

“The Board remains strongly committed to need a comprehensive health curriculum for our students, and we will continue to work diligently to ensure that our students receive the very best instruction in this important component of our educational program,” said Patricia B. O’Neill, president of the Board of Education. “We look forward to receiving the superintendent’s recommendations.”

Dr. Jerry D. Weast, superintendent of schools, was directed by the Board to “research, develop, and recommend” the new revisions on sexual variations, as provided under state law, and to use “professional educators” within the school system to complete this task during the 2005-2006 school year. The new advisory committee will be involved for review and consultation.

Both the pilot program and the video were suspended from implementation by Dr. Weast in early May.

“We have an opportunity now to move ahead with a fresh look at this curriculum,” Dr. Weast said. “The health education program deserves the same rigorous attention to a professionally developed sequence of studies that we would expect in all of our instructional areas.”

Last week, attorneys for the Board of Education entered into settlement discussions with representatives of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. The talks began after both sides agreed to an extension of the temporary restraining order issued by a federal district court judge earlier this month. The restraining order now extends through December 31, 2005. Board of Education Begins Anew with Health Education Program Revisions

Board: Let's Start All Over

Just seconds ago, MCPS Superintendent Jerry Weast announced that the Board of Education was going to start all over again developing a new sex education curriculum. The Board disbanded the citizens advisory committee as of tonight, and announced that a new one will be formed. Further, Weast announced that the future curriculum will not include the teachers' resources that Judge Williams objected to.

Dr. Weast proposed the resolution and the Board voted to support it. All voiced their intentions to provide lessons in sexual variation, and vowed to encourage tolerance.

Several of the Board members read prepared statements, including Dr. Weast. I hope to have some transcripts in the morning.

Reprehensible in So Many Ways

We've been told that the CRC President sent this message last week to a school board member, a Washington Times reporter, several MCPS staff, legal and medical professionals, people associated with CRC's endeavor, a Yahoo group ... a bunch of people:
From: mnturner@[email address deleted]
Sent: Thursday, May 19, 2005 4:08 PM
Subject: FW: Ten Commandments

I did not know this. Did you?

It is said that 86% of Americans believe in God. Therefore, it is very hard to understand why there is such a mess about having the Ten Commandments on display or "In God We Trust" on our money and having God in the Pledge of Allegiance. Why don't we just tell the other 14% to Sit Down and SHUT UP!!!

It does seem to be a short summary of their ideological message, doesn't it? Get with our religious program, or you can just Sit Down and SHUT UP!!!

Let me just ask: why is any member of the Montgomery County Board of Education exchanging informal emails with the president of the group that just sued them? Is this his kind of humor -- he finds this sort of thing funny? Is that what we're dealing with? -- Board members who think religion should be forced on people, and they should just Sit Down and SHUT UP!!!? How much does this explain why the school board let Liberty Counsel waltz in and baffle that judge without a fight?

I hope that at least some of the board members plan to fight for the best curriculum, the one they unaminously approved in the first place.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Tilden Fights Back

Here is the text of the resolution adopted by Tilden Middle School's PTSA on May 10. Tilden was going to be one of the pilot test schools for the new curriculum. I think the document is self-explanatory.
Final Resolution
Adopted May 10, 2005

WHEREAS the Tilden Middle School Parent Teacher Student Association compiles and publishes annually a student directory that includes potentially sensitive information such as the name, street address and telephone numbers of all students whose parents have agreed to have such information included, and

WHEREAS by common knowledge and accepted practice this directory is intended exclusively for the private use of the Tilden community to facilitate communication within the Tilden community, and is not intended to be used for any other purpose, and

WHEREAS an organization calling itself the Citizens for Responsible Curriculum (CRC) has conceded that it surreptitiously obtained a copy of the student directory and used the information in it to develop a mailing list for a purpose inconsistent with the intended or appropriate use of the directory, and

WHEREAS the President of the Tilden Middle School PTSA has formally asked the CRC to describe how it obtained the list and with whom they have shared it or to whom they may have sold it, and the CRC has declined to reply,

BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED that the Tilden Middle School PTSA objects in the strongest terms to the misuse of the directory by the CRC, and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the PTSA demands that the CRC respond promptly and completely to the questions raised by its President about the source and intended use of the directory information, specifically identifying any instances in which this information may have already been sold or otherwise made available to another individual or entity, and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the PTSA demands the CRC agree in writing to cease using the information obtained from the directory, and to return to the PTSA all copies of the directory information now in the possession of CRC, in whatever form the information may exist, or certify in writing that this information has been destroyed.

I wonder if those Liberty Counsel guys are still around to get Ex-Recall out of this one.

Feds Against Condoms on 60 Minutes Today

Blogger Josh Marshall, at Talking Points Memo, says:
If you're going to be anywhere near a TV on Sunday evening, don't miss 60 Minutes. They have a segment they're running about the millions of dollars the federal government is spending to convince children and adolescents that condoms arent' very effective at preventing STDs or pregnancy. You may be familiar with the general topic. But the interviews with Bush administration officials and those they're funding will really take your breath away.

-- Josh Marshall

And why would a single penny of your federal taxes go towards convincing people that it's not worthwhile to practice safe sex?

It's a weird and wacky world we live in ...

Friday, May 20, 2005

CRC President Sends Legal Threat

Yesterday Michelle Turner and her lawyer -- that is, CRC's lawyer, John Garza -- threatened to take legal actions against Kay Romero for comments posted on the MCPPTA (Montgomery County Council of Parent Teacher Associations) Yahoo group unless she and her attorney meet with them. Ms. Turner, as you are probably aware, is the lady who was glowingly written up on the front page of The Post yesterday. She is the president of the Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum, and a central figure in opposing Montgomery County's sex education curriculum. Ms. Romero is a member of the TeachTheFacts Yahoo group, among others.

Here is the text of the letter sent to Romero:
Garza Building
17 West Jefferson Street
Rockville, Maryland

May 18, 2005

Kay Romero

[address deleted]

Kensington, MD 20895

Dear Ms. Romero,

This law firm represents Michelle Turner in connection with issues raised by you in the MCCPTA Yahoo group links. In an effort to diffuse any further misstatements and mischaracterizations by you on the list serve, I would like to meet with you and your attorney at your earliest convenience. Ms. Turner is also available to meet. This meeting will be without prejudice and for purposes of settling any and all disputes between you and Ms. Turner.

Please have your attorney contact me upon receipt of this letter. If I do not hear from you within 14 days of the date of this letter, we
will take such other action deemed necessary.

Very truly yours,


cc. MichelleTurner

Romero had posted comments on the Yahoo group alleging that Turner lied about whether CRC was planning to sue. She had also made comments about the CRC's inappropriate use of pilot schools' student directories, after the CRC sent mass mailings to families at the pilot schools, using the directories which are supposed to be for families of the schools only.

On January 13 (Message #7121), on the Einstein High School Yahoo email group, Turner had written:
From: mnturner@...
Date: Thu Jan 13, 2005 9:34 am
Subject: Re: Cox avoids GCA meeting after threats posted on Web

There is nothing going on with the legal group. There purpose is to review MCPS documents to determine if the BoE is following its own regulations and policies. Wanna guess the outcome? Mr. Garza offered-that does not constitute a lawsuit. We have people from all walks of life that have offered their support-what does that mean?



Interestingly, on January 10th, several days before Turner's denial, we have been told that this email was sent to CRC members by John Garza:
We are working on the lawsuit. We parents who have children in the school system to come forward and become plaintiffs. Identity will be kept anonymous, (for many reasons, including the fact that children are involved, threats, and subject matter). We specifically need kids who attend the pilot schools and kids in 8th or 10th grade or who will be in 8th or 10th grade perhaps next year. Also, if a kid is struggling with his/her sexual identiy that would be perfect. (Although according to the school, all kids fall into that category). We cannot file the suit without plaintiffs. Ms. Rickman has already volunteered, however, the more plaintiffs we have the better. Please search out parents who can come on board with this. There is no obligation to stay on or anything like that and I am availble to answer any questions. As far as I can tell this will be the first case like this one in the country. We need to do this for the children. Please help!

Unless one of these messages is a forgery, it does appear that a lie was told on January 13th. "We are working on a lawsuit" does seem to contradict the statement "There is no CRC legal action taking place against anybody," unless one takes the very strictest interpretation that "legal action" only takes place once papers have been filed in court.

We must note CRC's eagerness to exploit the suffering of "a kid ... struggling with his/her sexual identiy [sic]." Their lawyer says, "That would be perfect." Editorializing is not required here.

The other "issue" that Garza may have been referring to in yesterday's letter was the inappropriate use of student directories by CRC, which Ms. Romero had criticized them for on the MCCPTA email group. For instance, the following letter was posted on the Tilden School email group, summarizing the situation:
To: tilden@yahoogroups.com
From: [email address deleted]
Date: Sat, 7 May 2005 15:43:59 EDT
Subject: [tilden] CRC Mailing on the Health Curriculum

Last week, an organization calling itself the Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum (CRC), a group opposed to the new sex education curriculum, sent a mass mailing to our community attacking the curriculum and urging Tilden parents to opt out of the pilot program that was scheduled for later this month. Setting aside for a moment the substance of their letter and its inflammatory misrepresentations, there remains a serious issue with respect to how the group obtained the names and addresses of our children.

As noted earlier in this forum, Susan Wyderko sent an e-mail to the group's spokesman last Monday asking how the mailing list was obtained and with whom it has been shared. I sent the same person a note endorsing Susan's request and adding my own request for a response to Susan's questions. At this time, neither of us has received a reply.

Despite the group's insulting refusal to answer Susan's perfectly reasonable questions, we now know from separate sources how the list was obtained. Michelle Turner, the group's president, has admitted in an e-mail to MCCPTA President Cindy Kerr that the source of the list was our PTSA student directory.

Michelle and her organization, of course, have every right to express their views on the curriculum and to lobby for changes in the portions of it with which they may disagree. This does not, however, translate into a right to obtain surreptitiously a copy of our directory and use it for a purpose for which it was not intended.

For those of you who may not know her, Michelle Turner is an Einstein cluster parent who has held numerous senior PTSA positions over the years, including a one-year term as MCCPTA president. She is well acquainted with the accepted PTA practices regarding the proper use of student directories, and although she may prefer not to admit it, she knows full well that her group's use of our directory in this manner is totally inappropriate.

By common understanding, student directories are compiled and published by PTAs to facilitate communication within school communities. They are not intended to be used for solicitation, or to serve as a resource for groups like CRC that are in the business of peddling political positions.

At our PTSA meeting on Tuesday May 10, we will consider a resolution expressing our PTSA's vigorous objection to the abuse of our student directory by CRC and their refusal to answer Susan's questions.

While adopting such a resolution isn't likely to deter CRC from pursuing its agenda through future mailings to our community (either its own mailings or those of groups to which it may have transferred or sold our mailing list), it will send them the message that the Tilden community knows what they are doing and objects to their abuse of our community's directory.

Meanwhile, for those in the Tilden community who share the growing discomfort with this group's message and tactics, there is a simple solution we can all adopt in responding to their future mailings: discard them unopened.

[name deleted]

It is my understanding that MCCPTA officers agree that CRC misused the directories and intend to support Ms. Romero in this.

What to make of all this? Garza's letter is vaguely enough worded to render any interpretation a guess. Surely, a threat is implied in the request for a meeting -- "we will take such other action deemed necessary" probably doesn't mean hosting a party at Chuck E. Cheese. Are the CRC and their officers beyond reproach? Is there a legal problem with calling a lie a lie? As Ms. Turner is also a member of the MCCPTA Yahoo group, she could easily have corrected any misrepresentations of her position. As far as I know, that did not happen.

The MCCPTA_Delegates Yahoo group requires approval by a moderator. It has 272 members, presumably all approved and all involved in Montgomery County PTA activities. If this situation escalates into a lawsuit, it will open many questions regarding the privilege of such electronic communications; many discussion group messages are spontaneous, unedited, contain factual errors and personal opinions -- these are informal communications. We can foresee a future where no one will be able to comment online for fear of legal retaliation.

Thursday, May 19, 2005


Normally I wouldn't use WorldNet Daily as a source of information, but I think this is pretty accurate, if you disregard the spin.

