Thursday, June 30, 2005

Public Comments at the 6-27-05 MCPS-BOE Meeting

Here is the text of ten of the fourteen Public Comments made at the Board of Education meeting Monday evening, June 27, 2005.

First up, John Garza, PFOX & CRC attorney and CRC Vice President:
The agreement between the Board of Education and the Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum and Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays is historic and unprecedented. Never before have parents been able to stop implementation of a new curriculum. Never before has a school board fallen prey to this extent to special interest groups bent on sexualizing our children and espousing intolerance toward certain religious sects.

It was our goal one to stop the curriculum, two disband the citizens advisory committee, and three convince Dr. Weast and the members of the Board to eliminate all discrimination in future curricula. Having achieved goals one and two, we turn our attention to goal three.

The Reverend Martin Luther King said quote we must first love those who we would change. We will now lovingly help develop a curriculum that is not offensive to all.

We trust Dr. Weast and the Board of Education have the desire, intelligence, and ability to create a new curriculum that is lawful, non-offensive, and one which will lead to future harmony among all the parties. Therefore, as Vice President of the CRC and attorney for both the CRC and PFOX, and on behalf of the Board of Directors of the CRC and the Board of Directors of PFOX, and on behalf of the thousands and thousands of supporters in Montgomery County of both CRC and PFOX and all like-minded children, parents, teachers, and citizens, I have only one thing to say to each of you. We love you. Please allow us to be friends. Send us a curriculum that's not offensive. Thank you.
The next speaker was Jason Tseng, Churchill High School alumni and University of Richmond student. It was Jason's idea to organize students to tell the Board of Education their own views of the debate about the health education curriculum here in Montgomery County Public Schools. Thank you, Jason, for your leadership!
My name is Jason Tseng. I am a 2004 graduate of Winston Churchill High School. I first want to commend you all on your courage and integrity in which you have tried to implement a truly comprehensive, and inclusive health ed curriculum. I want to urge you to continue to push for a similarly responsible curriculum in the future.

I am also a gay student. And let me be the first to tell you that growing up gay in MCPS is not easy. LGBTQ students regularly face blatant discrimination and homophobia. I, personally can recount being subjected to perpetual name-calling, teasing, bullying, homophobic vandalism and even physical violence and threats. The CRC and PFOX will try and tell you that LGBTQ students don’t feel marginalized. Well, I challenge you to not take your information second-handed. I want to urge this board to take the first step in combating homophobia by creating a truly inclusive health ed curriculum.

In this debate over health ed, groups like the CRC and PFOX, have tried to impress on this Board their rights as parents, as tax-paying and voting citizens of Montgomery County. However, student rights have largely been ignored. We as students are a profoundly disenfranchised group, and the most affected constituency. We don’t pay taxes, we can’t vote, lawmakers and government officials have no reason to listen our voices. Where can students turn to ensure that their interests are taken care of? You. Right here. This forum. They have entrusted you with their education. Their well-being. And their future. Do the right thing and stand up for those who don’t have a voice. Your students.
After Jason, we heard the following comments from Karen Troccoli, former member of the now disbanded Citizen's Advisory Committee.
My name is Karen Troccoli. I am a former member of the Citizens Advisory Committee on Family Life and Human Development. I have worked in the field of teen pregnancy prevention for more than a decade for organizations such as the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. I co-authored a book for teens on sex and contraception and have a Masters in Public Health degree in Maternal and Child Health. I also am the parent of two children in the Montgomery County Public schools. I am here to urge the Board of Education to reinstate "Protect Yourself," the condom demonstration video that was added to the tenth grade curriculum and then withdrawn because of the lawsuit.

The video was added because school health teachers asked for a resource that instructed students on how to use condoms properly. Why? Because sexually active teenagers who use condoms correctly and consistently reduce their risks for pregnancy and disease. Indeed, nearly half of high school students in the U.S. have had sexual intercourse (ranging from 33% of 9th graders to 62% of 12th graders). Unfortunately 3 out of 10 girls become pregnant at least once before the age of 20, and of the 19 million sexually transmitted disease (STD) infections that occur annually, almost half of them are among youth ages 15 to 24.

Some who have opposed the video assert that teaching teens how to use condoms will cause more of them to have sex. On the contrary, rigorous, respected research by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy and others has found that comprehensive sex education -- which includes information about contraception – does not increase the likelihood that teens will have sex or the frequency with which they have sex. In fact, many such programs actually delay first sex, increase contraceptive use and/or reduce the number of sexual partners among sexually active teens. Teaching proper condom usage is particularly important because teens use condoms more than any other contraceptive method.

The vast majority of Montgomery County high school students and their parents support including this video in the family life instruction. Ninety-nine percent of tenth graders’ parents "opted-in" to having their children see the video when it was pilot tested. Those students who viewed "Protect Yourself" rated it very favorably. Those parents who do not want their children to see the video can, as always, elect to “opt out” of that part of the curriculum. However, the Board should not allow those parents to, in effect, opt everyone’s children out by preventing the video from being used in high schools.

I applaud the Board of Education for promoting students' health by supporting the initial development and use of this video in our high schools. I urge the Board to honor its commitment by reinstating "Protect Yourself" into the curriculum as soon as possible.

