February 18, 2006

Montgomery County (MD) Institutes Unilateral R-Rated Movie Ban

Posted by Amanda Toering
December 19, 2005 @ 2:03 pm
Filed under: Obscene!, Schools, Montgomery County

The Montgomery County, Maryland, school district — perhaps best known for its litigious row over sex ed curriculum — has adopted a policy that bans all R-rated movies from high schools and all PG-13-rated movies from middle schools. Many schools across the country require students to obtain parental permission before viewing classic movies such as “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” or “Romeo and Juliet.”

Some teachers and parents have qualms about the new policy.

From the local Gazette:

Teachers wonder if the regulations are going too far by banning films that have long had a place in their classes.

‘‘A lot of films we are used to showing are going to be pulled from the shelves,” said Blum, who heads the English department at Quince Orchard. ‘‘… [These are] films we’ve shown for years that met other regulations that were in effect.”

Administrators say the changes stem from a routine review of regulations by the school system’s leadership team, which meets every other week.

The team comprises the three deputy superintendents, five associate superintendents, six community superintendents, three union presidents and other senior staff members including the superintendent’s chief of staff and the director of the Public Information Office.

Policy on evaluating and selecting textbooks, library books, films and other instructional materials is set by the school board. The leadership team sets the rules that make up ‘‘the nuts and bolts” of the policy, explained Brian K. Edwards, county schools spokesman.

‘‘The leadership team did not feel that it was necessary to show R-rated movies as part of the instructional program,” he said.

The old regulations asked teachers to consider ‘‘grade appropriateness” in evaluating whether a film was appropriate for their students.

‘‘We’re not looking for any list of videos,” said Jody Leleck, associate superintendent for curriculum and instructional programs. ‘‘We’re just giving schools guidance.”

Leleck compared using videos to going on field trips.

‘‘I always, as a principal, questioned the use of videos,” she said. ‘‘What value is it adding to instruction? What’s the link to the curriculum?”

The Baltimore Sun opinion editors also express discomfort with the wholesale censorship of movies that might challenge students’ minds.

By any standard, Schindler’s List is a terrific film. It’s a moving account of Oskar Schindler’s efforts to save Jews from Auschwitz by employing them in his factory. Critics have lauded it as the finest movie ever made about the Holocaust. The American Film Institute named it as one of the top 10 films of all time. But you won’t find Montgomery County high school seniors watching it in class.

That’s because they can’t. Schindler’s List is rated R. And under a new policy, high schools can’t show R-rated movies, nor can middle schools show any movie rated PG-13. Not if it’s a classic like Schindler’s List. Not if a teacher decides it would enhance a lesson. Not even if all the parents in the county signed permission slips saying it’s perfectly fine by them.

Such a policy defies common sense. And when it’s imposed by Montgomery County Public Schools, one of Maryland’s most progressive and well-regarded systems, it seems all the more foolish. What’s next? Is Macbeth out? Othello? Hamlet? All great plays by William Shakespeare - and all made into movies rated R.

School administrators say their decision was not in reaction to any criticism, but a concern that movies should only be used when appropriate - and that means age-appropriate, too. While we share that concern (lesson plans in June’s waning days are notorious for their DVD content), why make it absolute? Surely, teachers can recognize when a movie has educational value - and when permission slips should be sent home.

This isn’t the first time classroom content has come under scrutiny in Montgomery County. The system was sued over its sex education curriculum, which it subsequently withdrew last spring. A spokesman says the decisions over movies and sex ed are unrelated, though it’s not hard to imagine the lawsuit having a chilling effect.

But that’s when we rely on our public schools to stand up for educational principles. The distance between banning classic movies and banning classic books is not long. In school systems across the country, John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men is one of the most frequently banned classics, but not in Montgomery County — unless, of course, it’s the 1992 version starring John Malkovich and Gary Sinise. That movie was rated R.




“Homosexual Agenda,” Or Full Breadth of Information?

Posted by Amanda Toering
December 9, 2005 @ 11:34 am
Filed under: Schools, Montgomery County

The Montgomery County (MD) sex ed battles are heating up again. This time, the reactionary right is rallying its troops over the prospect of The Gay Thing being acknowledged in classrooms.