Seems the The National Parent-Teacher Association is planning their big annual convention. They've invited PFLAG, an organization that promotes awareness of homosexuality, to present a workshop at the conference.

But PFOX, the "ex-gay" group that recently sued MCPS to shut down the sex-education curriculum, will not be allowed to participate in the conference.

Ignore the tone of outrage as you read the story as written on this conservative web site:
The National Parent-Teacher Association has refused an ex-homosexual group’s request to exhibit at its annual convention while welcoming a pro-homosexual activist organization – even inviting it to present a workshop.

Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays had its application to exhibit rejected because it supports former homosexuals. The National PTA, however, sought the attendance of Parents, Families and Friends of Gays, a pro-homosexual advocacy group that promotes in same-sex marriage.

With 6 million members, the National PTA is the largest volunteer child advocacy organization in the United States. One of its purposes is "to be inclusive in its efforts to represent and assist all who nurture and educate children."

"As we indicated on the application, our purpose at the National PTA exhibit is to distribute educational publications promoting inclusive school environments for ex-gay students and educators," said Regina Griggs, PFOX’s executive director. "We fit right in because one of the themes of this year’s National PTA convention is diversity. Ex gays are people, too. And it’s about time the National PTA recognized that fact of life." National PTA shuts out ex-homosexuals: Welcomes 'gay' activists to convention, shuns other side

No, it's about time PFOX understood the fact that nobody's buying their bull-oney. Even the statement "Ex-gays are people, too," needs to be proven. Have you ever met a person who "used to be gay?"

Let me say this again. If a person is "ex-gay," it means they are "straight." You don't need a special booth at the PTA convention to promote straight people. They say their theme is diversity, and well, straight people make up a big ol' majority of the population. Maybe, like, red-headed "ex-gays," or "ex-gays" who can twist their feet around their necks, or something. But if the theme is diversity, I'm sorry, Regina, they're not looking for more straight people, even ones with "a past."

If you want to reward a person for going against his deepest feelings, and especially for making the ultimate sacrifice of marrying someone he does not find attractive, well, go ahead. But I don't think the PTA would want to encourage that.
According to the National PTA, PFLAG will present a workshop that "raises awareness about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students, their families, and the issues pertaining to them in the school environment. Participants will receive a 'how-to' guide for improving the school environment for LGBT students."

Yes, this is the direction that the Real World is going. Towards tolerance, understanding, kindness, caring.
"We submitted exhibit materials for the National PTA's review that included a booklet for students and teachers on how to address homophobia in the public schools from an ex-gay perspective," said Griggs. "We also included an information sheet from the NEA Ex-Gay Educators Caucus outlining the goals sought by ex-gay teachers for diversity, tolerance and inclusion for all, including both ex-gays and gays. Who could be opposed to that?"

<Blogger waves hand wildly in the air> I could! I could!
"The National PTA is discriminating against a class of students and that is just wrong," Griggs said.

To which I can only say: Can you imagine the nerve of those people?

The Contagion Effect

Maybe you saw the US News and World Report story this week, talking about how wonderful the activists in Montgomery County are, how great it was that they were able to shut down the "anything-goes sexual preaching in the schools."

The author, John Leo, jumps right in, picking up the thread just like he's supposed to. It's not that the judge ruled on the basis of resources that are for teachers only and not part of the curriculum, it's that "the standard answer was they were 'for the teachers only to use and not of interest to the parents.'" Y'know, not that it matters that that's the actual truth, you call it a "standard answer" and there you go, you don't have to pay any attention to it.

Because the thing you want is for the minority to gain control -- that's what John Leo finds so admirable in this situation. The Ex-Recall/Ex-Gay group was able to frustrate the wishes of the majority of the people in this county who want their kids to learn the facts about sex, including safe-sex and sexual orientation topics. They were able to win, by golly, and that's what matters.

So, OK, yesterday I wrote a little bit about Lexington, Massachusetts. The nuts up there are going on the warpath because there was a kindergarten book that showed a family with same-sex parents. I don't think any five-year-old would be surprised by that, or ask embarrassing questions, like, y'know, "Daddy, how do lesbians have sex if neither one of them has a penis?" No, a five-year-old with reasonable parents would absorb the shock and move on.

And today we're finding out that Fairfax, just across the river from us, is about to go through the same thing -- except this time it's the Catholic church that's attacking them. --Do you have a problem with that?
The Diocese of Arlington has criticized newly approved sex-education materials in Fairfax County public schools, saying they ridicule abstinence and marriage.

The Fairfax County School Board on May 12 voted 10-1 to approve for 10th-graders two pamphlets -- "Birth Control Facts" and "Abstinence 101."

"We would reject both those resources," said Gerri Laird, a coordinator of Education and Training with the diocese's Office for Family Life. "How can you promote abstinence when you talk about sexuality without even talking about marriage?" Diocese rejects sex-ed leaflets

The church's position on birth control is well known, and nobody is surprised that the diocese would issue a statement about something like this. And they have freedom of speech like the rest of us, they have the right to an opinion just like everybody else.

What they don't have is the right to participate in the process of setting policy for the public schools or any other government-run program. Like, look:
The Archdiocese of Washington last winter criticized a new sex-education curriculum in Montgomery County that introduced discussion of homosexuality, saying the course was "obviously not reflective of our values."

To me, that's great, that's what a church does, provides guidance to its congregation. I mean, c'mon, who thought the Catholic Church was going to like a class that shows teenagers how to use contraceptives? So they make their statement, and the people know where they stand on this issue. Perfect.

But what's this?
The diocese is not satisfied, Mrs. Laird said. She and nine others testified against the pamphlets before the school board approved the materials.

"Contraception should be presented in the context of how it is an abuse of the human person, how it hurts teens, rather than as a backup to failed self-control," she told the board.

"Abstinence is empowering. It prevents our teens from being used by others for sexual gratification and it protects their inherent dignity as persons by protecting their physical, emotional and spiritual well-being."

Well, I suppose they have the right to express themselves at a school board meeting, too, don't they? Mmm, do they?

These nine speakers were not speaking to their flock, they were addressing the school board -- this was the Church directly trying to influence public policy. It wasn't just some Catholic people speaking about their beliefs, no, these people are speaking in the name of the Church.

But what have they got to fear? Because MCPS lawyers wouldn't explain what's what to a federal judge, it looks like every class has to teach both sides of everything. It looks like all you have to do is complain, and the schools will teach Noah's Ark right alongside radiocarbon dating. All you have to do is file some court papers, and you can make them do whatever you want.

If you're a minority trying to force the majority to live by your rules, that's got to be encouraging.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Here It Goes Again ... In Lexington, Mass.

You see this and you wanna say N-o-o-o-o-o!!!! Don't go there!!!!! From Massachusetts, reported in the Boston Globe:
LEXINGTON -- Parents upset with the way Lexington schools address homosexuality spoke out before and during a School Committee meeting last night, criticizing a recent program at the high school and a book given to kindergartners that depicts same-sex couples.

But school officials and other parents backed the school system, saying that tolerance is being taught. About 20 people from a new group called Lexington Parents for Respect attended a press conference outside Jonas Clarke Middle School before the School Committee meeting. About a dozen held signs, including "Education Yes, Indoctrination No."

"We want respect for our kids and respect for our family borders," said Gerry Wambolt, a parent and spokesman for the group.

The School Committee took no action on the complaints, some of which were made during the public comment period. At issue are two high-profile events last month that revealed deep divisions in town over sexuality education.Sex orientation curriculum debated: Parents, officials spar in Lexington

OK, listen, here's a little advice to you Lexington parents, from me to you. First of all, support that curriculum with all you've got. Speak up at every chance, don't let people take it for granted, or these guys'll whisk it out from under you, using any trick they can come up with.

Second of all, you school board people up there (and my family went to Lexington last summer, cool town), listen to my advice: your lawyers need to start, right now, looking at that curriculum. Look at every detail with the most ... malevolent ... eye you can muster. Look at it to find anything wrong with it. Doesn't matter if the kids will ever see it -- it doesn't matter if it matters. Cuz when the fighting gets dirty, they're gonna have to defend every word of it in the press, in the courtroom. They need to know what's in there.

Here in Montgomery County, we're a few months into this. It's a tough fight, but it's got to be fought and won. For my part, I'm glad to hear that the good people of Lexington are willing to stand up for what's right. Let 'em wave their signs, you've got to just keep talking sense until sense wins.
Superintendent Bill Hurley, during a brief press conference before last night's School Committee meeting, said critics of the kindergarten book have misrepresented it as being about sexuality.

"It's about children and the households from which they come," Hurley said.

Meg Soens, who has two children in second grade and two in fifth grade at Estabrook, said at the meeting that hers is one of the families in Lexington headed by same-sex couples.

"You would not exclude a multiracial family or a book dealing with multiracial families because of sincere religious opposition to it," Soens said.

Hang in there, people, we're with you. Don't give up.

A Quick Note on Evolution and Homosexuality

I got another email the other day from a guy who wanted to challenge my beliefs. He wrote:
I know you hold Darwinist religious beliefs. Since you seem to think the desire to do certain stuff is a trait you're born with and since those who do that stuff don't tend to reproduce, doesn't your whole theory contradict the doctrine of natural selection. What I mean is, how is this trait passed on? Or is that desire just a very common mutation? Or maybe all those experts in those associations never considered that.

Ignoring the silliness about "Darwinist religious beliefs," let me say, I'm no evolutionary biologist, but I guess I have a thought or two on the subject.

Let's say, Darwinism can be looked at on at least two levels. At the level of the population, evolution is a change in the probability distribution of a phenotypic trait over time; change is usually seen as adaptation, though drift is possible, too, that is, random changes that do not affect fitness.

Evolution can also be looked at on the microscopic level. When we speak of genes for a trait, we mean patterns of DNA on the chromosome which function as a kind of developmental program for manifesting the traits biologically, almost always in conjunction with some environmental stimuli. Here we see evolution as change in the genotype, and it is possible that various genotypes produce similar phenotypes. For instance, human adaptations have arisen in both the Andes and in Kenya that allow individuals to run for a long time at high altitudes -- same phenotype -- but the genetic mechanisms are entirely different.

The PFOX types like to say "There is no gay gene." This is wrong in so many ways, it is hard to know where to start. First of all, there is no single gene for most complex traits. There is no introversion gene, no sense-of-humor gene, no musical gene ... Most human traits are supported by many, many locations on the chromosome interacting with one another, and interacting with the environment both in the deveopmental expression of the phenotype and in predisposing a response in the moment.

As I've reported here before, patterns on the chromosome have been found, which correlate with homosexuality. Patterns in the brain have been found, too, which are probably a function of development rather than learning. But to find a "gay gene," we would need to see a pattern that every gay person has, and no straight person, and that just ain't gonna happen. You will find parts of patterns here and there, and various combinations of those patterns which, combined with some environmental factors -- which can be hormones in the womb or childhood experiences or anything else, nobody knows for sure -- result in the person preferring partners of their same sex.

You see this nullifies the argument that it can't be inherited. Parts of patterns can be received from one parent and parts from the other, with neither parent having the entire combination of alleles that would make them gay (and we would really expect different patterns to work for males and females, meaning for instance that a female could carry the whole set of gay-male genes, with no effect). If there are many patterns with a similar effect -- and redundancy is an important feature of genetics -- then this becomes even more likely.

There's another thing, which is hard to grasp. As I mentioned, evolution can be seen to work at the level of the species or population. It is very common to find adaptations that are bad for the individual and good for the group. Just think of a male bird's bright colors, which serve the function of attracting mates, and also of attracting the attention of predators in order to lure them away from the nest. There is risk in that, and in fact some male birds are killed performing this stunt, but overall it is adaptive for the species.

I note that some persons seem to believe they have inside knowledge about what is "natural," or what God intended when He created certain things, but I tend to believe that God's true intent is mysterious, and that it is usually foolish to try to reason about how a trait increases the fitness of a species.

There is nothing contradictory about homosexuality being inherited.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Anti-Gay Time Line

MetaFilter has an interesting link today to a timeline of the anti-gay movement, put together by the Southern Poverty Law Center. It starts with Anita Bryant and goes up to the Ex-Recall "town hall" meeting -- oh, nope, it doesn't go that far, only up to 2004.

