Thursday, March 17, 2005


The following was written by David Fishback, chairman of the MCPS Board of Education's Citizens Advisory Committee on Family Life and Human Development, and published in yesterday morning's Gazette. Unfortunately, the online version is a little scrambled -- here is Fishback's letter in its entirety.
In the last several months, the group Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum (formerly known as Recall Montgomery School Board) made a number of false or misleading statements about the Board of Education's decision to pilot curriculum revisions, including basic facts on sexual orientation, in its Family Life and Human Sexuality unit of eighth- and 10th-grade health education classes, a unit that students may take only if parents give their permission.

I think it appropriate to respond to two of those statements reported by The Gazette ("Sex ed lessons to debut at six schools," March 9 story).

First, the group's organizer, Michelle Turner -- who serves with me on the board's Citizens Advisory Committee on Family Life and Human Development (CAC), which reviewed and recommended the proposed revisions -- states that the curriculum violates state law because state law confines teaching such matters to high schools.

Section 13A.04.18.03 B(3) of the Code of Maryland Regulations governs these matters. As a CAC member, Ms. Turner was given a copy of that section of the code. That section explicitly states that material on "sexual variations" may be offered "at the middle school or high school level or both." People can read it for themselves at http://www.mcps. k12. intro.htm (Item No. 8).

Second, Ms. Turner asserts that CAC "rejected scientific, peer- reviewed material that ran contrary to their 'politically correct' mindset." In fact, most of the materials to which she refers dealt with sexually transmitted diseases, not sexual orientation, and were not recommended for inclusion as teacher resource materials in the Family Life and Human Sexuality unit of the curriculum because similar materials were already included as teacher resources for the curriculum's sexually transmitted infections unit. It would have been redundant. Notably, those rejected materials dealt only with same-sex transmission of sexually transmitted infections, not heterosexual transmission, and it was clear to the majority of the committee that the materials had been offered solely for the purpose of stigmatizing gay people.

The other articles offered by Ms. Turner's allies as teacher resources from peer-reviewed publications were either irrelevant, excerpts taken out of context to suggest something the author did not intend, or contained epidemiological conclusions based on self- selected samples and without control groups -- defects that, according to a medical and epidemiological professional on the CAC, made the articles of dubious value.

In fact, the proposed revisions in the Family Life and Human Sexuality unit -- which do nothing more than present some basic definitions, a brief discussion of stereotyping, and a few myths and facts about sexual orientation -- are based upon the conclusions of every American mainstream medical and mental health professional association, namely, that homosexuality is not an illness, and that most experts do not believe it is a choice. This is something that Ms. Turner and her allies repeatedly ignore in their public attacks on the Board of Education and the majority of the CAC.

A public discussion of the proposed curriculum revisions is certainly appropriate. People may read it for themselves at http://www.mcps.k12. (Item No. 4). There may well be improvements that could be made in the proposed revisions. But a reasoned discussion, worthy of the traditions of Montgomery County, is made more difficult when a group like the CRC misstates or misrepresents the facts.

David Fishback, Olney

The writer is chairman of the Board of Education's Citizens Advisory Committee on Family Life and Human Development.


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