Thursday, May 12, 2005

The Background Resources: Fishback Explains

Yesterday there was some discussion about whether the stuff that the judge objected to was part of the curriculum at all. The conclusion was that the material wasn't actually part of the curriculum and never had been, but had never been removed as background resources. It's a rather complicated and subtle distinction, and it does appear that the judge himself thought that these materials would be presented to students or used in the classroom in some way.

The following is a statement by David Fishback, Chair of the Citizens Advisory Committee on Family Life and Human Development, regarding the inclusion of the background resources that Judge Williams objected to in his ruling. I hope this makes the issue somewhat clearer.
I now agree that the teacher background resource items which include assessments of the wisdom of different theological positions on homosexuality should be removed. As Chair of the Citizens Advisory Committee on Family Life and Human Development, which recommended the entire package of resources, I wish to explain what they are, and to report on why they were recommended.

Twenty-two teacher resource items were recommended to accompany the proposed revised curriculum. (None of the 22 resources were drafted by the Staff or the Committee; many -- but not the three cited by Judge Williams in his May 5 opinion -- were from groups like the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics). Three teacher resource items contained the language the court found objectionable. Specifically, Judge Williams objected to the same resources CRC objects with respect to the Establishment Clause issue: 8th Grade Items 11 (Pl. Exh. 3). and 15 (Pl. Exh. 5) and 10th Grade Item 5 (Pl. Exh. 6). CRC does not cite any other document in its Establishment Clause argument.

It is important to understand that the only substantive mention of religion in the entire pilot curriculum is found at p. 19 of the 8th Grade curriculum, as subheading IV.B. ("Possible Affects of Religious Beliefs" that "can affect relationships and marriage": "different religions take different stands on sexual behaviors and there are even different views among people of the same religion." (See That's it. There is nothing else touching on sex and religion in the entire curriculum.

If I had it to do over again, I would have urged the Committee to not recommend the three teacher resources that the plaintiffs in the lawsuit were able to use to get the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO).

I do want to explain, however, why items discussing particular religions' views on homosexuality were included in the background resource materials:

The three resources cited by Judge Williams were included as part of an effort to provide background information to the teachers on the proposition that there are differences among people of different faiths, and even within faiths, regarding sexual behavior. As I note above, the actual curriculum says only one thing about religion and sexual behaviors. The 8th Grade Pilot curriculum regarding "Possible effects of Religious Beliefs" on "relationships and marriage" states that "different religions take different stands on sexual behaviors and there are even different views among people of the same religion." The intent of the Committee was to include the resources to enable teachers to understand that the view often propagated in the public discourse that the only religious position on homosexual activity is to oppose it in all circumstances is factually incorrect. No consideration was ever given to putting the language that Judge Williams found objectionable in the actual curriculum.

The three items did not, I believe, misstate the various theological views of different denominations. But, as many have now pointed out, the items did express opinions on the wisdom of those views. That is why the Committee did not include that sort of language in the actual curriculum. In hindsight, I wish we had sought out different resources for that information. Given the very public discussion of this particular issue due to Judge Williams' opinion, the information provided in those resources on the diversity of religious views is probably no longer needed.

It appears to me that, given the short time Judge Williams had to make his decision on the TRO -- since the lawsuit was filed the week the piloting was to begin and the hearing and TRO occurred just two days later -- he may have not fully understood that the teacher resources are not part of the curriculum. He refers to the teacher resources as if they were part of the actual curriculum. But it may well be that no purpose would be served in fleshing out that possible misunderstanding through litigation. The point I wish to make is that the Citizens Advisory Committee and an incredibly dedicated (and overworked) MCPS health education staff did an enormous amount of work to implement the Board's wise November 2002 decision to develop curriculum revisions to include information on sexual orientation.

The Committee began its work on the revised curriculum at its October 2003 (following the draft recommendation from the MCPS staff, developed during the summer of 2003 by a writing committee that included me), and continued through May of 2004. The Committee meets once a month for two hours. We gave the curriculum an enormous amount of thought and discussion, and did the same regarding the teacher resources. I believe that we got just about everything right, except for some of the material in three of the 22 background teacher resources. I regret that we did not bat a thousand.

The purpose of piloting the program and in putting the proposed revised curriculum on the MCPS website was to get feedback on the efficacy of the proposals prior to the Board's decision as to whether to implement it for the school system. Indeed, that process enabled the Staff to make a wise administrative adjustment on one of the Myths and Facts elements, regarding the fact that fleeting same-sex attraction is not dispositive of sexual orientation. I am confident that this process will result in an improved health education curriculum that will serve our children well.

David Fishback


Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, in other words, he should have listened to CRC when they first objected to the material instead of forcing it into federal court. Yeesh.

May 12, 2005 1:25 PM  
Blogger Kay2898 said...

"Gleeful, RxRecall CRC member.."
now you know that "he" was not in charge for all. It was by majoritive vote of CAC that the materials were in there in the first place.

Let's be real.....this court case is far from over by any means. Appeals may be flying.

ExRecall (CRC) claimed they jumped in on the PFOX lawsuit at last minute claiming they were "forced to do it." Meaning we did not get our way so now we will make BOE do our bidding.

Not true on any level as ExRecall (CRC) had been talking lawsuit as far back as January, etc..and beating the bushes for parental/children plaintiffs. They already knew Liberty Counsel was to be involved as attorneys.

That was surely "NOT LAST MINUTE."
For ExRecall (CRC) and its
president to portray
it as such is a public lie feed to the public.

Kay R.

May 15, 2005 12:47 PM  

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