Maybe I'm naive, but I never really thought much about this stuff before getting involved in this health-curriculum thing. I still don't really understand what people get so upset about, if somebody's gay, what's the big deal? This timeline shows how we got to where we're at now -- you might not have realized that it wasn't always like this.

MetaFilter also links to a fascinating interview with Mel White. No, you don't know who that is. Read this interesting interview, it will give you some insights into what we're up against here. Take a couple of minutes, read it.

Time to Choose

The CRC/PFOX lawsuit objected to many, many things about the curriculum, which Judge Williams ignored. He ruled on the basis of two items. First, he objected to some opining about various religions in the background resources. I think everyone understands that 1) those were not really grounds for throwing out the whole thing, since students would never see the materials, and 2) those resources could easily be jettisoned -- nobody wants to propose a curriculum that criticizes any religion, or even appears to.

The other argument was a little less clear, and, at least to me, scarier. Besides the "Establishment Clause" opinion, there was a "First Amendment" opinion, not very specific, but generally it implied that the curriculum was "unbalanced." Quoth His Honor:
Viewpoint discrimination consists of state action in which "There is no ban on a general subject matter, but only on one ore more prohibited perspectives." [legal citations deleted] When government restrictions "target not subject matter but particular views taken by speakers on a subject, the violation of the First Amendment is all the more blatant. Viewpoint discrimination is thus an egregious form of content discrimination." ... ("the government must abstain from regulating speech when the specific motivating ideology or the opinion or perspective of the speaker is the rationale for the restriction.").

Now, we don't really know what he means, or how far he wants to take this, but I'm sure the other side is thinking he means that all their nutty stuff about ex-gays has to be included.

Look, here's what they said in their complaint:
Defendants made a deliberate decision to include discussion of sexual orientation, including homosexuality, bisexuality and lesbianism in its comprehensive health education. Yet, they refused to include information from reputable sources, including the United States Center for Disease Control, that discussed the substantial and unique health risks associated with same-sex sexual activity. They also refused to even mention the ex-gay perspective or that people have had success through reparative therapy in overcoming same-sex attractions. Beginning May 5, 2005, Defendants plan to intentionally mislead our students.

It might come down to this, and the people of Montgomery County need to know what they want.

Do you want the sex-ed course to talk about "the ex-gay perspective?" Do you believe there is such a thing as an "ex-gay" person? Do you think it is worth mentioning, when other more relevant sexual behaviors, such as pedophilia, masturbation, rape -- stuff that happens every day -- are not mentioned at all? Is "the ex-gay perspective" that important?

No, of course not. Look, if any ex-gay people exist, the proper term for them would be "straight." OK, you fooled around, you didn't like it or you decided not to fool around any more, and you stopped. What does that make you -- a saint, fer crying out loud? Naw, you're just another straight person. One with a history, OK, so what, there're eight million stories in the naked city.

Let's focus on "reparative therapy," which is something they want taught in the schools. Reparative therapy is the generic name for psychotherapy techniques that are aimed at changing a person's sexual orientation from homosexuality to heterosexuality. Here, read all about it at WikiPedia. Looks like a pretty unbiased article, very thorough.

Reparative therapy, the whole concept of "ex-gays," is a religious topic, not a scientific one. It assumes that homosexuality is a sin, and tries to help the person overcome it as an immoral thing. No organization that bases its techniques on scientific principles accepts that reparative therapy is either effective or appropriate. In fact, none of those organizations see anything wrong with being gay.

Here's the choice that Montgomery County is faced with: do you want your public schools teaching about psychological theories and techniques that are based on religion, or ones that are based on science?

Because there are several large organizations of scientifically-trained psychologists, psychiatrists, and counsellors, and they feel very strongly about it.

A statement was prepared by an aggregation of organizations, including:

  • American Academy of Pediatrics
  • American Counseling Association
  • American Association of School Administrators
  • American Federation of Teachers
  • American Psychological Association
  • American School Health Association
  • Interfaith Alliance Foundation
  • National Association of School Psychologists
  • National Association of Social Workers
  • National Education Association

They said:
The most important fact about "reparative therapy," also sometimes known as "conversion" therapy, is that it is based on an understanding of homosexuality that has been rejected by all the major health and mental health professions. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, and the National Association of Social Workers, together representing more than 477,000 health and mental health professionals, have all taken the position that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and thus there is no need for a "cure."

Montgomery County, you will have to choose. The faith-healers are in the courts trying to force their wacky beliefs into the classroom -- is that what you want?

They have tasted victory, and insist that the school board must now negotiate with them.

Teaching half science and half religion is not balance, it's schizophrenia in the colloquial sense. We're at a crossroads, and need to decide which way to go.

These people hate and fear homosexuality. Why that is, I can't understand. But trust me, we went to their big meeting, we saw what they stand for, and it's an ugly thing. They claim their revulsion is based on religious beliefs, but it's gotta be more than that. They want to teach your kids that being gay is a sin, and they want to teach your kids that there are ways to change you from gay to straight -- that's what's in the materials that the citizens committee rejected, which CRC/PFOX wants to "negotiate" with the board about. These therapies don't do what they say they're going to do; but worse, they are based on a supposition of hatred.

This isn't a religious-versus-non-religious issue, it's not a conservative-versus-liberal issue, it is a simple question of kindness. Do you want to treat your gay friends this way, either ignoring them or acting as if there was something wrong with them? Is that the kind of people we are? It is a simple matter of truth. Are you afraid that learning the facts will cause harm to your child's psyche?

People, you choose. You want to let this happen, or stop it?

Write the Board of Education, tell 'em what you think.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Good Question

Good question spotted over at another blog:
Can you become Ex-Hetero?
Maybe one of our PFOX readers will explain.

Like, do you get credit just for changing, or do you have to go in a particular direction?

Q: Should the school board meet with CRC/PFOX?

A: No.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

The Conflation Trick

The Ex-Recall blog has a statement which I believe appeared originally in comments to a post here at Vigilance, though I can't find it at the moment. They cleverly cast it in terms of myths and facts:
MYTH - The Teacher Resources listed at the end of the new sex-ed curriculum are not part of the new curriculum.

FACT - The statements in the curriculum have a reference, and those references are listed in the back as 'Teacher Resources'. Just because each reference is not after each statement, like the definitions have, doesn't mean the statements do not come from somewhere (otherwise the Sex-Ed Committee would have just made it all up, right?). For example, the now infamous statement; "Sex play with friends of the same gender is not uncommon during early adolescence", came from one of the Advocates For Youth resources (see #4 on pages 162-163). If one were to ask after each statement made in the curriculum , 'where did this come from?' they would find it in the teacher resources. That is the reference. The Teacher Resources were used to create and support the new curriculum and are therefore, indeed part of the currciulum.

So the argument is that the background resources are part of the curriculum, because that's where the course information came from.

Please see if you can follow me here. This is an important distinction.

You have document A, a pamphlet by some organization defining some vocabulary, say. It has a line (GOODTEXT) in it that the citizens committee likes, and decides to put into the curriculum. It also contains lines (BADTEXT) -- this will be the majority of document A's content -- that the committee decides not to include in the curriculum.

In fact, the citizens committee's task was to identify source documents and then to distinguish (GOODTEXT) from (BADTEXT) within them, and see that only (GOODTEXT) got into the curriculum. If, as CRC is alleging, all the documents that provided information for the curriculum were retained and recommended as "background resources," then it should be clear to a rational person that the excluded text (BADTEXT) has a different status from that which was included (GOODTEXT). The (GOODTEXT) content is part of the curriculum, the (BADTEXT) content is not. And it is easy to tell which is which: the (GOODTEXT) part of it is reproduced in the curriculum outline.

The flaw in the system, if we accept CRC's account, was in failing to throw out the (BADTEXT), once the (GOODTEXT) had been separated from it. Apparently source documents were kept as recommended reading for teachers, regardless of the quality of the text that was not selected for the curriculum. Bad idea.

Judge Williams did not object to any of the text that actually made it into the curriculum. He quoted one small part of a Myths and Facts section, but didn't comment directly on it, and it could easily have been defended as being perfectly accurate and objective. The content he objected to compared religions, putting some in a more negative light than others. And all of that content was from the parts of the background materials that the committee had decided not to include in the curriculum (BADTEXT).

It looks to me like the citizens committee did a good job. They selected material that met the judicial standard, and rejected material that, it turned out, failed it. Pretending, as CRC did in court, that the two classes (GOODTEXT) and (BADTEXT) are equivalent leads to incorrect conclusions, and is not substantiated by the long winnowing process or the contents of the various documents. Conflating the two classes of text was a dirty trick intended to win a court case and make the school district look bad.

Friday, May 13, 2005

The Sentinel Nails It: Perfect

I love this. It's kind of long, but once again our little local paper, The Sentinel nails it perfectly. --Just what we needed, going into the weekend. (The title is perfect. Just perfect.)
Wish in one hand and CRC in the other

Montgomery Sentinel May 12, 2005
Editor's Notebook
Briam J Karem

The Internet is an amazing place.

Within three minutes of being on-line my teenage son was hit with about 30 ads for enlarging several different areas of his body, not to mention ads from lonely women, girls who seem to enjoy having other people watch them in various states of undress or engaging in several different bodily functions, several ads for obtaining prescription drugs without a prescription, four Viagra ads, two Levitra ads, one ad to meet lonely gay/lesbians in our area and one online gambling company.

Thank heavens we had the Spam filter on.

With all of this information available to anyone, not to mention what my son can see in a movie, or on cable or broadcast television, not to mention what kids talk about in school, on the playground, in the huddle and at the bowling alley and one has to wonder if the only topic of conversation for our children is about some exotic body function or excretion.

Imagine then a seven-minute video being presented in sex education class at your local high school that teaches children how to properly use a condom.

Many kids will look at it as "lame" and many others will merely use the seven minutes to take a quick nap.

But your friendly folks at the Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum and the Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays see evil that could threaten the Republic either in this film or the rest of the public school's sex education curriculum. Thus they've filed suit as they pursue a litigious outcome to their battle cry against sex education in a school environment they claim is proselytizing for homosexuality.

Judge Alexander Williams Jr. proved to be a friendly face and granted a temporary restraining order and Dr. Jerry Weast, proving that knee-jerk reactions are always commonplace after a court order, suspended the teachings and removed the film titled "Protect Yourself" from distribution.

On the one hand I love seeing the Board of Education challenged, but on the other hand not by the reactionaries who hide under a cloak of level-headedness.

A few facts about all this should be enlightening. CRC Vice President and attorney John Garza has children. But they don't attend public school.

If they did, they could opt out of the sex education class. But that's too darn bothersome for the members of the CRC and PFOX who believe a child who opts out will "self-identify" him or herself and that opting out of the course would actually lead to segregation.

Most likely what would happen is that a kid opting out of the class would be envied by his peers for being smart enough to get out of a class that doesn't teach as much as can be learned on the Internet or at the mall's food court on a Friday night.

I have much more faith in the teenagers of Montgomery County than the adults causing this stir.

Garza offers a mind-numbing defense for his group's move. He calls the sex education an "indoctrination program" and says that to exercise their right not to go into the class, kids would have to exercise free speech rights that they shouldn't be forced to exercise. "Part of free speech is the right to remain silent," he claims.

If only he'd take his own advice.

The problem with the CRC and PFOX continues to be the hypocrisy inherent in burying your head in the sand.

"Part of free speech is the right to an education that allows you to get knowledge," Garza claims. What Garza is really upset about is that the Board of Education isn't imparting the spin on the knowledge that he wants.

He's no friend of free speech nor is the CRC and PFOX.

The truth is there are going to be children who will understand the importance of abstinence and there will be children who don't. The goal is to keep down sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted teen pregnancies.

CRC and PFOX, while they claim to want nothing more than level-headedness actually, in their efforts, keep important knowledge from those who need it the most - those living on the fringe and in danger of falling through the cracks.

Thanks to The Sentinel for keeping its eye on the ball.

Do It Yourself Sex-Ed

This might be what we have to do here in Montgomery County. From Newsday:
MISSION, Texas -- With at least six classmates pregnant, including the valedictorian with her second child, it was clear to a few girls at Mission High School that more information was needed on safe sex.