From the Washington Post:

The e-mail that landed in mailboxes throughout Montgomery County was provocative:

“DID YOU KNOW . . . . ‘’ it read in big, bold type. “Three organizations supporting homosexuality as natural and mainstream were appointed to the NEW Citizens Advisory Committee?” and “Homosexual advocacy groups are targeting Montgomery County children and families?”

On one hand, the missive, sent out last month by members of Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum (CRC), was just the latest in a series of skirmishes between the parents group and Montgomery County public schools. But the note — advertising a CRC workshop — also shows how educators’ efforts to talk more frankly about homosexuality are raising alarm among those who believe such topics are taboo in U.S. classrooms.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the threat of AIDS and concerns about sexually transmitted diseases forced educators to grapple with the controversial question of whether to distribute condoms to teens. Today, it is homosexuality fueling the debate, as more school systems show a willingness to go beyond a cursory discussion of what it means to be gay, to allow students to form gay/straight alliance clubs and to make accommodations that allow same-sex couples to attend school dances. The battle, both sides say, is likely to intensify.

“It is the new flashpoint,'’ said Jeffrey Moran, chairman of the history department at the University of Kansas and author of a book that chronicles the history of sex education in the United States. “Homosexuality has played a big role in the resurgence of attacks on sex education.'’

For groups that endorse self-described traditional values when it comes to education, such as Liberty Counsel, which has worked closely with CRC in its fight against the Montgomery public school system, and the Alliance Defense Fund, the mention of homosexuality invokes charges that advocacy groups are using the schoolhouse to push a “homosexual agenda” on children.

“It’s an adult-driven agenda to indoctrinate students,'’ said Mike Johnson, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund. “The schools have become kind of a ground zero on the homosexual agenda.”

Added Michelle Turner, president of CRC: “Why does the school system believe it’s up to them to tell kids [homosexuality] is natural or the same as heterosexuality? Why are schools not promoting religious tolerance?”

Groups such as the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), which founded a national Day of Silence — in which students remain silent for an entire day to demonstrate what they call the silencing of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people — say their goal is not “indoctrination” but rather promoting a safe environment in which all students feel welcome and accepted.

“We do believe that in this country our schools should be places where all people are valued and respected,”‘ said Eliza Byard, deputy executive director for GLSEN. “To the extent that folks say we have an agenda, there it is.”

The article continues. Read the rest in the WaPo.




Montgomery-County-Sex-Ed-Debate-Revisited, Revisited

Posted by Amanda Toering
October 28, 2005 @ 1:44 pm
Filed under: Right Watch, Schools, Montgomery County

The politically motivated factions who stirred up a controversy over sex ed in Montgomery County, MD, really need another hobby.

Here’s your refresher course in the Montgomery County brouhaha.

The latest snafu: Political group Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum is considering a lawsuit against the school board. Their argument goes something like this: “Waaaaah, we wanted one of our political representatives to be on the curriculum approval board, but you won’t let us! Mommy!!”

To be fair, CRC was promised a seat as part of an earlier settlement over curriculum that they previously took to court. However, the CRC ignored the school board’s request for three nominees to the board. The provided only one — and she’s ineligible.

And now, they’re threatening a suit.

Boo hoo.

From the Washington Post:

The day after the Montgomery County school board appointed a new advisory board to consult with educators on revisions to the school system’s sex education curriculum, it appears that board members could be facing a new legal challenge.

Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum said it is considering legal action against the school board for violating terms of an agreement that granted it and another group one seat each on the 15-member advisory panel.

Michelle Turner says Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum will not submit another name. The group’s one nominee is not considered eligible.

Board members last night declined to appoint to the panel a representative from Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum, but they did name one from Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays despite a dispute with the two groups over the nomination process.

Board members had been slated to make appointments to the Citizens Advisory Committee on Family Life and Human Development on Oct. 11, but they delayed action to allow the groups more time to meet conditions laid out by the board.

Under the guidelines, community groups seeking a seat on the panel were required to submit three names to the board. The applicants had to be Montgomery residents who had not previously served on the committee.

The groups submitted only one name each.

Last night, board President Patricia O’Neill (Bethesda-Chevy Chase) said the board had reconsidered that requirement and approved the Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays representative. However, she said members would not fill the other group’s seat.

The group’s nominee, Henrietta Brown, is not considered eligible by the board because she has already served on the committee.

Michelle Turner, president of Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum, said the group will not submit another name.

Meanwhile, a similar battle is brewing in Sioux Falls, SD, and the local Catholic diocese has gotten involved.