Thank you.
The next speaker was Jeff Rezmovic. Jeff, a Churchill alumni, just moved back here after getting his college degree at the University of Michigan. He was a big help in organizing the students who spoke at this Board of Education meeting.

Hello, my name is Jeff Rezmovic. I am a 2001 graduate from Winston Churchill and a 2005 graduate from the University of Michigan. I didn't realize until I left for college just how lucky I was to have been a part of Montgomery County public schools. I became even more excited and proud of Montgomery County when I learned of the plans to make health curriculum here more comprehensive.

I could relate story after story to you about college students who made poor decisions, simply because they did not have all of the information. As a result, they must now cope with sexually transmitted disease, pregnancy, or even AIDS. Abstinence-only education has failed these people, and it would fail Montgomery County Public Schools as well. Decisions that MCPS students will make in their everyday lives are affected by decisions that are made in rooms like these, and this Board has an obligation to make sure that those decisions are ones that will be smart for students.

We also must refuse to let Montgomery County's sex education curriculum become a mouthpiece for hatred and bigotry. And let's make no mistake about it, that is exactly what we're up against. Some extremists want to teach Montgomery County children that homosexuality is a disease that can be cured with reparative therapy, a claim that runs counter to any and all credible scientific and psychological organizations. These students need more allies, not more alienation. I thank the Board for the affirmative efforts it has taken to promote tolerance in our schools this far, and I encourage you to continue to do so, and to let teachers teach the facts. Thank you.

Next up was me, Christine Grewell, one of the co-founders of I am an MCPS parent and an alumni of Charles W. Woodward High School in Rockville.
Good evening Superintendent Weast, President O'Neill, and Members of the Board of Education.

I represent and I'm here to support your efforts to update the MCPS health education curriculum, to bring it in line with current medical and scientific findings.

As you know is a group of MCPS parents, students, teachers, alumni, and County residents who are very concerned about the current state of the health curriculum. We support the now rescinded curriculum, realize the questionable teacher resources were not part of it, and are certain that pilot testing would have corrected any problems with it. We want you to know that we STILL stand solidly behind your efforts.

More than ever it is necessary for you to maintain your commitment to fact-based, comprehensive and inclusive health education. The eyes of the nation are upon you. The future of our children is, in a good part, in your hands.

The decision to go back to the drawing board left many disappointed, however, we understand your position given the litigation. plans to increase our support over the summer and fall so we are better equipped to help you face formidable opponents, many of whom are from outside our community and desire to take us back to using the unethical practice of "reparative therapy." We must not go back to those dark days when suicide and hiding in the closet were the most common choices for non-heterosexual people.

Our students are our future, all of them. We are optimistic about these bright young people. We are certain that if they are given objective facts in a classroom that values critical thinking, they will make the right decisions for themselves. Many studies have shown that abstinence will be the choice for some students but not all. Therefore, you must write a health curriculum that gives all our students all the knowledge they need in order to be as safe as possible. And we know you can do it since you already did.

Thank you having the courage to confront this issue and do the right thing for all MCPS students. Thank you.
The next speaker was Alexander Kovalchuk, a student attending Churchill High School.
Members of the Board,

I am a student in your school system. Your decisions are assumed to be objective and informed and your goals are likewise presume to include a modern informative and objective education for all.

We are born into the age of the Internet. You cannot censor the Internet, which holds a wealth of information beyond any school or textbook. We log on and we learn. You cannot stop us from knowing the truth. In fact, it is your job to ensure that we are taught the truth so we can become educated and functional adults.

Health is the most important thing any of us have and it is often greatly neglected. You must instill a deep understanding and somber attitude towards it. That way, we can protect ourselves and others. One thing that is most appalling is that much of sexual education is optional. The idea is obviously not to promote sex, but to show the consequences of it and how to minimize them. It can happen and often it will happen.

Just as with terrorism we can only plan ahead and to do so we must keep our children in the know. I can assure you that no child has found out about sex and has had, to quote Lewis Black, "a moral epileptic seizure." If you allow children to become greatly ignorant on these maters, they may have sex without even knowing that they shouldn't. How can they protect themselves from something they don't even know exists?

Just as a blind man cannot see without functioning eyes, an ignorant child cannot protect his or herself without a functioning education. We deserve to be safe. Thank you.

The next speaker was Matilda Young, a Churchill alumni attending Rice University.
As a student, I was very familiar with the concept of fearing what I didn't understand. Fear and loathing are two words that I associate closely with physics. In middle school, I didn't understand why a boy at my first middle school dance said I looked like a drag queen. I've grown a lot since then, but there still are a lot of things I don't understand. For example, I don't understand what is so especially lascivious about a condom on a cucumber.

As a member of students at Rice University teaching sex education to college students, I can tell you that there are a lot of sexually active teenagers out there who don't know how to properly use a condom. This information would save them from contracting dangerous diseases, and I seriously doubt they became sexually active because of suggestive vegetables. Not only do I believe that this new curriculum would further goals to teach students safer sexual practices, but I also believe that it would alleviate student fears.

What the people who oppose this act do not understand is that sexual education is not about right or wrong - it is about reality. The reality is - students will be sexually active. The reality is - many students will question their sexuality. With the knowledge that sexuality and homosexuality are a reality, and not some terrible myth lurking deep within themselves, they will have one thing less to fear. I ask this then - of all of us - as parents, as peers, and as people of this community. Don't fear the cucumber. Don't fear your children. Don't make them fear themselves.