So the four students at this school along the Mexican border -- where the teen pregnancy rate is among the highest in the nation -- decided they could help send the message by making their own movie.

Two years later, their 16-minute educational film promoting condom use, named "Toothpaste" after a teen code word for condoms, has been ordered by schools around the country. It also will be shown at film festivals and on the Showtime cable channel, according to the organization that produced the film.

"Hopefully, people will get something out of it," said Amanda Ramirez, one of the teens. Girls' Film on Pregnancy Gets Exposure

Of course, our wordly advice to these border-town kids would be to make the movie sin pepinos -- you don't want to make it too easy for intellectually-challenged opinionators to make so-called jokes about it! (Such as we saw in The Times yesterday -- sheesh, I won't put that in the bird cage!)
With its soundtrack of Spanish hip-hop and rolling background of the South Texas region known as the Valley, the film is a frank discussion about sexuality from a region where 37 of 1,000 girls get pregnant by age 17, according to state statistics.

That's the highest teen pregnancy rate in Texas and among the highest in the nation. Experts attribute the high rate to lack of knowledge about contraception and a cultural acceptance of young parents in a region that's 90 percent Hispanic.

The film is unusual because sex-education curriculum in Texas focuses on abstinence. Districts can discuss contraception in class, but the state advises against it. Most South Texas school districts do not.

The girls, all of whom are now attending college, said they would like to see Texas add information on contraceptives to its sex education policy.

"Hopefully the state will also realize the law they have -- it's not working," said Ramirez, now 19 and attending South Texas College.

David Champion, the Texas Education Agency education specialist for the region, said he saw value in the movie.

"If you talk to these teenagers, it's information that they need to know and they want to know," Champion said.

The geographic isolation of South Texas has kept many Mexican family traditions intact, including taboos about talking to teens about sex.

"We're more conservative, I guess," said Coria, 19, who is attending Southwestern University. "Our parents, I don't know why, just want us to be abstinent, period."

Well, parents everywhere want that, you don't have to live on the Mexico border to hope your teenager will abstain from sex. But like they used to say -- well, as they will continue to say, apparently, for some time -- in Montgomery County: "Hope is not a method."

Is this what you have to do? Should our kids develop health classes on their own, where they teach each other what they've learned?

It sounds better than the road we're going down now.

School Board Gives Away the Rest of 2005

I'll start by quoting something toward the end of this morning's Washington Post story.
[Montgomery County school superintendent Jerry] Weast said the resource materials were for teachers only.

"It is important to note that there are two components to the health education program: the curriculum that is presented to students and the teacher resource materials that are provided only to teachers," Weast said. Montgomery Deal Aims to Resolve Sex-Ed Suit

Now, if he had said that last week, say, in front of a federal judge, maybe the rest of the story would have been different.

Instead, here's the news today:
Montgomery County school officials and two community groups that had sued over changes in the school system's sex education curriculum reached an agreement yesterday that both sides hope will allow them to work out their differences.

Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum and Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays joined the school system in asking a federal judge to extend a 10-day temporary restraining order through the end of December to give both sides time to see whether they can reach a settlement in their dispute over the revised curriculum.

"This is a good sign," said Erik Stanley, the lawyer representing the two groups that had sought to block the sex-ed program. "This gives all parties time to see if this can possibly be resolved. It takes some of the pressure involved off."

Added Superintendent Jerry D. Weast: "The agreement reached today by our attorneys provides us with the time and opportunity to resolve this litigation, which we hope can be done in an amicable and productive manner while at the same time maintaining the school system's fundamental right to control its own curriculum."

No, dude, you just gave up the right to control your own curriculum. Or are you talking about some time in the twenty-second century?

When the judge issues a ten-day restraining order, you take the ten days, you regroup, and you come back swinging. Instead, you immediately cancelled the video, which had already been piloted and approved, and which was not part of the restraining order or mentioned in the judge's opinion. You gave 'em that, without explanation.

Then you stretched it out from ten days to the end of the school year. We can understand that, there're only a few weeks left, and this might have prevented a devastating injunction.

But now, the ten-day TRO is extended to the end of the calendar year? This important instructional material will not be piloted in the current semester, or the fall semester? Ten days now stretched out to more than half a year?

The CRC/PFOX win rested entirely on their lawyers bamboozling the judge into believing that the teachers' background resources are part of the curriculum that is presented to students. MCPS lawyers should never have allowed the judge to be fooled that easily.

But the judge was confused, and then lazy reporters around the region, and around the country, took the judge's opinion and quoted it, and people everywhere believe now that the curriculum was teaching kids that Unitarians are better people than Baptists.

Resolving the issue is easy: throw out the three teachers' resources that offended the judge. Re-train the teachers, if that is necessary, it should take a day. Ten-day restraining order? Thanks, Yer Honor, we got 'er all fixed now, ready to get back on the road.

The new curriculum was written to achieve an objective. Currently, Montgomery County kids are brought up to be totally ignorant about a significant minority in our county -- and our country's -- population. Homosexuality is a facet of human sexuality that exists whether the bigots approve of it or not. It belongs in a course that calls itself "sex education."

The way it is now, stereotypes are allowed to grow, or when groups like the Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum host the show, negative stereotypes are encouraged to grow. Gays are recruiting your children, they tell you. Look at this gay porn -- this is what your kids will see in school, they tell you. Gay people are promiscuous, they molest children, they eat poop -- all these ideas have been promoted by the Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum.

This is what we're fighting against. Bigotry and hatred.

The objective must not be abandoned.

Rumor is that the school board has hired some good lawyers. Good. I for one would like to see the case won by the best argument, not by bamboozlement.

Because we're really just at the beginning -- the court case is hardly a week old. But listen, people, we're going to have to fight for this. It's not going to drop into our laps.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Da Noive a Some People

The school board has apparently hired a law firm to represent them in the suit over the sex-ed curriculum. OK, that's encouraging, they're not just laying down and giving up, we approve of that.

But sometimes you just gotta blink and look twice.

The CRC, who sued the board in the first place, has posted a message on their web site, bold and italicized:
CRC: 'It's a Complete Waste of Taxpayer Money'...
Imagine suing the county and then complaining when they have to spend money defending themselves.


Now, this makes sense:
TTF: 'It's a Complete Waste of Taxpayer Money'...

Threat Update

The person who threatened to harass me at work has apparently rescinded the threat. I also talked with my supervisor and with legal staff, and am confident that I am not in violation of any policies or regulations in my workplace. So I will continue to blog during the day if something comes up.

The Freedom of Speech Opinion

The second thing the judge objected to in last week's ruling is much more dangerous -- I mean, MCPS can add or remove teachers resources and/or references to religion, that's not a show-stopper. But Judge Williams seems to have had another reason for terminating the pilot testing. Besides the Establishment Clause problem having to do with the promotion of a particular religious view, he discusses a "First Amendment - Freedom of Speech" issue that could turn the education world on its head.

He says:
In this case, Defendants open up the classroom to the subject of homosexuality, and specifically, the moral rightness of the homosexual lifestyle. However, the Revised Curriculum presents only one view on the subject — that homosexuality is a natural and morally correct lifestyle — to the exclusion of other perspectives. Indeed, the Revised Curriculum advises teachers that the information concerning homosexuality is to be presented to students as facts and that "no additional information, interpretation or examples are to be provided by the teacher." As such, the Court is deeply concerned that the Revised Curriculum violates Plaintiffs' free speech rights under the First Amendment, and believes that Plaintiffs' free speech allegations merit future and further investigation.

Now, I'm no lawyer, but this is ... clearly ... not real clear. I can take an "Oh, okay" interpretation, or I can take an "OMG" interpretation of it.

"Oh, okay" says this: there were materials in the teachers' resources that advocate a moral position regarding homosexuality -- they say it is not an evil thing, not a sin, just another normal way for people to be. Maybe the judge is saying that materials that explicitly advocate a moral position are only acceptable if the opposite moral position is also presented: the view of evangelical Christians that homosexuality is a sin, and is morally wrong.

If this is the case, then, well, MCPS removes any comments on the morality of homosexuality, and simply presents it as it is, objectively. Give the scientific terminology for it, some statistics perhaps on prevalence, and go ahead on. I mean, it is a fact that there are families with same-sex parents, that's not a moral judgment. So they simply take out anything that moralizes. (This is much better than adding the evangelist spin to the curriculum.)

The "OMG" interpretation is: any time a controversial topic is raised in a classroom, both sides have to be presented equally.

This could mean, for instance, that by law "intelligent design" would have to be taught alongside evolution. It would mean that the Ku Klux Klan's viewpoint would have to be taught alongside Martin Luther King's in History class. Read what the judge said:
The wisdom of approving a curriculum which prohibits students from discussing one viewpoint of a controversial subject goes to the very essence of that First Amendment faith. The merit of Plaintiffs' viewpoint — be it right, wrong, discriminatory, or just — is of no consequence. Rather, the Court is concerned with ensuring that Plaintiffs' free speech rights are not restricted merely because they voice an unpopular viewpoint. No matter the importance of an idea to its believers, or how objectionable it may be to its detractors, the diversity of our democratic fabric is sewn together by the belief that the path to freedom lies in the opportunity for rival positions to be equally heard and discussed.

He does not here seem to be addressing only moral imbalance, but any imbalance in "discussing one viewpoint of a controversial subject."

If this is the new standard for classroom discussions, then it means the destruction of American education. It means that for any fact that is taught in a classroom, all contradictory beliefs must also be taught. It means that the Flat Earth Society gets its ten minutes, along with everybody else, in Science class. It would mean that the Klan and the Black Panthers both get equal time when students learn about civil rights.

When the D.A.R.E. cop comes to school -- if what this judge says is taken literally -- the drug dealers should get equal time. Their opinion is "unpopular," but Judge Williams' judgment will make it necessary to include that unpopular opinion in the classroom. You're going to have anarchists in Government classes, Noah's Ark as well as How the Leopard Got His Spots in Biology, the Eco-Faeries will get to speak about what George Washington did to that cherry tree... I hope this is isn't what he meant, don't you?

It may be that the judge is responding to the "no additional information" clause only, and is concerned about prohibiting discussion. In that case, cool, I'm sure teachers will know how to handle situations when they come up. But his words are ambiguous enough to suggest that he may advocate presentation of all viewpoints, wacko and rational equally weighted, in the interest of protecting free speech.

The educational process, we hope, is one that leads students through the thicket of superstition and uninformed belief, along the path of reason and fact. Science is our society's guardian of the distinction between fact and superstition. Scientists are not all of one mind on any given topic, but some theories and some hypotheses have been eliminated by scientific consensus. Education should enlighten students, not expose them to every crackpot hallucination that anybody proposes.

The Background Resources: Fishback Explains

Yesterday there was some discussion about whether the stuff that the judge objected to was part of the curriculum at all. The conclusion was that the material wasn't actually part of the curriculum and never had been, but had never been removed as background resources. It's a rather complicated and subtle distinction, and it does appear that the judge himself thought that these materials would be presented to students or used in the classroom in some way.

The following is a statement by David Fishback, Chair of the Citizens Advisory Committee on Family Life and Human Development, regarding the inclusion of the background resources that Judge Williams objected to in his ruling. I hope this makes the issue somewhat clearer.
I now agree that the teacher background resource items which include assessments of the wisdom of different theological positions on homosexuality should be removed. As Chair of the Citizens Advisory Committee on Family Life and Human Development, which recommended the entire package of resources, I wish to explain what they are, and to report on why they were recommended.

Twenty-two teacher resource items were recommended to accompany the proposed revised curriculum. (None of the 22 resources were drafted by the Staff or the Committee; many -- but not the three cited by Judge Williams in his May 5 opinion -- were from groups like the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics). Three teacher resource items contained the language the court found objectionable. Specifically, Judge Williams objected to the same resources CRC objects with respect to the Establishment Clause issue: 8th Grade Items 11 (Pl. Exh. 3). and 15 (Pl. Exh. 5) and 10th Grade Item 5 (Pl. Exh. 6). CRC does not cite any other document in its Establishment Clause argument.

