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.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

And.... what?

May 25, 2005 9:56 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

And then the public commented.

Did you want us to print that, too? (We'd leave out the part about the reporter and his friends in the parking lot...)

May 25, 2005 10:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is that supposed to mean?

June 02, 2005 12:56 PM  

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