A speaker from the CRC followed Matilda. If the CRC wants to provide transcripts of their speakers, they may do so but I don't have the time or desire to do so.

Then we heard from Jordan Barker, who attends Churchill High School along with Alex. Jordan said:
Sex. Sex is a word that makes both teens and parents very uncomfortable. But the fact is that many teenagers in high school are having sex. And parents can deny that their kids are having sex, but some teenagers are and it is very important that everyone knows how to be safe.

Many teens will not tell their parents that they are having sex and by teaching condom use and other forms of birth control in health class, the teens of our area will at least have the knowledge to protect themselves if they decide to. Teaching abstinence is still important because it is the safest and best choice. Yet it is irresponsible to try to ignore the obvious truth of sex being an action in our community of teens. Teaching condom use can reduce unwanted pregnancy and disease in teens having sex. AIDS, herpes, syphilis and many other STDs are possible results of having sex and condoms can reduce the chance of getting them as well as getting pregnant.

Teaching teens how to use a condom doesn’t mean that they’re being taught to have sex or that it is OK. Instead it is teaching teens how to be safe if they make a bad decision. Teen sex is a bad decision but why not prevent a worse one by teaching them to be safer? Condoms are a safety protection for an action which can damage the lives of our teens.

Letitia (Tish) Hall followed Jordan. Tish is a member of and the mother of 3 MCPS students.
When this board announced recently that it had voted to cancel the proposed revisions to the Family Life Curriculum, the leadership of CRC was quoted in the local papers as looking forward to helping this board write an "objective" curriculum. "Objective" means: Uninfluenced by emotions or personal prejudices; based on observable phenomena. There is good evidence that the CRC and its ally, PFOX, do not know exactly what objectivity is.

Position statements on the CRC website affirm that their idea of objectivity is the inclusion of highly subjective information about "ex-gay" persons and "reparative" therapy. Data based on observable phenomena convinced mainstream medical groups to stop trying to "cure" homosexuality a generation ago. The American Medical Association opposes reparative therapy because decades of reparative therapy demonstrated that it doesn't work and that it harms people. PFOX and CRC are asking you to ignore this objective medical data in order to present their emotions and personal prejudices.

Meanwhile, the CRC is trying to undermine some of the strengths of public education. In a page titled "Red Flags To Watch For," the CRC website warns that tolerance, diversity, and anti-harassment policies are all signs that our schools are being influenced by radical homosexual activists.

MCPS has a zeal for excellence and a tenacious commitment to diversity and that has made this one of the finest public school systems in the nation. We educate children from all over the world and all over the socio-economic spectrum and we send them to universities all over the country. Yet the CRC leadership holds that this commitment all our students is really the first step in some insidious "Homosexual Agenda." This is misinformation of the most corrupt nature.

Please do not lose sight of the objective curriculum our students really need. Do not present intolerance as a balanced, alternative view.

Tish was followed by three speakers who do not support the BOE's health education curriculum, including at least one member of the CRC. When they were finished, Andrew Bennett, a recent Walt Whitman High School graduate and former student representative of the CAC made the closing public comment of the meeting. He said:
Good evening members of the Board of Education. My name is Andrew Bennett. I was a student member on the Citizens’ Advisory Committee this last year. It was a great honor and privilege to serve all of you in that capacity. And I would like to point out that it’s quite interesting that every single student that has come before you this evening has come in support of the curriculum as it was, has come in support of teaching about tolerance and equality, about teaching how everybody in this school system, all students are equal, and that the school system should see each of us as equal.

I am not a gay student. I'm not coming to you as a gay student. I'm coming to you as a representative of students because that’s what you appointed me to be.

If you look at the Student's Rights and Responsibilities Handbook, it says quite clearly, "All students and staff will conduct themselves in a manner that promotes mutual respect for others. You have the right to be treated fairly and equally." These are your policies.

I recently graduated Walt Whitman High School and it was an honor to be in Montgomery County schools for all of my schooling from kindergarten to 12th grade. And I always loved how we taught equality, how we learned about Black History Month. We learned about Hispanic History.

And now to see the Board of Education settling with intolerance, to settle and say, "Oh, it’s OK." I don’t know what you settled with and neither does anybody else in the room except for Mr. Garza and you. But I would ask you to look closely at what you’re doing, what you’re teaching my fellow students – that it's OK to say those things and it's morally reprehensible to me. And I would like you to consider that most seriously.

Thank you.
But we are not done yet, because there were also comments made by members of the Board of Education that addressed the curriculum and the community members who so eloquently and passionately expressed their support to the BOE's efforts to teach tolerance and safety to MCPS students.

Board member Gabe Romero said:
"...I also wanted to thank the community for all the public comments on the health curriculum tonight. It was very well done so I congratulate all the community. I'm also very glad to see that we are moving on to the business of education of our children. We put this little obstacle behind us and we're moving on so thank you very much."
Board member Nancy Navarro said:
..."And I also want to thank the community for coming out and expressing your support in all levels. And I just want to reiterate the fact that we are listening so thank you."
Board President Patricia O'Neill said:
"I would just like to comment. Someone mentioned that the document, they hadn't seen it, the settlement document. Well, it’s a public document so I'm not sure, but through our public information office you could access that information. The other piece is that Dr. Haughey and I met this afternoon to kind of look forward prospectively and it's our intention at the July 6 meeting for the Board to have a discussion on the reconstitution of the Citizens’ Advisory Committee. So we put this litigation behind us and move forward with the revisions to the health curriculum through our central office."