It is important to understand that the only substantive mention of religion in the entire pilot curriculum is found at p. 19 of the 8th Grade curriculum, as subheading IV.B. ("Possible Affects of Religious Beliefs" that "can affect relationships and marriage": "different religions take different stands on sexual behaviors and there are even different views among people of the same religion." (See http://www.teachthefacts.org/Grade8_Field_Test_Revised.pdf) That's it. There is nothing else touching on sex and religion in the entire curriculum.

If I had it to do over again, I would have urged the Committee to not recommend the three teacher resources that the plaintiffs in the lawsuit were able to use to get the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO).

I do want to explain, however, why items discussing particular religions' views on homosexuality were included in the background resource materials:

The three resources cited by Judge Williams were included as part of an effort to provide background information to the teachers on the proposition that there are differences among people of different faiths, and even within faiths, regarding sexual behavior. As I note above, the actual curriculum says only one thing about religion and sexual behaviors. The 8th Grade Pilot curriculum regarding "Possible effects of Religious Beliefs" on "relationships and marriage" states that "different religions take different stands on sexual behaviors and there are even different views among people of the same religion." The intent of the Committee was to include the resources to enable teachers to understand that the view often propagated in the public discourse that the only religious position on homosexual activity is to oppose it in all circumstances is factually incorrect. No consideration was ever given to putting the language that Judge Williams found objectionable in the actual curriculum.

The three items did not, I believe, misstate the various theological views of different denominations. But, as many have now pointed out, the items did express opinions on the wisdom of those views. That is why the Committee did not include that sort of language in the actual curriculum. In hindsight, I wish we had sought out different resources for that information. Given the very public discussion of this particular issue due to Judge Williams' opinion, the information provided in those resources on the diversity of religious views is probably no longer needed.

It appears to me that, given the short time Judge Williams had to make his decision on the TRO -- since the lawsuit was filed the week the piloting was to begin and the hearing and TRO occurred just two days later -- he may have not fully understood that the teacher resources are not part of the curriculum. He refers to the teacher resources as if they were part of the actual curriculum. But it may well be that no purpose would be served in fleshing out that possible misunderstanding through litigation. The point I wish to make is that the Citizens Advisory Committee and an incredibly dedicated (and overworked) MCPS health education staff did an enormous amount of work to implement the Board's wise November 2002 decision to develop curriculum revisions to include information on sexual orientation.

The Committee began its work on the revised curriculum at its October 2003 (following the draft recommendation from the MCPS staff, developed during the summer of 2003 by a writing committee that included me), and continued through May of 2004. The Committee meets once a month for two hours. We gave the curriculum an enormous amount of thought and discussion, and did the same regarding the teacher resources. I believe that we got just about everything right, except for some of the material in three of the 22 background teacher resources. I regret that we did not bat a thousand.

The purpose of piloting the program and in putting the proposed revised curriculum on the MCPS website was to get feedback on the efficacy of the proposals prior to the Board's decision as to whether to implement it for the school system. Indeed, that process enabled the Staff to make a wise administrative adjustment on one of the Myths and Facts elements, regarding the fact that fleeting same-sex attraction is not dispositive of sexual orientation. I am confident that this process will result in an improved health education curriculum that will serve our children well.

David Fishback

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Threatened, Gotta Cut Back

What is it like to be so cowardly that you have to threaten somebody's livelihood in order to make sure they don't express themselves on the Internet?

Where I work, there's no problem with using the computers to a moderate degree for personal business, and I am allowed more free time during the day than I spend on this. But who needs their boss getting calls from weirdos?

Some lovely person has emailed me, threatening to cause trouble for me at work if I post here during the day.

My personal life is not part of this, I keep quiet about myself. But let me say, besides raising two teenagers I do a lot of things during the day. I work in survey methods and am also a pioneer of sorts in a particular field of artificial intelligence. I manage a team of software developers, and stay up to date on technological stuff not only on the Internet but new hardware and software computing paradigms, programming techniques and statistical techniques. I publish in psychology and computer-science journals. I wrote a book about my research that sold quite well and Michael Crichton recently based one of his novels partly on my ideas (it wasn't the one about global warming). I play in a band, am learning Spanish, and can throw a knuckleball that you'll never hit.

I don't just sit at the computer wasting time playing with Blogger, in other words.

And here I am dealing with people who have to bring you down however they can.

OK, I won't blog in the daytime.

You ought to be ashamed of yourself.

--Sorry, this is more than I intended to say on the subject.

Background Resources Were Not Removed

I have been informed by David Fishback, chair of the Citizens Committee that developed the curriculum, that the sources quoted by Judge Williams in his memorandum are "background resources" which were not -- repeat, were not -- removed by MCPS.

Just to save confusion from my misinterpretation, here's what Mr. Fishback said in an email today:
Except where explicitly placed in the context of the curriculum (see the definitions section) none of the Teacher Resources listed in the November 9 report have ever been mentioned in the curriculum itself. None of the three items found objectionable by the court are referenced in the curriculum. There are other items listed as "key resources," but none of them are among the 22 from the CAC recommendation of November 2004. The MCPS staff did not remove any of the background teacher resources prior to the training and the anticipated piloting.

Hope that clears that up.

I considered removing the previous post, but I know the critics would have too much fun with that, and it did result in some interesting comments -- let's just say this post replaces the previous one.

Had Offensive Parts Already Been Removed?

Judge Williams ruled against the school district for two reasons. I'll address them in separate posts. The first reason was that the "Establishment clause" of the Constitution was violated. In a nutshell, that means that the curriculum appeared to promote one religion over another. You saw the stuff in the paper, taken from the CRC/PFOX complaint and the judge's memorandum opinion. The quotes badmouth Baptists and say that Quakers and Unitarians are more tolerant of homosexuality, and stuff.

One of the quotes that the judge cited was actually from the curriculum, and it is highly defensible. Nobody would've won any court case based on those statements, it lists some facts and supports them -- even though it promotes the idea that gay people are not freaks, it would not have justified blocking the whole curriculum.

The most offensive quotes that were used came from three different teachers' resources -- none of them were to be presented in class, but everyone on both sides agrees this kind of thing doesn't belong anywhere in a public school classroom. Teachers have the right to read on the side, but MCPS really shouldn't be promoting any specific religious beliefs.

But were they?

All the offensive quotes came from three documents. These were
  • A report from the Planned Parenthood of Edmonton, Canada, called Sexual Orientation Myths
  • A web site by the Family Pride Coalition called Myths and Facts
  • , and
  • A document that was picked up, I believe, from Maricopa County Community College, in Arizona, and which is no longer on the web, and which was also titled "Myths and Facts"
These three documents were listed as teachers' resources in the Board of Education's Novermber 9th, 2004, report, detailing the proposed new curriculum.

As we all remember, however, revised documents appeared on the MCPS web site in the middle of April. We the public don't know when they became policy, but those documents (which you can read, linked on the righthand side of this page, since MCPS has taken them down from their site) were the curriculum. They listed the resources that would be used in the pilot testing. These were sometimes given as sources of definitions, and some were listed at the end of the outline as "content resources" and "activity resources."

By this time, the middle of April, the offensive resources had all been removed from the curriculum documentation. None of the three titles listed above are referred to in either the 8th or 10th grade curriculum Teachers Editions.

I have two thoughts about this. First of all, I am amazed at a judicial system that lets some complaining parties wave a bunch of literature around, and tell the judge that these things are "in the curriculum," and he believes it simply on faith. I observe that neither of the two Teachers Editions seem to have been offered into evidence, at least by the plaintiffs.

Second, you gotta wonder, and I hate to keep bringing this up, but you gotta wonder what the MCPS lawyers were thinking. Did they even know what was in the curriculum? Were they sitting around reading law books, or did it occur to them to mention to the judge -- "These materials did seem offensive to us, Yer Honor, and so our guys took 'em out last month. The plaintiffs have no case."

Did it occur to them?

Do I sound pessimistic? --I believe in this curriculum, it is the right thing to do, and we at TeachTheFacts.org have put a lot of effort into supporting it. The question now is whether Montgomery County's school board has the ... whatever school administrators have ... to stand up for a curriculum that corrects a lot of wrongs and leads our kids to a better understanding of human sexuality, or whether they will cave in, with a whimper.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Still Amazing

This is still amazing. My email rings a little bell everytime I get an email message, and I get one every time somebody signs one of our petitions online. And all day, day after day since this went to court, my email is ringing at me. I can't count how many of these messages have come in... well, I could, but it would take a while.

Right when the ruling came, we suddenly got, like, ten really nasty emails from people all over the country. People calling us names, telling us why we were the scum of the earth. Quite intense. But even through that, the petition signatures kept coming in. And then the hate mail trailed off after a couple of days, but one .. after ... the ... other, regular as can be, people are showing their support for this curriculum in the face of this ugly stuff.

The petition can be reached by clicking on "take action" at the top of this page, in case you'd like to add your name to the effort.

They Want More, More, More

Just gotta comment quickly on this article in today's Times: Curriculum foes press sex-ed suit. See, it seems that the guys who won the lawsuit against MCPS are not satisfied with winning the 10-day injunction they asked for. They want more.

And, well, I don't blame them. Last night on the train I read through the judge's remarks. And basically he laughed at most of their arguments. I mean, c'mon, some of it actually was dumb, like that schoolchildren are going to turn gay and die of AIDS because of this curriculum, stuff like that.

He objected to material from three teachers' resources. These resources attempted to give teachers some background on religious perspectives on homosexuality, and though what they said sounded pretty accurate, it is a constitutional issue, I suppose, when public-school teachers read this stuff. Well, I guess they can read it, but the district should not recommend it, that is the consitutional issue.

So here's The Times:
Court proceedings for a lawsuit against Montgomery County public schools' new sex-education course will go forward today even though Superintendent Jerry D. Weast suspended the curriculum last week.

"We're not backing away from this. We're amenable to resolving this with the school district, but we're going to push forward on this issue," said Erik Stanley, chief counsel for Liberty Counsel, a Florida-based Christian law group representing the groups that filed the lawsuit.

U.S. District Court Alexander Williams Jr. today will set a date for an evidentiary hearing in the case, unless the school system requests an extension of the temporary restraining order that he issued against the course last week.

Judith S. Bresler, attorney for the school system, said yesterday she had not decided on a course of action.

Let me express myself as a Montgomery County taxpayer, parent, and guy who has busted his butt trying to see that this curriculum is implemented.

Dear Ms. Bresler,



I'm sure that was effective.
The lawsuit was filed by Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum (CRC) and Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX), who said they filed last week only after the school board refused to meet with them, despite numerous requests.

Look, the school board has no obligation to meet with this wacko group. If they meet with CRC, then TeachTheFacts ought to insist on being there, too. Why should these nuts get a private hearing for their bizarre views, when the majority of non-wacko Montgomery County parents sit home and hear about it on TV?
Mr. Stanley said the judge's temporary restraining order could expire if the lawsuit is dropped, and the school system could then implement the curriculum.

CRC and PFOX have said they will not be content if the school system scraps teachers' resource pamphlets that Judge Williams found fault with and implements the rest of the new curriculum.

Ah, so it's the old monkey-trap, right? Where the monkey sticks his hand in the jar, and grabs a handful of cookies, and he gets trapped because he doesn't want to let go of them. CRC/PFOX like this winnin' stuff. Wooh, they want more ... more ... more...
David Fishback, chairman of the citizens advisory committee that approved the curriculum materials, said all "the materials cited [in Judge Williams' decision] were in background teacher-resource materials, which are not part of the curriculum."

Mr. Stanley, however, said another problem with the curriculum is that it teaches that "homosexuality is innate."

"You cannot pick a side and say ... that is fact because that is scientifically not true. We have gone after that, and we will go after that," he said.
Right, how could anybody choose between what every mental health, counseling, and psychological association in the country says, and Jerry Falwell's lawyers? I mean, what do a bunch of professors and scientists know about science, anyway?
CRC spokesman Steve Fisher said: "Our position all along has been to scrap the whole thing and start over from scratch."

And therein lies the rub. The judge didn't tell them they could start over. He didn't like the religious references in the teachers' resources, thought the rest of their case was ridiculous.

I wait eagerly to see if MCPS' lawyers find a way to lose this one.

These Geniuses Don't Like Us

Ah, this is refeshing. Last week a federal judge ruled against the curriculum. It was a hasty thing, whatever, we lost.

I could be sitting around moping, I guess.