Schools Struggle with How Much Gay Is Too Much Gay?

Posted by Amanda Toering
September 20, 2005 @ 11:48 am
Filed under: Schools, Montgomery County

From Alternet:

It seemed like a great idea. Earlier this year, as they looked for ways to fill the final issues of their award-winning school newspaper, The Kernal, student journalists at California’s East Bakersfield High School came up with what they thought was a winner — a series on LGBTQ issues. The articles would focus on the high school’s LGBTQ students and their individual coming-out stories. They’d give voice to a part of the student body that was rarely heard from before, and hopefully encourage discussion, debate, and acceptance.

A great idea, but there was just one problem — the school principal. East Bakersfield’s administrative leader refused to allow the stories to be published, and in so doing, joined a growing army of educators, parents, politicians, and others trying to keep “homosexuality” out of public schools.

[…]

The situation at East Bakersfield High is just one example of how LGBTQ voices are being silenced in schools across the country. In other cases, anti-gay groups and individuals in Montgomery County, MD, have called for the removal of information about sexual orientation from sex-education curricula in county schools. At White County High School in Cleveland, GA, students were prevented from forming a gay-straight alliance. Elsewhere, in states ranging from California to Oklahoma to Wisconsin, groups have tried to ban books by LGBTQ authors or with LGBTQ content from school and public libraries. And, as they’re attempting to do at East Bakersfield, they’ve prevented school papers from publishing stories about LGBTQ issues.

A Result of Ignorance

Schools’ attempts to forbid gay-straight alliances have been especially forceful. School officials in Cleveland, GA, for example, even tried to ban all after-school clubs in order to prevent White County High School’s gay-straight alliance from forming.

Students like 17-year-old Talia Stein, now an intern at the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), which works to end LGBTQ student harassment, think the backlash is a result of ignorance and fear.

“When people hear ‘gay,’ they block out the rest and they don’t hear the ’straight’ part of the alliance,” says Talia. “They just assume the club is teaching sex, that we’re turning people gay, and they never try to find out what is actually going on in the club, which is simply education and advocacy around this specific issue.”

Read the rest.

Meanwhile, a couple in Lebanon, PA, are urging their local school board to dissolve a high school’s gay/straight alliance.

Why?

Because gayness makes God so angry that he had to go and make a Hurricane Katrina.




Behind the Scenes in Montgomery County

Posted by Amanda Toering
August 18, 2005 @ 9:28 am
Filed under: Right Watch, Montgomery County

The Nation has published an in-depth history of the Montgomery County, MD, sex ed debate. In the article, The Nation takes issue with local papers’ representations of anti-gay groups PFOX and Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum as “community groups.” Nation journalist Liliana Segura delves deeper into the backgrounds of the two right-wing groups.

Days before the new curriculum was to enter classrooms, the CRC, joined by a Virginia-based group called Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX), sued the school board. The central charge: “endorsing a homosexual lifestyle.”

In a stunning ruling on May 5 (the day before classes were to begin), a federal judge sided with the plaintiffs, invoking their First Amendment rights and writing, “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.” A restraining order was placed on the curriculum. The Florida-based religious nonprofit — and Jerry Falwell brainchild — Liberty Council, which provided pro bono legal representation for the lawsuit, called the ruling “the most significant curriculum decision ever rendered.”

[…]

Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum was founded by Michelle Turner, a born-again Christian and mother of six — as well as a former member of the Citizen’s Advisory Committee who voted against the final version of the curriculum, largely because of its take on homosexuality. (”Our bodies are not meant or created to be used in that way,” she recently told the Washington Post.) In December Turner organized a local meeting unsubtly titled “Recall Montgomery Schoolboard.” The strident right-wing atmosphere surprised Christine Grewell, a local mother and now leader of an opposition group called Teach the Facts. “We came out of there thinking, ‘Here come Dobson and Falwell,’” she recalls, “and damned if we weren’t right.”

Soon thereafter, Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum was born. The group scheduled meetings, started a petition and launched a website. CRC’s innocuous name and catchy tag line, “Safe Schools, Safe Students,” helps obscure the group’s ideology. Not only does it blast the curriculum’s “forceful advocating [of a] pro-gay agenda”; a blog, written by multiple authors, includes everything from potshots at Hillary Clinton to references to Massachusetts’s “diversity police state.” A prominently displayed question: “What is wrong with the new Curriculum?” appears on the homepage. The number-one grievance: It “normalizes homosexuality and presents it as natural and a morally correct lifestyle.”

