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.