But how can anybody mope, when there's bright shiny stuff like this around? A blog, rather decently named Republicans and Conservatives for America, has decided that, well, they've decided they don't like us.

Ah, see? I feel better already.

Listen to the cheerful, thoughtful things they say:
Have you read the news? Homosexuality is perfectly normal. It's a fact. That is what the founders of "TellTheTruth.org" would have you believe. And the right wing, conservative agenda is preventing them from teaching it in our schools! Judge's Ruling Against Sex-Ed Program Grabs National Eye

Man, you gotta admit, these Republicans and Conservatives for America really do their homework, don't they? They even got our name ... uh ... did they mean us?

It becomes apparent that they did.
According to TellTheTruth.org… "Across the nation and in our own back yard, religious extremists are attempting to impose individual religious beliefs on all of our children, and to dictate what our children learn about themselves, their bodies, and about the people around them."

This quote was in response to a judge's order on Thursday evening to halt a new public school sex-education curriculum. These people are sick, no mincing words here. According to them it is their right to impose a sexually perverted and anti-religious doctrine on our children at an age when most of them still can’t keep their shoes tied for a full school day. Don't people of faith pay taxes like the pagans?

Woo-hoo! Republicans and Conservatives for America roll a perfect strike. All the pins are flyin' everywhere! Have another root beer, fellers. Us sick, anti-religious perverts are shamed -- shamed, I tell you! O, this is my worst moment.

In case you didn't come in through our home page, that quote appears over there, and has been there since probably last December. We (TellTheTruth.org) have an uncanny way of responding to things months before they happen. That's why we're all rich. We just invest in the market the way it's going to be in a few months, and then just sit around and wait, and then count all our money. This is s-o-o-o-o easy, I can't tell you.

I'll even admit -- I knew a long time ago that Republicans and Conservatives for America were not going to like me. Months ago, if you'd asked me, I could've told you.
"This has national significance because Montgomery County is a wealthy, influential school district and the lid has been ripped off an agenda that has crept into schools nationwide," said Robert Knight, director of the Culture & Family Institute, an affiliate of the conservative organization Concerned Women for America.

Yes, Robert Knight, we know him. We heard him speak. If you call it that.

He's quoted here because he's an expert, and a concerned woman, apparently.
This shows that parents, even in a very liberal area, can fight back and win," Knight added, noting that he knew of no other case in the country where a sex-ed program has been restrained by a federal judge."

I applaud the people of Montgomery County and thank them for their diligence. The concept of making this deviance a norm in today’s society (any more than has already become acceptable) must be quelled.
[Note: I am not responsible for the random placement of quotation marks. This is cut and pasted from the Republicans and Conservatives for America blog.]

OK, people, there it is: Republicans and Conservatives for America have issued their ultimatum. Making this deviance a norm in today's society (any more than has already become acceptable) must be quelled. Cuz, y'know? The amount that has already become acceptable is just about the right amount of deviance. Like, I think too much deviance can be a bad thing, don't you? But this amount ... perfect for Republicans and Conservatives for America.

--OK, hold it. One word. Some people are thinking this judge's ruling is the end of this. No, it's not -- it may be a learning experience for some of us, and especially I am hoping that MCPS' lawyers are staying up late going back over their notes and figuring out how they let this one get away from them.

We need to look carefully at the teacher resources, that is clear, and at any other thing that the extremists will find to pick at in order to advance their agenda. But this county ain't flippin' over quite that easy. And if these guys think they're going to dog-pack us to death with this inanity, they'd better think twice. Cuz we're gonna have a whole lotta fun before this game's over.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Curriculum Documents Posted

MCPS pulled the revised curriculum documents off the web as soon as the judge's ruling came out. I suppose this protected them in some way, but it did make the discussion much harder for the rest of us to discuss.

The curriculum itself was very innocuous. Yes, it introduced the concept of sexual variation, but it certainly didn't advocate anything or encourage anyone to do anything ... any of that crazy stuff some people have been saying. And you can look at the documents and see that.

People mostly gave up actually criticizng the curriculum as it was written a long time ago, and actual complaints died out almost entirely after the revised editions came out, which cleaned up some language that was too easily twisted by dirty-minded puritans. (Ah, that phrase does have a ring to it, doesn't it?) So the only thing left to do was to criticize the teachers' resources, which are not part of the classroom presentation. Those materials are for teachers to get up to speed on the topic, to read up on their own time. But people could find some controversial statements in them, so they were considered fair game, and were the basis of the lawsuit which was brought successfully by Ex-Recall and PFOX.

I have put the two curriculum documents online again, on our server. They are here:

As usual, our recommendation to people is to look at the documents. The judge ruled on the basis of stuff that students never see, which strikes me as strange. But some of his wording suggests that he had been misled to believe that students would, for instance, take a quiz on Myths and Facts, which was in fact not to be shown to them.

If you want to judge what's going on in Montgomery County's sex education curriculum, look at the actual curriculum, OK?

I am keeping the links up on the righthand side of the page permanently.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Oh Yeah, Most Significant Ever, Sure

These guys are s-o-o-o-o proud of themselves. Here's from Liberty Counsel's web site:
The Most Significant Curriculum Decision Ever Rendered
Yesterday's ruling by a Maryland federal court which blocked the entire homosexual sex education curriculum is the most significant curriculum decision ever rendered. This is the first successful federal constitutional challenge to such curriculum. In an article entitled "Future Shock" published in the pro-homosexual magazine, The Advocate, Patricia Warren once wrote: "Whoever captures the youth owns the future." Yesterday's decision snatched our youth out of the jaws of a radical homosexual agenda.

The emergency restraining order came just in time, since the curriculum was scheduled to begin today. We are thrilled with the judge's ruling, and we thank God that our children will not become mere human experiments of a radical sex education curriculum. The Most Significant Curriculum Decision Ever Rendered

... the most significant ruling ever??? A ten day temporary restraining order against a health class?

Wow, the history of the United States must really have been uneventful.

It's OK if they're happy about their victory in court. It was pretty clever, pretty sly -- they outsmarted the MCPS lawyers and fooled a federal judge, and they do have the right to gloat about that. But ... snatched our youth out of the jaws of a radical homosexual agenda? Uh, I don't think so.

Montgomery County, are you ready to give up? You gonna let Jerry Falwell's lawyers come up here and tell your school district not to teach about tolerance, not to teach about how to avoid pregnancy and sexual transmitted diseases? OK, just turn on the TV, lean back in the ol' Laz-E-Boy, and do nothing. These guys love making your decisions for you.

The Post Yesterday: Good Editorial

The Post yesterday ran an editorial that was excellent in both tone and content. Here it is:
THE DISPUTE over the proposed sex education curriculum in Montgomery County goes well beyond cucumbers and condoms: It involves where to strike the balance between encouraging abstinence and providing information about ways to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections; whether, when and how issues of homosexuality should be discussed in school health classes; and how far schools should go to accommodate the concerns of parents who disagree with what schools propose to teach their children.

We think most of the curriculum is suitable, especially given that parents must opt in before any student is exposed to it. But on Thursday a federal judge blocked the system from launching it in six schools as planned for next week, and Superintendent Jerry D. Weast then wisely chose to call the whole thing off for the rest of the school year. The delay gives school officials a chance to do more thorough review -- something you'd think they would have done by now, given the months of controversy. School officials need to remove some of the inappropriate "teacher resource" material accompanying the curriculum, particularly documents that praise some religious denominations and criticize others; it's no wonder some parents were upset about that. Though students don't see this material, it shouldn'thave been deemed acceptable as the basis for teachers to plan lessons, and it shouldn't have taken a court case for Mr. Weast to learn of it.

As to what students will see, the "Protect Yourself" video -- you can find it at http://www.recall montgomeryschoolboard.com -- seems to us to provide important facts about condom use and safety without encouraging sexual activity by the 10th-graders who will see it. The video begins and ends with clear messages that only abstinence can provide complete protection from pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection. As much as we'd hope that 10th-graders heed that message, we also know that many don't. For those who are sexually active, or may soon be, the video reinforces the importance of proper condom use.

The county's current approach to teaching about homosexuality amounts to the educational version of "don't ask, don't tell": Teachers can address the topic only if asked, and then only perfunctorily. But teens who know or suspect they are gay ought to have accurate information about what that means; other students ought to know that, whatever their own views about homosexuality, they should treat every individual with respect and tolerance. Some critics of the new curriculum are unhappy that eighth-graders are to be taught that same-sex parents are among the various kinds of families; we think that by that age most students know a lot more than that.

For parents who object, the fail-safe is a county policy that requires parents to sign permission slips for their children to attend the classes. They can opt out of all or part of the short (two weeks for eighth-graders, three weeks for 10th-graders) sessions, and the county provides alternatives, including an abstinence-only curriculum. With fixes, the new system would be an improvement that respects the right of some parents to dissent. Balance in Sex Education

What else can you say?

Tricky lawyers got the delay, conflating what's in the curriculum with what's not. Well, they really really want to win, and it doesn't matter if the judge understands the details of the situation or not, as long as America moves closer to being a Christian nation. And you gotta blame MCPS for not presenting the case, for letting the judge miss the distinction between resources that only teachers see and stuff that's taught in class.

MCPS will have to jettison some of the teachers resources, it sounds like. Make some adjustments, look it all over again, and let's get this thing rolling another time. Our kids are going to get the facts, they're going to learn to be tolerant and respect others who are different from them ... eventually.

It's just the right thing.

Demonstrating How They Did It

Here are some quotes from an interview with Steve Fisher, a spokesman for the Ex-Recall group, by Fox's Bill O'Reilly. This was conducted on May 4th, before the ruling.

Watch how he starts by nearly telling the truth about the teachers' resources, and then slides into lies.
FISHER: First of all, the changes was to introduce sexual identity and orientation discussions as early as eighth grade. We found some of the reference materials for the teachers were encouraging children to self-identify their sexual identity outside of their parents' instructions and purview, and independent of their family's values.

I have never seen any teachers' resources that "encourage children to self-identify" etc., and really, I doubt that a normal person would interpret any of them in this way. But let's give Steve credit here -- he does say "some of the reference materials." So he at least tells the truth about what he's lying about.
O'REILLY: OK, does that mean that the teachers were asking children if they were gay or straight?

Look, this is an important question. Teachers have no business asking students this kind of question, and the correct answer here is No.
FISHER: The teachers were encouraging children to look at sexual identity beyond their biological [nature], to something one of the resources said to your inner self as far as whether you think...

See what he's done? He started misrepresenting the teachers' resources, and now he's talking as if he meant the curriculum. "Teachers encouraging children" would occur in the classroom, but teachers know they are not to present the resources in class.

People, there is nothing in the curriculum that suggests that students need to even think about whether they themselves are gay or straight, much less tell anybody else.
O'REILLY: All right, so they were encouraging children to figure out if they were gay or straight?

Get this straight, I think O'Reilly is a pompous jerk. But at this moment he asked the right question. He allowed Steve Fisher of the Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum to either escape from his own web of deceit or state something that he knows is not true.

What does Fisher say?
FISHER: Right, in the classroom. And a lot of the parents are very much concerned that that's something they should... Block Sex Ed Classes in a Maryland County?

Fisher lies, big as the sky: Right, in the classroom. This is a lie. A big, fat lie.

Readers are encouraged to look at the curriculum: MCPS Health materials. Believe what you read, not what these guys tell you is in there.

Teachers' resources are an important part of the education process. Teachers don't automatically, intuitively know everything there is to know about sexual variations, and they might need to do some reading so they can anticipate students' questions and comments and understand the dynamics of the situation. Thus supporting documents are recommended by the school board. There are definitions of things that probably will never come up, and discussions of things that might never happen -- but the teacher will be prepared if they do. Some of the resources come from advocacy groups, some from professional organizations, some might just be book chapters or magazine articles that were especially insightful.

The MCPS documention specifically states that information in those resources is not to be shared with students. Yet CRC has repeatedly referred to the resources as if they were in the curriculum. They tricked a judge, and it looks like buffaloed Bill O'Reilly.

Here's their spokesman lying about it on national television. Oh, aren't they proud?

