Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Sex ed debate shifts to group's rights in cyberspace

From, by Sean R. Sedam
People visiting may expect to find the site for a group supporting the health curriculum recently approved by the Montgomery County school board.

What they get instead is a link to the site of Citizens for Responsible Curriculum, a group opposed to the new curriculum.

In November, the board approved a video for 10th-graders demonstrating the proper way to put on a condom and the inclusion of a discussion of sexual orientation in eighth- and 10th-grade health classes.

The group supporting the board's decision is Citizens for Responsible Curriculum operates a site at mcpscurriculum.
com and recently created a link to that site at

The move may further muddy the waters in a debate between two groups that both claim to want the same thing: health courses that teach students mainstream, scientifically accurate information about sex. But read the rival Web sites and you realize that the groups disagree on what is mainstream and accurate.

At first the link to the CRC site at seemed trivial, said David Fishback, who heads the school system's Citizens Advisory Committee for Family Life and Human Development, which recommended the new curriculum.

Then, Fishback said, he thought about the campaign for Maryland's 8th Congressional District seat last year, in which Republican challenger Charles R. "Chuck" Floyd created a Web site -- -- lampooning incumbent Democrat Christopher Van Hollen Jr. The Floyd-created site claimed that Van Hollen supported "mood arousal and sexual risk taking" and a "study of the sexual habits of older men." (Turns out Van Hollen supported a National Institutes of Health-backed study of mood arousal and sexual risk taking, intended to develop intervention efforts that prevented said risk taking.)

It is a common practice for organizations to buy up similar domain names to protect their own sites or to head off competition from rivals.

"Those Internet guys, they look at getting all different kinds of ways to maximize exposure," said Steve Fisher, who handles media and public relations for CRC.

But Fishback sees the move by CRC as going a step too far, he said.

"To link that to a different Web site that has a totally different point of view, in light of what went on with Chuck Floyd and the Chris Van Hollen campaign, I thought that might be something you wanted to be made aware of," he told The Gazette.

Christine Grewell, a co-founder, criticized CRC's tactics.

"I live here in Montgomery County where we have well-educated people, where we pride ourselves on being able to have open and honest discourse," she said. "So I was a bit disappointed when I heard about their, shall we say, childish behavior."

Fisher said CRC organizers have encouraged supporters to keep the discourse civil.

"We told them, 'Do not engage in tit for tat,'" he said. "The blogosphere can get very nasty."

Fisher said the group cautioned its members against taking after a group from another recent campaign.

"Don't get into these verbal exchanges like the Swift Boat people," he said.


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