And finally, Superintendent Weast told us:
"Madame President. Can I say something?

To the last speaker who served on the committee. Yes.

There's a provision in this agreement that says, 'Nothing contained in this Agreement shall be construed to diminish or enlarge the legal right of MCPS to develop, revise or implement curriculum, including curriculum that provides information on sexual variations and promotes tolerance of others regardless of sexual orientation.'

So that is a key component of this agreement. And we will be moving forward. I have instructed Dr. Lacey to move forward now, now that we have a signed agreement. Remember, this was two lessons 45 minutes each in length. And we will move forward on those two lessons. We're not talking about a comprehensive program. We will continue the program that we have had and we will work on these two lessons and we will make sure that they are cogent and fit according to this particular article and have teacher lessons and materials that go with them that are congruent with those particular 45 minute lessons."
All of us at send our most sincere gratitude to each participant in this demonstration to the Board of Education. From the sage and passionate words of these six outstanding MCPS students, it is easy to know that MCPS is indeed one of the finest school systems in the country. This group of parents will not allow a handful of doubters keep MCPS from continuing to TEACH THE FACTS to our students.

Christine Grewell

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

CRC Finds Out What They Agreed To

Yesterday the CRC web site had big, red, bolded headlines screaming the Big News (they've moved it down on the page since then):
LESS THAN 48 HOURS after signing legally binding settlement agreement, MCPS Board of Education 'changing the procedures' for picking CRC and PFOX members of the new Sex-Ed Committee.
Says that PFOX and CRC may only submit 'nominees', and will not guarantee that any one person will be appointed.
What other 'changes' to the make-up of the committee will occur?

(Hey, what do you make of that Moody Blues allusion? What are they trying to tell us?)

CRC is crying because MCPS intends to uphold some standards in selecting people for the citizens advisory committee. I don't know what discussion they're citing, maybe they waltzed over to tell the Board who would be on the committee, and were told that the Board would choose. Somewhere though they were reminded that the Board was not going to accept just anybody.

That is, "reminded." Because, of course, this is in the agreement. That they signed.

They're complaining that the Board is changing the procedures by saying "that PFOX and CRC may only submit 'nominees'." But that's exactly what the agreement says.

They signed it. Didn't they read it? It says, plain as day:
MCPS agrees that the newly-constituted CAC, for the term during which the consultation on the Revisions contemplated by the Board’s May 23, 2005 resolution will occur, will include a maximum of 15 members and will include one representative of PFOX and one representative of CRC, to be selected by the Board in accordance with Section C(2)(a)(3) of Board Policy BMA, provided such representatives are Montgomery County residents and are otherwise qualified and able to serve on the committee. PFOX and CRC will inform the Board of their nominees in writing by July 1, 2005.

To pick out a couple of things here:
  • to be selected by the Board does not mean, "for Recall to force onto the committee no matter who they are"
  • otherwise qualified is going to be a tough one. Oh no, this doesn't mean their, uh ... doctor ... ends up on this committee, does it?
  • nominees Pretty clearly, this means they're "nominated," not necessarily chosen.

I'm trying to figure out how this happened.

Liberty Counsel lawyers came up here to Maryland and said they'd work for free, and pretty much pulled off a good one. Tricked the judge, got the ruling, left town. MCPS made a lot of adjustments, pretty soon it was clear that there was no case any more. No committee, no background resources, no curriculum ... no case. Then, I figure, MCPS said, OK, dudes, let's talk.

Then one of two things happened. One, maybe Liberty Counsel lawyers came back and negotiated a settlement, and made sure they got their money and didn't worry about the rest of it. Two, LC said they'd sign anything as long as they got their money, and let the local lawyer negotiate the agreement.

The first theory would explain why CRC seems so surprised to find out what's in the agreement, and the second one would explain why they gave away the farm in the first place.

I just don't know.

But they seem real unhappy about it.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

We Make Our Presence Felt

The Board of Education meeting last night was just plain goose-bumpy. The room was packed, literally standing-room only, with dozens of people holding up signs saying "Teach The Facts," and occasionally other mottoes, like -- "Dude, Where's My Education?"

I can't say enough about all the speakers that sat at the table, one after the other, mostly students or recent MCPS graduates, including some gay students and fomer students, their young voices telling the board what no ideology-driven adult can explain: they want the facts, they want to be treated with respect. The applause rang through the room after each one, and the board listened intently as these young people -- you can't call anybody this brave a "kid" -- spoke with wit, with sorrow, with passion. The adults who spoke -- Chris, Karen, Tish -- were forceful and composed, and the students were steady and sure, funny, articulate, passionate.