Friday, May 06, 2005

When Liberty Counsel Comes to Town

Liberty Counsel is the name of the legal out-of-towners who put up the defense for Ex-Recall and PFOX. I went to Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia that has grown to be larger than the Encyclopedia Britannica. Here's what they say:
Liberty Counsel is a legal organization dedicated to defense of religious freedom and traditional mainstream values against legal attacks. It is headed by attorney, Mathew Staver.

Some feel that Liberty Counsel is an organization intent on eroding the separation of church and state and they feel that Liberty Counsel considers religious freedom to mean the freedom of religion to dominate. Others also feel that the Liberty Counsel is only interested in furthering religious freedom as it pertains to Christianity.

The Liberty Counsel and their supporters, however, believe that "separation of church and state" is neither in the law of the United States, nor is it being interpreted correctly with context to the laws that do exist concerning religious freedom. They feel that the courts, by misinterpereting these laws, have been infringing on religious freedoms. Wikipedia

Looking around the Internet, you see just what kind of organization the CRC has invited to our town. The group is affiliated with the law school at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, in Lynchburg, Virginia. They were involved as consultants in the lawsuit to keep the Ten Commandments in the courtroom in Alabama, sued to stop same-sex marriages in Massachusetts, filed papers against a Florida abortion clinic, sued a public library that wouldn't allow religious meetings to be held in its conference rooms -- they were even involved in the ballot-counting in Florida during the 2000 Presidential elections.

Their web site lists topics they're interested or involved in, including:
  • Religious Freedom
    • Churches & Non-Profit Organizations
    • Creation & Evolution
    • Education & Schools
    • Employment Discrimination
    • International Human Rights
    • Parental Rights & Immunizations
    • Separation of Church & State
    • Ten Commandments

  • Sanctity of Human Life
    • Abortion
    • Cloning

  • Traditional Family
    • Marriage and Family Values
    • Same-Sex Adoption
    • Same-Sex Marriage

You get the picture.

Apparently it was a good idea bringing in these outsiders. They seem to have totally blindsided the local hicks, who were unprepared to point out to the judge that a series of statements introduced in court were not actually part of the curriculum at all. Who would've guessed that'd work?

Liberty Counsel exists simply, unabashedly, to ramrod the religious right's agenda down the throat of any community in the country where anyone dares defy them.

You see how it works.

A few comments

MCPS could remove those controversial materials, or could add even more materials to the teachers resources, but I would like to remind everyone that:

1. The lawyers from MCPS failed to make a case of separating Teacher Resources from
the actual curriculum taught to the kids, and then the Judge failed to see that
difference, and of course, CRC's lawyers were not to make it clear;

2. What CRC(Recall) actually objects to is not Teachers resources, but the fact that the curriculum does not say that homosexuality is a risk, a sin, and a disease; and that the curriculum "fails" to point out that;

3. The other thing they are against is the teaching of condom use. Period. They cite CDCs when its convenient, but the line about "You should use a condom for vaginal, anal and oral sex" is literally a quote from many, many CDC, NIH, and other government, and health sites... But they just want abstinence taught,which is well and good -and in fact taught - but I disagree on an abstinence only approach. In fact, now CRC (Recall) says the old curriculum is PERFECT, but the video "Hope is not a method" in the old curriculum says EXACTLY the same thing about using condoms for all three types of sex. This is all manipulation to scare.

4. I went to that hateful meeting, and what was going on there had nothing to do with the curriculum, and all to do what the so-called "homosexual agenda."

5. They couldn't get the majority of the REAL PARENTS of MCPS to reject the curriculum, and opt their kids out, and when they realized that the battle wouldn't be won in the real arena of MCPS, they needed to go to court backed by the very right wing who would wage any battle in this so called culture war.

6. The pilot for the video was conducted already, and passed without any trouble, they are using it now to help foster their cause. And Weast, like if the video was produced yesterday morning, now suspends its use... Really, it's a very sad position for the school system when they can not even defend their own way of doing business, or support its method of researching and adding materials to the curricula.

I guess we should keep sight of what's the real dimension of this, because the next time it would be evolution, and MCPS would say, "well, let's review more carefully the data available about evolution. Let's halt its teaching for the time being."

Also, I would like to quote directly from the Court, because it also adds to my point of this battle not been won on the merits of the curriculum. As per the court order, once they can figure out the First Amendment issue, then they will have to live with the part of the curriculum that they dislike the most:

Plaintiffs also argue that increased health risks to students once they receive the "pro-gay" message of Defendants constitute irreparable harm. This Court cannot agree. Plaintiffs' argue that homosexual sex is more dangerous than heterosexual sex, and that students at MPCS will be more likely to engage in homosexual sex if presented with the Revised Curriculum. Plaintiffs cite numerous studies demonstrating that gay men are in the highest risk groups for various sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS, HPV, Syphilis, and Chlamydia. Plaintiffs also argue that homosexuals are more likely to have promiscuous,group, or otherwise "deviant" sex with multiple partners.

At the outset, the Court questions the reliability of the studies to which plaintiffs cite, at least one of which was performed in the 1970s. The Court is well-aware that studies on the health risks of a homosexual lifestyle are numerous and, in many cases, contradictory. Indeed, as Defendants point out, many studies conclude that lesbians are in one of the lowest risk groups for a variety of STDs, including
HIV/AIDS. Moreover, the harm that Plaintiffs posit is highly speculative and attenuated. It would require more than a few logical leaps for this Court to find that MPCS students presented with the Revised Curriculum would suddenly choose to engage in promiscuous, unprotected, homosexual sex - adhering to the Revised Curriculum's message of gay tolerance but somehow overlooking the even more forceful
message of safe sex within the confines of a monogamous relationship. This is not the type of "actual and imminent" harm sufficient to demonstrate irreparable injury for the purposes of a temporary restraining order.

For the above-stated reasons, the Court finds irreparable harm to Plaintiffs on the basis of potential restrictions to their First Amendment liberties.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

The Citizen Committee Chair's Statement

Here's the statement by David Fishback, the chair of the Citizens Advisory Committee on Family Life and Human Development, which developed the curriculum:
Once an evidentiary hearing is held, I am confident that the Court will see that the First Amendment Establishment Clause concerns expressed in its memorandum opinion are not at all warranted. Nothing cited by the Court as raising potential Establishment Clause problems is in the proposed revised curriculum; rather, the materials cited were in background teacher resource materials which are NOT part of the curriculum

The plaintiff organizations waited nearly six months from the time the Board made its decision last November to present to the Court and the Board nearly 80 pages of dense legal materials and factual assertions, prepared by out-of-state attorneys whose only mission is to propagate a particular point of view, just days before the piloting was to begin, leaving the Board less than 48 hours to respond. Fortunately, our legal system will enable the Board to fully respond and demonstrate that the curriculum, which essentially does nothing more than state basic facts about sexual orientation as understood by every mainstream American medical and mental health professional association, does not violate the
Constitution's wise mandate to separate church and state.

In the meantime, I would encourage all interested people to go to Items 10 and 11 on the MCPS Health Education Website (http://www.mcps.k12.md.us/curriculum/health/)which sets forth the entire curriculum.

David Fishback, Chair
Citizens Advisory Committee on Family Life and Human Development

OK, the judge made a hurried decision, as he had to, now it's time to sift through the evidence and see what's what.

Our American system of checks and balances relies on a judicial system that is ultimately human, and vulnerable to all the weaknesses that humans are vulnerable to. But in the long run, our liberties are protected, our rights are secured, and mostly the good guys win. Not always, but usually. It's a good system, and I trust that it will move along in a way that best serves us, the public, in this instance.

Wow -- What a Day

First, I sat in the car and listened to our Chris face off with a CRC rep on a talk-radio show. Man, she was great, it was terrific. She represented our case perfectly well, and didn't let that "conservative" host interrupt or spin it his way without a battle on his hands.

Then this afternoon we learned that the judge ruled in CRC/PFOX's favor. Ten day temporary restraining order. I'm pretty sure that with a little time to understand what's what -- and by that I mean what's actually in the curriculum and what's only in the teachers' resources -- we'll see a positive outcome. But the old "if you can't dazzle 'em with brilliance" approach worked this time, in the short run.

Right after that news broke I got a call at work that my fourteen year old son has been taken in an ambulance to the hospital with a head injury... turns out not to be life-threatening, not even close really -- the kind of thing that only a 14-year-old can do. Somehow he fell down, tripping on his shoe, in such a way that, well, he bled all over the place, needed stitches and crutches, and ... aah, he'll live. But when you get that call, you don't know.

Then I come home and check my email. And wow!

I can't even count how many people signed our petitions today! Man oh man, we try to send thank-you's to all of them, and I see that CillyGoose is trying her hardest, but she's barely keeping up.

Also, it seems that NPR had a story today on the MCPS sex-curriculum controversy, and man did we get a lot of nice letters from that! People want to send us money, fer cryin' out loud! They say Thank you thank you thank you... so nice to open my email and discover that. Also a whole bunch of people want to join up with us.

To all of you, we shout a big ol' "Thank you!"

Hold Granted

Early word is that the judge did grant a ten-day hold on the sex-ed curriculum. Pilot testing was supposed to start tomorrow in six schools, but apparently it'll be put off a couple of weeks.

See how it is with those those liberal activist judges? -- They're never there when you need one.


I think I'm starting to understand the logic of this lawsuit. Check it out.

Here's The Times quoting Ex-Recall's lawyer:
The lawsuit says the curriculum violates students' free speech rights and the First Amendment protection against the establishment of religion.

"Part of free speech is the right to remain silent," Mr. Garza said, adding that students who opt out of the course will be assumed to have religious objections or be "ex-gay" by their peers.

"It's unconstitutional to force people to declare their religious beliefs or their sexual orientation," he said. "If you're a Catholic, if you're a fundamentalist Christian, if you're a Muslim or a Jew, you gotta go down the hall." Parents file suit to stop sex-ed
Getting up and leaving health class when they teach about sex is a violation of your freedom of speech, because it's really forcing you to say "I used to be gay." Well, it could force you to say, "I'm Catholic." What I meant was, it forces you to say, "I'm a fundamentalist Christian." Or, maybe, it forces you to say, "I'm a Muslim or a Jew." [Note to those who don't see the obvious: it doesn't force anyone to make any concrete statement at all.]

These people want to live in a world where people can be moral jellyfish, where they are able to force other people to listen to junk rather than reveal their own beliefs.

This is a kind of anti-martyrdom: rather than suffering for their devotion to their God, they argue that they would suffer from trying to hide their faith.

And they're going into court with this? The hearing is today. Let's see how far this thing gets.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005


PFOX says that the new curriculum is "is discriminatory because it does not allow ex-gays to present their viewpoints." (WashPost)

Now, let me think about this ... was gay ... not-gay...


Are they saying the new curriculum discriminates against straight people???

-- What a wild and wacky world we live in.

Living in a Two-Paper Town: Post Scoops Times

Yesterday the Ex-Recall group filed a lawsuit. We knew they were going to do it, we knew several days ahead of time what was up, when they planned to do it, some few details about it -- I mean, c'mon, it's a small world, people blabber. The Washington Post knew it by press time Monday night.

But The Times missed the story.

As much as The Times, Washington's conservative paper, has followed this story, and as much as CRC has romanced that newspaper -- when the rubber hits the road, who do they call with the scoop?

The Post.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

What Their Lawyer Says

We don't know yet what's actually contained in the lawsuit filed by Ex-Recall and PFOX today, or if they even filed it. But here's a clue -- let me draw your attention to a news story on a site called TownHall.com. This news site seems to have the inside track, they talked to somebody from Liberty Counsel, the lawyers who are representing Ex-Recall and PFOX in their lawsuit. I'm going to edit here, to keep it brief, but you gotta see this...
[Liberty Counsel's president and general counsel Mathew D.] Staver says the Montgomery County curriculum is "inaccurate and unashamedly hostile to certain Christian views."