The battle over sex ed in schools is spreading. Read more about the granddaddy of them all in The Nation.




Race for Sex Ed Board Heats Up in Montgomery County

Posted by Amanda Toering
July 15, 2005 @ 10:12 am
Filed under: Schools, Montgomery County

We told you a few days ago about the attempts of interest groups to secure a seat on Montgomery County’s (MD) new sex ed curriculum review board.

Today the Washington Post elaborates.

The hottest ticket in town apparently isn’t to a performance at Strathmore. Instead, there’s a scramble for a seat on the newly reconstituted citizen advisory committee that will work with Montgomery County public officials on the rewrite of the health education curriculum.

Board President Patricia O’Neill (District 3-Bethesda) said she’s already been the target of aggressive lobbying by interest groups and community members seeking a spot at the table. As you might recall, the board dissolved the advisory committee in May as part of an effort to get a fresh start on curriculum revisions. But because membership on the committee has been halved — from 30 to 15 members — many groups are jockeying for a seat.

[…]

The board will make its final decision at an evening meeting July 27. Expect a full house and a lot of action.




Groups Vie for Seats on Montgomery County Sex Ed Review Board

Posted by Amanda Toering
July 13, 2005 @ 10:35 am
Filed under: Schools, Montgomery County

After an organized protest by the Right and a legal battle that was finally settle out of court, Montgomery County (MD) is trying to assemble its sex ed curriculum review board.

Just one problem. Who gets to be on it?

The lawsuit settlement gives two of the seats to Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX) and the Committee for a Responsible Curriculum, the plaintiffs in the suit. Two additional seats will be reserved for high school students. The settlement also prohibits the appointment of anyone who served on the county’s previous review board, which was disbanded in May.

That leaves eight at-large seats up-for-grabs. And they’re off….

“Groups such as Maryland [National Abortion Rights Action League] and Planned Parenthood really do represent the views of the majority of Montgomery County residents,” Madeleine Greenwald, a member of the disbanded committee, told the board last week. “… Making sure the voices of those who support comprehensive, medically accurate sexuality education for our students are heard can only be ensured by including at least one reproductive health representative on the committee.”

Board member Stephen N. Abrams (Dist. 2) of Rockville pushed for a committee whose majority was not preordained.

“The question is do you want a panel of experts on your advisory committee? Or do you want a panel of citizens, much like the board members, who’s going to react to the material in a manner of a rational, common man, not as an interested party?” he said.

Weast said the school system “will not be writing a curriculum that will encompass every single viewpoint out there because that one, would be impossible and two, would not fit into two 45-minute lessons.”

In the Gazette.




Montgomery County School District Reaches Sex Deal

Posted by Amanda Toering
June 28, 2005 @ 9:21 am
Filed under: Schools, Montgomery County

You remember good ol’ Montgomery County, don’t you? They tried to teach their kids about the birds and the bees, but two groups called Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum and Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays sued? And then a judge struck down the curriculum for being insensitive to certain religious groups? Coming back to you?

After the judge nixed the lesson plan, the district and the plaintiffs settled out of court. Negotiations have been ongoing. This week, the school board reached a compromise on next year’s sex ed curriculum, and it’s not all good news for the Right.

Teachers will not be prevented from discussing homosexuality with kids. However, references in teachers’ manuals to homo-hatred among certain religious groups (we’re looking at you, Baptists) will be removed. The school district will not be required to include the stories of “ex-gays” in the curriculum.

“We’re very happy that the board pulled the other curriculum that we challenged, but we wished we could have gotten more,” said Rena Lindevaldsen, senior litigator with the Liberty Counsel, a Florida-based legal and education nonprofit group that argued on behalf of the two groups. Lindevaldsen said they had hoped to get assurances from the school system that the ex-gay viewpoint would be reflected in the curriculum and that the program would do more to address the health risks associated with homosexuality. But she said the school system would not agree. Still, she said, she felt the agreement included important procedural commitments that would ensure that parents are given adequate notice about the revised curriculum’s content and are able to see all teacher resource materials that will be used.

On the other hand, the settlement stipulates that two representatives from the plaintiffs’ groups will maintain positions on the district’s curriculum review board. (If that isn’t politically hinky, what is?)