Speakers for the evening included:
  • Jason Tseng, (MCPS Churchill alumni)
  • Karen Troccoli (former CAC member)
  • Jeff Rezmovic (MCPS Churchill alumni)
  • Christine Grewell (
  • Alex Kovalchuk (Churchill student)
  • Matilda Young (MCPS Churchill alumni)
  • Jordan Barker (MCPS Churchill student)
  • Tish Hall (
  • Andrew Bennet (MCPS Whitman alumni, former CAC student rep)

That's nine people speaking in support of a comprehensive sex-ed curriculum! Beautiful. I could fill ten pages with quotes, it was just so nice. Totally positive -- board member Gabriel Romero thanked us publicly afterwards and said the comments were "very well done," and Nancy Navarro also said during the meeting that the board appreciated our participation and that they were listening.

Here's how Ex-Recall try to spin it on their website tonight (they keep revising it, it gets worse every couple of hours):
MCPS BOE observers remark; "Monday night's BOE public comment time was a well orchestrated anti-CRC (anti-4,500+ citizenry...) campaign, complete with sycophantic sign wavers and speakers intimating views to the CRC that the CRC has never avowed to." and, "One wonders if the BOE knew they were coming?" and, "Boos and hisses from curriculum supporters were permitted in the room when differing viewpoints were espoused. Where was the BOE on this anti-tolerance? Is this a sign that the new curriculum will again be biased and not reflective of all views??"

Nice, "well orchestrated." OK, we'll take that. The rest of this is the usual bull-oney.

We have reviewed the videotape and there was no booing. I think somebody did hiss softly when one ... despicable person ... talked about gay people being "abnormal." That was pretty good, really -- it would have been appropriate to throw a shoe at anyone who talks about other human beings in such a way, but everyone in the room showed great restraint. Most of their speakers were greeted with dead silence, in a room full to the rafters -- that may have felt like the equivalent of booing to them, but it wasn't. Even their own people wouldn't clap for some of them.

And I doubt that Mr. Romero and Ms. Navarro would have complimented us if we had been booing and, uh, being sycophantic.

CRC's reaction to recent developments has been interesting.

Their lawyers, Liberty Counsel, made out well in the deal, with the taxpayers giving them 36 thousand dollars, but we see this quote in The Post this morning: "We wished we could have gotten more," said Rena Lindevaldsen, senior litigator with the Liberty Counsel, a Florida-based legal and education nonprofit group that argued on behalf of the two groups.

I understand -- how dya feed the kids on a lousy thirty-six grand, eh?

And the President of CRC? The Times quotes her: "I'm quasi-satisfied," said Michelle Turner, CRC president. "I don't like the way the board has gone about this."

Well, that's sad.

For some reason, the board called CRC's hometown lawyer, John Garza, first for public comments, and not in a group, just by himself.

His plea to the school board -- "We love you. Please allow us to be friends." -- followed his declaration that CRC had already won two thirds of the battle and was working on the last piece. It was very convincing. Really, I mean it.

He sat there by himself and pleaded with them to be nice, and then four more speakers were called, all from TeachTheFacts. I figured that was it. But no, they called four more people, and except for CRC's Retta Brown they were all students supporting their gay friends and the idea of getting a real education. Then they called four more, of which several were anti-gay speakers and one was Tish from TeachTheFacts, who gave an impassioned speech, including a good quote from CRC's web site that highlighted the attitude we are fighting against. Finally, the evening's comments ended with Andrew Bennet, a student who had been a member of the citizens committee, who extemporized about the importance of delivering an honest education to the students. The crowd went wild.

The details of the agreement between MCPS and the plantiffs are almost entirely things that would have happened anyway. Nobody on either side, for instance, wants to discuss anyone's religious beliefs in the classroom. Never did, never will.

We presume that this order against teaching about religious beliefs means that religious ministries that try to transform gay people into heterosexuals will not be mentioned.

Summer is upon us, school is out, but let's not think that this controversy is settled. We have only come back to where we started.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Board Settles: CRC/PFOX Give Up: Taxpayers to Pay Lawyers

We just returned from a school board meeting where, before public comments, Dr. Weast and the board announced that they had come to an agreement with the lawyers that sued them over the sex-ed curriculum. Dr. Weast read a statement, but didn't say what was in the agreement.

After public comments, some copies of the agreement were handed out. There was ... nothing to it. Two things that might be worth mentioning. 1. CRC and PFOX will each have one member on the new citizens committee. OK, they had more than that on the old citizens committee, they didn't gain any ground there. 2. "MCPS agrees to reimburse Plaintiffs in the amount of $36,000, representing attorneys' fees incurred in connection with the proceedings on the temporary restraining order." In other words, you the taxpayer get the bill for this prank. The far-right extremist law firm Liberty Counsel, it turns out, weren't working out of the goodness of their little hearts; their clients end up winning nothing, and Montgomery County residents pay the bill.

There is nothing else in the agreement but some legal stuff. I imagine it'll be on the MCPS web site by morning. [Later: HERE IT IS]

So -- work can now start ... all over again ... on a new sex-ed curriculum. As Dr. Weast reminded the group, the only section under contention is two 45-minute classes. It was also announced during the meeting that the Board plans to begin discussion at their July 6th meeting to reconstitute the citizens advisory committee.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Fishback's Letter to BOE

It is hard to imagine what positive outcome could result from negotiations between the school board's lawyers and groups such as PFOX, and frankly, we hope there is no such negotiation at all -- the curriculum was scrapped, the lawsuit is moot, let's move forward. We at agree with David Fishback's sentiment, expressed in the letter reproduced below: we know that the board wants to act in the interests of our children, and we want to support them in resisting forces that want them to introduce nonscientific, bigoted, religion-based concepts into our children's classrooms. Montgomery County is being viewed by the world as a model in this situation, we must establish a precedent that stops the momentum of these radical groups right now, right here.