Liberty Counsel offers the following examples from the instruction booklet:
  • "Fact: Sex play with friends of the same gender is not uncommon during early adolescence and does not prove long-term sexual orientation;"
  • "It is no more abnormal or sick to be homosexual than to be left-handed;"
  • "Heterosexual parents are consistently not found to be more loving or caring than gay parents;"
  • "Jesus said absolutely nothing at all about homosexuality;"
  • "Religion has often been misused to justify hatred and oppression;"
  • "One's sexual and emotional orientations are fixed at an early age -- certainly by age five;"
  • "Human sexuality is a continuum;"
  • "Many homophobic responses are born out of a fear that one's own sexual orientation may not be entirely heterosexual;"
  • "[A]bstinence until marriage" is detrimental to "GLBT youth;"
  • "It is perfectly natural to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, and/or transgender."
According to the Liberty Counsel, the sex-ed curriculum mentions that "fundamentalists" and "evangelicals" may think they can overcome same-sex attraction, and therefore, it says questioning students should be referred to "sensitive clergy" to "reconcile their religious beliefs."

The curriculum never refers to husband and wife, the Liberty Counsel said. Instead, family is defined as "two or more people who are joined together by emotional feelings or who are related to one another."

One video features a high school girl using a cucumber to show how a condom is used.

The plaintiffs say the curriculum promotes dangerous sexual activity without any discussion of its health risks, such as diseases associated with homosexual behavior.

Said Staver, "When sexually transmitted diseases are epidemic in some portions of the country, especially among same-sex behavior, it is inconceivable that a school board would promote such activity without presenting any associated medical risk." ... Lawsuit Seeks to Block 'Radical Homosexual Sex-Ed Curriculum'

The instruction booklet? We don't know about any "instruction booklet," other than the instruction booklet for teachers, called the "Teachers' Editions" of the curriculum.

Now, just for the exercise, go to those Teachers Editions. Click here for the actual HEALTH CURRICULUM DOCUMENTS, and see -- just see -- if you can find a single one of those things in either the 8th or 10th grade curriculum (Items Number 10 and 11 on that web page).

Unbelievable what people will say to get their way. Just unbelievable.

MCPS Rule on Parents Attending Sex-Ed Classes

There has been some confusion about the MCPS policy regarding letting parents "sit in" on sex-ed classes. Yesterday The Times reported that parents would not be allowed to attend the classes. (Link: Parents can't sit in on sex-ed classes) Bloggers and opinionators on the extreme righthand side of the aisle went wild over that one, chanting "What are you trying to hide?"

Today's Times has a different story. They say that the school district changed their minds, but the district says there was a misunderstanding. Either way, it turns out that parents can attend the classes -- but they can only attend their own kids' classes.
Montgomery County Public Schools spokesman said yesterday that the district will not bar parents from sitting in on a sex-ed course that begins this week, and that they never intended to.

"Parents of kids in those classes will be allowed [in]," said spokesman Brian Edwards, contradicting statements he made days before to The Washington Times.

In a phone interview Friday, Mr. Edwards, who has been with the school district since November, said "no" when asked whether parents would be allowed to audit the sex-ed classes. Schools reverse sex-ed policy.

The irony here comes in several layers. First of all, you have to actually be the parent of an MCPS student to attend the sex-ed classes and monitor what's going on -- and the Ex-Recall group is not made up mostly of public school parents. Secondly, and most delicious -- if they opt their children out of the curriculum, as they promise to do, they'll never get to see what secret mysteries are taught behind the closed doors of those classrooms! Mwahahaha! They'll just hate that!

Well, hey, I've got an idea. They can burn up even more taxpayers' dollars by filing another lawsuit, so they can attend any class they want, whenever they want, to make sure the rest of us live up to a sufficiently high moral standard.

Lots of Petitions Signed Today

Every time somebody signs one of our petitions online, an email gets forwarded to me, and my computer dings. You gotta know, this morning it's been dinging like crazy. Thanks to all of you who are uniting to oppose the CRC's attempt to undermine Montgomery County values.

If you want to sign the petition online, go to Teach the Facts ACTION Page.

Thanks to you all -- Keep up the good fight
Jim (and all of us at TeachTheFacts.org)

Ex-Recall, ex-Gays Plan to Sue Today

They said they weren't going to sue, but ... they just hate it when they don't get their way. From The Post:
Suit Planned Over Sex-Ed Program in Montgomery

Two groups angered that Montgomery County public schools' new health curriculum includes a video demonstration on how to put on a condom and discussions about homosexuality say they expect to file a lawsuit in U.S. District Court today to block the lessons from being taught in Maryland's largest public school system.

John Garza, vice president of Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum, said his group -- along with Virginia-based Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays -- is seeking a temporary injunction to block teaching of the new program, which is being piloted in six Montgomery County schools this month and will be expanded to all schools next year.

"We tried to put off this as long as possible," said Steve Fisher, spokesman for Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum. "We were so hoping that our own school system would talk to us about our valid concerns. They should have sat down with us instead of ignoring us, but apparently the Board of Education is going to move forward."

Fisher said his group was formed in December to protest what it believes are inappropriate and unbalanced additions to the curriculum. He said the new program fails to stress abstinence, and he said discussions about homosexuality at the eighth-grade level are one-sided.

Montgomery County educators said the curriculum changes were necessary to help students protect themselves from the dangers of unprotected sexual activity. Suit Planned Over Sex-Ed Program in Montgomery

There's more. Follow the link.

Now it gets interesting. Bringing in out-of-town hatemeisters didn't do anything. Disrupting the health presentations didn't stop it. Sending crazy lying letters to parents didn't do anything. Threatening the school board didn't stop it. Thousands of bogus petition signatures ... nada. So what's left? Go to court.

How long will it be before we hear CRC -- better known as "Ex-Recall" -- chanting that popoular mantra about "liberal activist judges?" Before the end of the day? What do you think? We'll see.

Monday, May 02, 2005

CRC's Lying Letter

[Note: due to a Blogger crash, this post was unavailble for a while]

People, this is unbelievable. We got a copy of the letter that Ex-Recall is sending to families at the schools that are pilot-testing the sex-ed curriculum.

I'm sorry, but I don't have words for how reprehensible this letter is. I will include it in its entirety, and then comment afterwards.
Dear Tilden Middle School Parent:

Your child will be taught sexual variations (homosexuality, transgenderism, bi-sexuality) as part of the new Montgomery county sex education curriculum being piloted in your school this spring for 8th graders. Unfortunately, though the board of education (BOE) was tasked with introducing material to help teachers define homosexuality in response to children's questions, the new pilot curriculum does not define sexual variations -- it defends and advocates sexual variations.

Here are some specific examples of areas that are especially disturbing:
  • Health professionals believe that transgenderism is a gender identity disorder. However the new curriculum does not state this. The curriculum instead teaches children that their gender identity is not based on their anatomy. The new 8th grade curriculum defines "Gender Identity: a person's internal sense of knowing whether he or she is male or female."
  • While encouraging children to determine their sexual identity -- heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual -- all material from the CDC (Center for Disease Control) that discusses the health risks of homosexual behaviors was excluded. That is irresponsible.
  • The new curriculum includes resources about sexual variations that: (1.)encourages confused and impressionable youth to self-identify as homosexual, (2.)recommends that schools establish unisex bathrooms to transgender students [transgenderism is a recognized gender identity disorder], (3.) urges teachers to refer students to non-mainstream religions that do not view homosexuality as a sin, (4.) defines 'heterosexism' as "promoting heterosexuality as superior".
  • the 10th grade condom video narrator states "Remember to us a condom for oral, anal, and vaginal sex." The condom manufacturers state on the package that condoms are not recommended for anal sex and the Surgeon General has stated "Anal sex is simply too dangerous to practice", however, these facts were not included. Clips from the video may be viewed on our web site. An infectious disease doctor was appalled at the video. Her article to the Gazette on this video is also listed on our web site.

CRC is an organization of parents and citizens very disturbed by the lack of balance in the new curriculum, and we have organized to take action. Please visit our web site www.mcpscurriculum.com so we can track the percentage of students opting out.

Best Regards,

The Parents and Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum (CRC)

OK. Catch your breath, take a bath, have a drink, whatever you have to do.

Explain this to me: "Your child will be taught sexual variations." Yes, it's a sex ed course, they'll be learning about sex. Not everybody is the same. They'll be taught about sexual variations. About.

The idea that the curriculum "defends and advocates sexual variations" is, I suppose, a matter of perspective. The curriculum does not say that all homosexuals will roast in hell, and that may be taken as advocacy. The curriculum simply teaches that sexual variation exists.

This statement: Health professionals believe that transgenderism is a gender identity disorder -- is simply incorrect. There are many causes of transgenderism, including chromosome abnormalities, unusual patterns of hormone activity, etc. These are physiological, and are not a form of personality disorder. Now, there is a DSM disgnosis of "gender identity disorder," where a person believes themselves to be the "wrong sex," and where that belief causes them "clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning." The DSM-IV says, The diagnosis is not made if the individual has a concurrent physical intersex condition (e.g., androgen insensitivity syndrome or congenital adrenal hyperplasia).... The diagnosis is also not made in cases where the person is not under stress because of the belief -- a guy who thinks he's really a woman, and who feels fine about that, is not suffering from "gender identity disorder." Why would CRC want you to believe that transgendered persons, including those with congenital physiological conditions, are "suffering" from a disorder?

The second point is silly. There is a section of the health curriculum on sexually transmitted diseases. It isn't in the sex-ed section because it's already covered. They're assuming you won't know that.

Items listed under the third bullet seem to be simply made up. Pure fiction. The curriculum does not encourage children to determine whether they're gay or straight -- that is a total fabrication, and the writers of this letter must know that. And there's nothing in the curriculum about unisex bathrooms, of all things! No students are referred to any religion, no matter what the feeling about homosexuality, and finally the word "heterosexism" doesn't appear in the curriculum at all -- anywhere!

One doctor may have been appalled. Others weren't. This is not much of a criticism of an entire curriculum.

These people -- notice they are careful never to describe themselves as "parents", always "parents and citizens" -- say they want balance. Teachthefacts.org does not agree that objectivity needs to be balanced with bigotry, or that facts need to be balanced with lies.

[Edited for accuracy 4:19 PM]

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Response to Ex-Recall Letter: Very Good

The Ex-Recall group apparently sent letters to everyone at Tilden Middle School -- one of the pilot schools for the eighth-grade curriculum -- warning them about the curriculum and encouraging them to oppose it. We don't have the original letter, well, we assume it's kind of like the other "literature" that's been sent out. The President of Tilden's PTSA responded by sending an email to the Tilden Yahoo group. I think it's good -- here it is:
To: [Tilden listserve]
From: [Susan Wyderco]
Date: Sat, 30 Apr 2005 22:26:59 -0000
Subject: [tilden] Changes to health curriculum

I and other members of the Tilden community have received a letter addressed to "Parents of [my child's name]" from a group calling itself "Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum." This letter purports to warn parents of an impending change to the health curriculum that, the letter states, "defends and advocates sexual variations."

Coincidentally, just last Friday I had the opportunity to examine the two hour health curriculum information that the letter claims to describe. I participated in a focus group with two school professionals, two eighth graders, and another parent. We reviewed carefully the exact information that will be presented to some eighth graders in a pilot program that will be offered later this school year. (Participation in the pilot is entirely voluntary.)

In my opinion, the letter we have received badly mis-states the information that is included in the new component of the curriculum. The new curriculum defines words (such as homosexuality) that our children encounter on a daily basis. It provides factual information in an appropriate and non-sensational manner. It does not "defend and advocate sexual variations." The curriculum, and the total health curriculum in general, strongly advocates abstinence from sexual relations.

I urge you not to come to any conclusions about the new component of the health curriculum on the basis of this letter (or, indeed, merely upon my description of it.) Your children deserve for you to first examine the curriculum before deciding whether it is appropriate or not.

Should you decide that the new curriculum contains information that is inappropriate for your child, the school system makes it easy for you to have your child "opt-out" of participating. That has been the case in the past with portions of the health curriculum which deal with issues touching upon human sexuality; it is true with this portion of the curriculum as well.

Susan Wyderko
PTSA President

Yes, there is that problem: CRC says one thing, the facts are something different. Each parent has the option of deciding for themselves whether to believe the Ex-Recall group, or what their lyin' eyes tell 'em. Oddly, it seems like some people are going to believe their own eyes.

There is a link to the curriculum materials on the right-hand side of this page. I say, click on the link, scroll down the page, look at the 8th and 10th-grade course outlines. See anything you can't stand? ... I didn't either.

[Thanks to Susan Wyderko for permission to reproduce her letter here]