Also as part of the settlement, the school district is required to pay the plaintiffs’ legal fees.

From the Washington Post.




Washington Times Columnist Gives Thumbs-Up to Sex Ed Thumbs-Down

Posted by Amanda Toering
June 3, 2005 @ 10:43 am
Filed under: Opinion, Montgomery County

Washington Times op-ed columnist Diana West is really, really glad that the Montgomery County sex ed curriculum has been blocked.

Good thing the Montgomery County School Board’s sex education pilot-plan in Maryland was so flagrantly in violation of the First Amendment that a federal district judge just had to hand down a restraining order last month, or else maybe turn in his gavel forever.

[…]

With the sex-ed plan’s legal route blocked, the school board ditched the whole thing for now, along with the citizens committee that waved it through in the first place, despite all those flapping, red flags.

There were two really big ones. Judge Alexander Williams Jr. called one “viewpoint discrimination” because, as he wrote, the new curriculum for 10th-graders was supposed to teach that “homosexuality is a natural and morally correct lifestyle — to the exclusion of other perspectives.” Also outrageous was the way the curriculum promoted certain religions to the exclusion of others. In touting “the moral rightness of the homosexual lifestyle,” the judge wrote, the curriculum suggested that “the Baptist Church’s position on homosexuality is theologically flawed,” and reminiscent of the racial prejudice of the segregation era. At the same time, the curriculum applauded Reform Jews, Unitarians and Quakers for promoting an activist homosexual political agenda. If you’re wondering when religious prejudice or favoritism became a subject fit for the public schools to preach — I mean, teach — the answer is never. And that’s what the court ruled.

Lost in the City, Washington Times.




Sex Ed Debate Continues

Posted by Amanda Toering
June 3, 2005 @ 9:44 am
Filed under: Schools, Montgomery County

Following a recent lawsuit in Montgomery County, MD, the debate over how to teach the about birds and the bees — and whether to teach about the bees and the bees — is spreading. Fairfax and Prince George counties (VA) have entered the fray.

The debate in Montgomery County has already inspired some parents in Fairfax County, Va., to form their own version of Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum — a Maryland group that opposed the revised sex education program — to protest their board’s approval of pamphlets on emergency contraception, as reported in the Washington Times.

Prince George’s County is also updating its curriculum, a process that began months ago. Its sex education program includes discussions of homosexuality.

Richard Cohen of Parents & Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays said he is watching the situations in Prince George’s County and Fairfax closely.

Cohen says his group will try to make sure that the curriculum includes information on the other kind of coming out — “coming out of homosexuality.”

“Let it be known,” Cohen says, “PFOX is on the move.”

The Washington Blade has the scoop.




Montgomery County, MD, Officially Scraps Sex Ed Plan

Posted by Amanda Toering
May 24, 2005 @ 9:57 am
Filed under: Schools, Montgomery County

The Montgomery County, MD, school board voted yesterday to abandon the health ed curriculum that had landed it in hot water with the right. (Previous stories.)

Gone from the curriculum will be materials that imply homosexuality is a biological trait, excluding viewpoints of those who believe same-sex attraction can be overcome.

Also dropped was a seven-minute video that was to be shown to 10th graders, in which a woman puts a condom on a cucumber to demonstrate its use.

The school system is still involved in settlement talks with Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum and Parents and Friends of ex-Gays, plaintiffs in the lawsuit to halt the spread of gay birds and bees.

From the Guardian.




Behind the Scenes of the Montgomery County Sex Ed Debate

Posted by Amanda Toering
May 19, 2005 @ 12:28 pm
Filed under: Schools, Montgomery County

The Washington Post has a story about a mother who was extensively involved in the Montgomery County, MD, sex ed curriculum debate.

Michelle Turner is a devoutly religious mother with four kids in the Montgomery County schools. She and her husband have created a set of rules for their kids that is admirable within their home.

But did Michelle Turner take the battle too far and impose those rules on the 140,000 other students enrolled in the county’s schools?

Washington Post comes close to addressing the issue, but doesn’t. You be the judge.

“Montgomery Mother’s Stand On Sex-Ed Begins at Home,” WaPo.




Sex-Ed Ed

Posted by Amanda Toering
May 17, 2005 @ 11:40 am
Filed under: Right Watch, Schools, Montgomery County

TownHall columnist John Leo criticizes the critics of the critics of the Montgomery County, MD, sex ed curriculum that recently made a stink.