Mr. Fishback chaired the citizens advisory committee that developed the sex-ed curriculum that was adopted and then thrown out after the lawsuit. The following is a letter sent by him this past week to the MCPS Board of Education.
Via Facsimile and E-mail Transmission

The Honorable Patricia O'Neill,President
Montgomery County Board of Education
850 Hungerford Drive

Rockville, Maryland 20852

RE: PFOX/CRC Lawsuit

Dear Ms. O'Neill:

I learned yesterday from an attorney who has been working with PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), and has spoken with MCPS counsel, that MCPS is involved in what appear to be serious settlement negotiations with PFOX/CRC.

This was a surprise to me, since the Board's May 23 decision to scrap the proposed revised curriculum, terminate the entire Citizens Advisory Committee, and commit to dropping the four teacher resources mentioned in the district court's May 5 decision made the entire lawsuit moot. Thus, I would have thought that MCPS would have simply gone to court and sought to have the lawsuit dismissed as moot. This is what I have told people angered by the Board's responses to the lawsuit, because I had faith that MCPS, after the shock of the May 5 decision, was going stand up to the James Dobson/Jerry Falwell inspired litigation attack on our schools. The breadth and depth of outrage in Montgomery County over this lawsuit cannot be underestimated. People constantly have asked my opinion, and I have tried to assure them that the Board intends to stay the course and would not submit to extortion through litigation. I must be frank with you: Not everyone agrees with my assessment.

Because there is a closed session scheduled for this Monday's Board meeting, and I know that litigation matters are often discussed at such sessions, I could not delay in writing to you.

Since, with the elimination of teacher resource materials that expressed opinions on the wisdom of certain theological positions, the PFOX/CRC legal position is utterly untenable, it may well be that they desperately want a settlement on any terms. I certainly hope that is the case. Nevertheless, there is a danger that MCPS might agree to terms which MCPS might think are innocuous, but which would make it more difficult to proceed on the wise path it set last November and to which, I believe, it is still committed.

The Board will not be able to avoid litigation by a flawed settlement now. PFOX/CRC have made it clear that they will continue to litigate to block any discussion of sexual orientation that does not include materials repudiating the conclusions of the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and every other mainstream medical and mental health organization in this country that homosexuality is not a disease or mental disorder.

It is significant that the official policy of the American Medical Association is that it "opposes the use of 'reparative' or 'conversion' therapy that is based upon the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or based upon the a priori assumption that the patient should change his/her homosexual orientation" (AMA Policy Number H-160.991). Yet, PFOX/CRC have made it clear that they believe that, as a legal matter, the MCPS curriculum must include "the other side" of this issue. As I am sure MCPS counsel has informed you, this argument has no legal merit whatsoever.

Having seen and dealt with their arguments and tactics during the 2003-2004 deliberations of the Citizens Advisory Committee, I believe that the Board must be very careful about any settlement terms to which PFOX/CRC would agree. Our community would not accept a settlement of a lawsuit that required that creationism be taught alongside evolution in order to avoid litigation expenses. Likewise, the Board should not accept a settlement that would impose upon the health education curriculum the dubious ideas of PFOX/CRC.

I cannot imagine that the Board would agree to any such settlement; indeed, I am certain it would not. The danger, however, is that any settlement that PFOX/CRC would agree to might well have provisions that could do great damage to the Board's ability to fulfill its responsibilities. I have been trying to figure out what kind of settlement terms PFOX/CRC might try to slip in.

Based on my experience on the Citizens Advisory Committee, it has occurred to me that they might insist on naming members to the reconstituted Committee. It is imperative that the Board not accept a settlement under which it would cede to outside interest groups the final say on who should sit on this state-mandated Committee. While I agreed with the Board's decisions in the past to appoint people of a wide range of views to the Committee -- indeed, the President of CRC and a member of PFOX were members of the now- terminated Committee, along with representatives of PFLAG and the Safe Schools Coalition -- it is essential that the Board retain its authority on this point. As you are well aware, another former member consistently used filibuster tactics and worse to try to prevent the Committee from making recommendations approved of by majority, and the Board cannot cede its appointment authority to groups who have demonstrated their bad faith on these issues. (I do not say this blithely. The opponents of the Board's unanimous decision last November to pilot the curriculum revisions engaged in the similarly disreputable tactic of waiting to bring its lawsuit just before the piloting so that MCPS would have only a few days to respond to legal arguments which had not previously been presented to it.)

It is essential that MCPS stay the course and not agree to anything that would interfere with revisions that Superintendent Weast said, last November, should have been made years ago. For too long the silence in the health-education curriculum unit on sexuality gave tacit approval to the idea that there was something "sick" about not being heterosexual. For too long, students who happened to be homosexual and children from same-sex-parent families were made to feel marginalized. Because that was wrong and hurtful, the Board was right to act last November, and need not and should not agree to a settlement of this lawsuit that would interfere with its ability to stay the course. To agree to such a settlement in order to avoid litigation costs (as some have suggested might happen) would be an act that would make the people of Montgomery County ashamed.

