Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Improper Solicitation and Use of MCCPTA Resources

The following letter to "Jack Machado", cc'd to MCPS Superintendent Dr. Jerry Weast, and Victor Salazar of the Montgomery County Council of PTAs (MCCPTA), was forwarded to TeachTheFacts.org by Lawrence Eiser:
Lawrence Eiser

December 15, 2004

Jack Machado
"Concerned parent in Montgomery County"
P.O. Box 5303
Laytonsville, MD 20882

RE: Your Improper Solicitation and Use of MCCPTA Resources

Dear Mr. Machado:

My wife, Ruthann Eiser, in her capacity as President of Glenallan
Elementary School PTA, received today in her school PTA mailbox a
letter, apparently sent by you from the above address, soliciting her
time and attention to your group's cause and admonishing her to use
her school's PTA resources to further solicit parents on behalf of
your cause. Your letter encloses two "handouts – one that could be
handed directly to parents, and one that could possibly be sent with
students to bring home to their parents." The letter emphasizes that
"time is of the essence" and admonishes my wife that compliance with
your demand to leaflet her school community on behalf of your
organization is required in "fulfilling your crucial job." She
brought the matter to my attention in my role as MCCPTA Cluster
Coordinator for her school.

The enclosed leaflets urge school parents to get information about
recent modifications to the Montgomery County Public Schools health
curriculum by going to two websites, www.mcpscurriculum.com, and
www.recallmontgomeryschoolboard.com. The leaflets further contain
vague and out-of-context quotes transparently designed to inject fear
and fundamentalism into consideration of an issue, our children's
understanding of human biology, that desperately needs the best
rationality of all concerned.

As you suggested, my wife and I have reviewed all of the written
material at the websites. Further, we read the stories published in
last week's Gazette about your CRC organization, including quotes from
its president, Michelle Turner, challenging the integrity of the
advisory panel process because it did not exclude members of the
Unitarian religion or parents of gays. She summed up your group's
views as follows: "We don't mind them teaching some amount of
tolerance (for homosexuals). We just don't want them teaching that
it's normal."

Having read all that you asked me to read, I find that the ideas you
and your group share and the cause you advance to be abhorrent. The
MCPS curriculum revision is made as part of a routine revision and
update, and has been going on for more than a year. It is based on
the best available educational research and led by highly qualified
educators and parents who have made persistent invitations to all
members of the public to join the advisory panel. We are still in the
midst of that process as the revised curriculum is piloted in the
coming year at a few select schools for evaluation and assessment. It
is and has been a very responsible process based on sound educational
research and parent input. You and your group, on the other hand,
enter the discussion under the radical and hostile banner "Recall the
Montgomery County School Board." Your written materials, predictably,
practice contorted demagoguery in furtherance of an unpleasant agenda.
You smear together out-of-context and/or untrue assertions with
bigotry (whether Biblically-based or not).in assertions so wildly
absurd that one couldn't have a rational discussion about them.
Everybody in the discussion sounds like a fool. You're apparent goal
is to change the MCPS health curriculum so that it is aligned with
your view that students must be taught, as Ms. Turner insists, that
homosexuality and homosexuals are less than normal. Which, of course,
leads us all down the path of figuring out what's the proper way for
us to treat members of this less-than-normal minority group. Then we
can move on to the next group that you find "not normal."

Your written material cites to Christian scripture to support its
view that homosexuality must be stigmatized. I disagree with your
conclusion, and I base my disagreement not just on the rational facts
available, but on religious grounds. I find your ideas and actions
not only wrongheaded, but deeply immoral, and certainly contrary to
the teachings of Jesus (though, to be sure, not Paul and others).

You are doing what I think is the work of the devil in our world --
the devil that sows unnecessary divisions in the human family. You
are a strand of a long thread that runs through human history, one
that says we must loathe and strike out against those who, some
fearmonger says, are different -- the "other." I don't have to list
history's tyrants who are the ancestors of your cause. It's all of
them. And they cause all the damn trouble.

By the look of your website, the obviously substantial financial
resources your group already has, and the speed with which your cause
is moving, I strongly suspect this effort of yours is not a
spontaneous uprising by a small group of local parents. Rather, this
is a fight that some national organization goes around the country
picking in various communities, mostly so they can raise money and
keep the fight going. And now you've come here. Oh great.

Or perhaps it's just you, Jack. But I don't think so, "Mr. Concerned
parent" who doesn't give a street address. The directory doesn't have
a "Jack Machado" in Laytonsville, MD, so, I guess I don't even know
who I am addressing. Probably some Pat Robertson wannabe who didn't
want to leave fingerprints.

Anyway, whoever you are, you have really screwed up big time right
off the bat here. For you to be using MCCPTA resources to solicit my
wife in her role as PTA president for your ignorant cause is improper.
For you to then admonish her to further consume the good offices of
the MCCPTA (and its credibility) by leafleting your religious material
to parents and inserting it in student backpacks is solicitation to
illegal conduct. You cannot use MCCPTA resources for your religious
prosletyzing! You cannot ask all PTA presidents to use MCCPTA
resources to advance the cause of your religious prosletyizing! This
is a violation of the foundational compact of the MCCPTA with the
parent community. Indeed, MCPS just completed a wrenching review of
its policy regarding access to student backpacks. Religious
solicitations like yours are clearly prohibited from the backpacks as
an unconstitutional entangling of church and state. Clearly Ms.
Turner, the president of your group, is aware of this policy.

I ask that you and CRC cease in this unlawful and wrongful conduct

I will be consulting a lawyer to review this matter. I further will
forward a copy of this letter to Dr. Weast so that his office and its
lawyers are aware of the situation. Finally, I will forward a copy to
Victor Salazar, Vice President of MCCPTA, and reluctantly ask him to
spend the resources necessary to advise every PTA President (and
others) who may have received this improper solicitation to refrain
from accepting its invitation to violate MCCPTA bylaws, MCPS rules,
and the U.S. Constitution. Rather, they should retain the letter as
evidence in the not unlikely event of future litigation.

Lawrence Eiser

cc (via email): Dr. Jerry Weast
Victor Salazar, MCCPTA