Recap: Schools in Montgomery County were set to introduce a health ed curriculum that, among other things, addressed homosexuality and gender identity. The Liberty Counsel, representing Parents and Friends of ex-Gays (PFOX) and Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum, sued. Among their complaints, material in the teachers’ guides of the curriculum, including:

– “Fact: Most experts in the field have concluded that sexual orientation is not a choice;”

– “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;”

– “Religion has often been misused to justify hatred and oppression;”

– “Human sexuality is a continuum;”

The superintendent of schools pulled the curriculum because of the controversy. The Liberty Counsel pressed on, and a federal judge issued an injunction against package, stating that it presented a one-sided view of homosexuality and was biased against certain religious beliefs.

Back to John Leo.

Leo takes the curriculum’s advocates to task for — well, for just about everything.

Even apart from church-state entanglement, the Montgomery curriculum is out of line in dismissing moral claims as myths. On what basis can a state institution tell parents and children that their morality is faulty? In dealing with homosexuality, the job of the school is to teach tolerance, not to disparage traditional views. Gays are our neighbors and should be treated with respect. Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum, one of two local groups opposing the curriculum, makes this point clearly. “Teaching respect for persons with same-sex attraction is appropriate and right,” the group says.

“But demanding affirmation of a homosexual orientation and behavior goes beyond the ethic of tolerance.” The curriculum does in fact teach approval of homosexuality. Understandably, gays want that approval, but it can’t be imposed by state schools.

Read Leo’s widely syndicated column in its entirety at TownHall.com.

And in other news, activists in Fairfax County, VA, are using the Montgomery County case as a model to challenge their schools’ sex ed curriculum.

At issue there are pamphlets that address emergency contraception and that “belittle” abstinence. This from the Washington Times.




Judge Puts Hold on Maryland Sex Ed Curriculum

Posted by Amanda Toering
May 11, 2005 @ 11:20 am
Filed under: Obscene!, Schools, Montgomery County

A federal judge has imposed an injunction against a Montgomery County, MD, curriculum package that addressed homosexuality. The judge sided with plaintiffs, the Liberty Counsel and Parents and Friends of ex-Gays, saying that the curriculum was unfairly biased against their religious beliefs.

Said Judge Alexander Williams, a Clinton appointee, “It seems to me we are not neutral but more tilted toward a particular view, a sensitivity toward the view of gays and lesbians. Everybody knows that Montgomery County is the largest school system in the state, and they have to be the pace-setter. … I have some reservations about the balance and neutrality of this policy.”

From Maryland’s Gazette.




Conservative Groups Seek to Ban Sex-Ed Curriculum Addressing Gay Issues

Posted by Amanda Toering
May 3, 2005 @ 9:11 am
Filed under: Right Watch, Book Bans, Schools, Montgomery County

A storm is brewing in Montgomery County, Maryland, over health ed curriculum that would address gay issues.

The Liberty Counsel, an Orlando-based legal aid group for religious causes, has filed suit on behalf of “Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum” and PFOX, or “Parents and Friends of Gays and Ex-Gays.”

“The school board has been captured by radical homosexual advocacy groups whose only agenda is to promote their political goals without respect to the consequences,” said Mathew D. Staver, Liberty Counsel’s president and general counsel (reported at Bozell’s Cybercast News Service).

Liberty Counsel offers the following examples from the instruction booklet:

– “Fact: Most experts in the field have concluded that sexual orientation is not a choice;”

– “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.”

Bozell’s report neglects to note, however, that the county’s health curriculum coordinator has already removed some references from the curriculum that evangelicals found offensive. Russell Henke scrubbed the reference to same-sex sex play (bullet #2, above), and he also removed a notice in a curriculum guide that said students would be “discussing sexual identity” during the course of the class.

According to the Washington Blade, “Henke said the changes, which were voted on in November and recently announced during parent meetings, are ‘minor’ and not anti-gay.”

An interesting side note: Citizens for Responsible Curriculum, one of the plaintiffs seeking an injunction against the curriculum, first made a splash by protesting a video shown in Montgomery County. A woman in the video uses a cucumber to teach kids how to properly use a condom.

Though they may find the imagery scandalous, they prominently feature it on the front page of their website.