If any proposed settlement is forthcoming from MCPS attorneys, I strongly urge that you take the time to examine it closely and to consult with stakeholders whose experience might reveal problems that may not be obvious. Indeed, I believe that simple prudence would dictate that members of the Board at least consult with former members of the Citizens Advisory Committee who may be able to point out practical pitfalls in any proposed settlement before the Board agrees to any settlement.


David S. Fishback
Olney, MD

cc: All Board members, Dr. Frieda Lacey, George Margolies

Seattle P-I's Pro-Ex-Gay, Anti-Liberal Editorial

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer had a moderately interesting editorial this week, trying to turn the tables. You might know that Seattle is the site for this weekend's "Love Won Out" conference, which is geared toward promoting the concept of "ex-gays." This editorial, by a Focus on the Family official, argues that people should have the right to be "ex-gays," and that liberals want to deprive them of that right.
The ongoing controversy surrounding Focus on the Family's upcoming "Love Won Out" conference on Saturday reveals the hypocrisy of liberals who call for tolerance and unquestioned acceptance of diversity yet attempt to stifle all opposing views to their politically correct, pro-gay agenda. As a result, another liberal mantra -- the freedom to choose -- is denied to those seeking to walk out of unwanted homosexuality.

Apparently, in today's America, you can still Be Who You Want to Be -- so long as it isn't "ex-gay."

Even more troubling is the vitriol unleashed against those who dare to consider the notion that homosexuality is not an immutable characteristic. Pro-gay activists regularly charge that messages such as those shared at Love Won Out are "vile," "dangerous" and "deplorable." Much of their most virulent rhetoric is saved for the debate over the cause of homosexuality. People have right to change sexual identity

et cetera, et cetera ...

Listen, it is my impression that very many homosexually-oriented people live as hetereosexuals. "The closet" is a concept that most straight people are familiar with, and we're not surprised that they would feel the need to hide their true nature, given the hatred and misunderstanding that gays are exposed to. So, OK, an "ex-gay" is somebody who came out of the closet and then went back in: "ex-gay" is understood to be a "re-closeted" gay person.

And who cares? It seems kinda sad that a guy would have to pretend he's something he's not, but it seems to me that everybody has problems, everybody's got something to hide ... so what? I have seen only sympathy for those who have dealt with a kind of "Sophie's choice" in a way that we can all understand.

It's not "ex-gays" that we oppose. A guy who marries a woman to gain the approval of his community, OK, that's his business.

I can't speak for "liberals" as a group, and barely for my colleagues here at But I can tell you what I, personally, object to.

First of all, the idea that "ex-gay" is some new kind of sexual orientation. No, even in their own literature, their own spokesmen admit that there are very few homosexuals who change their sexual orientation. "Ex-gay" men still are attracted to men. It's a change in behavior, of a self-protective type not extremely different from crossing the street in the crosswalk. Your community, for instance your church, ostracizes you if you do A, accepts you if you do B, so you do B.

Second and more important, the "ex-gay" promoters try to make embarrassed young men believe they can change, and that they should change (this is almost entirely aimed at guys). Really, they can't. Everybody knows this, on both sides. A boy reaches puberty and finds he is different from the other kids, and then some nuts start telling him that how he feels is a sin and an abomination, and they tell him all he has to do is blah blah blah and he can change. Some boys are shamed into going along with it, they ignore their true feelings and go with what they've been told is better. For them it's a choice they feel they have to make, and my heart goes out to them.

Third, as in the case with Zach who still hasn't come out of his camp, the authorities who assert that young people should change are not above simple kidnapping and torture. Nobody knows how many of these kids are sent to these terrible camps where their rights are stripped away, their dignity is demolished, they are brainwashed into agreeing that they are evil to the core. This is reprehensible, and the people who do this should be sent to prison. Including the parents who submit their children to this horror. Anyone with a heart can see that this is just plain wrong.

Personally, I would think that good Christians would look at it like this (since the "ex-gay" movement is almost always justified in terms of the church). God in his wisdom has created mankind in His image. That doesn't mean mankind "on average," it means each one of us. Sometimes there are mysteries in that image, sometimes there is something beautiful to discover in God's creation. It does not seem to me that the reverent approach would be to suppress God's creation, but to develop it in grace. Not that I have any special license to express my opinion, but it does not seem to me that there is anything holier or more sacred about forcing gays to pretend they're something they're not. That certainly doesn't mean that I don't sympathize with those who make that choice, and I think everyone on our side feels the same way. It's somewhat sad, but there's nothing deplorable about making that personal choice, as this Focus on the Family editorial writer wants you to think we think.

Friday, June 24, 2005

PFOX Shows Up At PTA Anyway

Sure, I'll comment on this article from the Washington Times: PTA snubs former-gays group for workshop. Here's how it starts:
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The National PTA has angered a support group for former homosexuals by rejecting them as a workshop presenter at its annual meeting that convened yesterday, while allowing a homosexual advocacy group to participate.

A major theme of this year's PTA meeting is anti-bullying and both the homosexual advocacy group Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) and the rejected group, Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX) have programs on the topic.

After being rejected, PFOX rented hotel space adjacent to the convention and announced it will conduct a teach-in to voice its message to an expected 1,700 PTA delegates about anti-bullying and that ex-homosexuals exist and homosexuality is not a genetic inborn trait, said PFOX founder Regina Griggs.

On Wednesday, PTA official Warlene Gary rejected an appeal from PFOX to have equal exhibitor status with PFLAG, which opposes the ex-homosexual message and favors same-sex "marriage," Mrs. Griggs said.

The National PTA invited PFLAG last year as an exhibitor and workshop presenter against bullying in schools at its convention in Anaheim, Calif.

"This year, we received an invitation to apply again," said PFLAG Executive Director Ron Schlitter. "We're doing the entire full-on, everything" to promote tolerance for the homosexual lifestyle.

Let me start with that last sentence. I want to point out that the last phrase is not in quotation marks. The Executive Director of PFLAG did not, I'd be very sure, use the phrase "homosexual lifestyle."

Think about that phrase: homosexual lifestyle. What do you picture? Like, the Village People, maybe? Now think about an actual gay person you know. Dude, you know one. OK, then think about somebody you know who you think might be gay -- not somebody on TV, I mean a real person. How well do they fit that "homosexual lifestyle" picture?

Oh hey, you could be like the CRC's President, and say that the one gay person you know is different from the others.

Of course there are gay bars, and there are things that gay people tend to like that other people don't, certain bands that have a gay following or whatever. But the whole concept of the "homosexual lifestyle" is a caricature, it's a piece of propaganda of the type that we often see in The Times, it's a phrase that serves the sole purpose of making you think that gay people are different from you.

Let's get over that.

Now, the story. The PTA doesn't want PFOX at their meeting, and PFOX is going to go anyway.
Mrs. Griggs accused PTA officials of discrimination.

"PFLAG promotes a pro-gay agenda; they say on their Web site that ex-gays don't exist," she said.

National PTA officials did not respond to numerous inquiries about their decision to reject PFOX, which was successful recently in having Montgomery County, Md., public schools withdraw a disputed sex education program.

Did you notice that in the post right beneath this one there was an "ex-gay" person complaining that he was discriminated against? Mmm, is that like an "ex-gay" talking-point or something? Why, yes, it is. They're always complaining about people discriminating against them. But who would? Who cares? What people "discriminate" against is bigotry. People don't like to invite haters to their party.

Here's what PFOX does. They tell gay people, especially young gay men, that there is something wrong with them, and promise them that they can live happily as hetereosexuals. PFOX promotes reparative therapy, which is an unethical and dangerous technique (see two posts below this one for a good discussion of the topic) that tries to get gay people to change. They are a religious organization, spun off of James Dobson's Family Research Council with the objective of furthering an evangelistic ministry.

The PTA is absolutely right. They should have nothing to do with these creeps.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Tennessee Investigates Zach's Camp

For the past couple of weeks, all of the blog-world has held its collective breath and waited to see what was going to happen to this 16-year-old kid named Zach. Seems he made the mistake of telling his parents he was gay. They didn't say anything for a while, and then they signed him up for a "conversion camp" in Tennessee called Refuge. At one point, after they'd told him they didn't know what the rules were at the camp, he found the whole list of them on his parents' computer and posted them on his blog. It's heart-stopping. He says he won't commit suicide, but he's thinking about it. He kicks himself for telling his parents.

I'm generally pretty tough-skinned, or worse, but this was one thing that I couldn't stand to look at, it was just too sad. A week or two ago, I looked, I saw the rules, I saw this poor kid trying to understand why his own parents hate him, regretting that he ever told them the truth, and it was just too painful to go back to. I figured I'd see something about it when he got out, and then go back and find out what had happened, just put it out of my mind for a little while.

Turned out, thousands of people were following his story. Literally thousands commented on his blog, though he was locked up in camp and didn't know it. Hundreds of people stood outside the camp with signs.

And now the state of Tennessee says they're going to investigate.
The state of Tennessee has begun an investigation in response to allegations of child abuse at Love in Action, a Memphis facility that advertises homosexual conversion therapy for adolescents, according to the state department of health.

K. Daniele Edwards, a spokesperson for Child Services at the Tennessee Department of Health, confirmed an investigation is underway but declined to comment on the details. She noted that she presumes the Love in Action program would require licensing by the state.

Love in Action is not licensed by the Tennessee Departments of Health, Mental Health, Human Services, Child Services or Education, according to Rachel Lassiter of Gov. Phil Bredesen's communications office.

Refuge, Love in Action's program for adolescents, became the focus of public concern earlier this month after a Bartlett, Tenn., teen who uses the blogger name Zach, posted online entries that say his parents had responded to his coming out as gay by sending him to a religious institution to be converted to heterosexuality. Tenn. investigates ex-gay camp

I couldn't do it, but you ought to go look at Zach's blog. There's his picture, just a regular kid. There's his silly teenage quotes. His favorite music. This could be my kid. Except for one thing: I don't hate my kids. I could never do this to them.

Check this out:
Officials from Love in Action had appealed for "tolerance" of their program at a June 16 news conference.

"It is our spiritual conviction that sexual behavior outside of heterosexual marriage is considered wrong in the sight of God," said John Smid, the program's director, who describes himself as "ex-gay," according to a partial transcript of the news conference.

Look at these guys, they keep these poor kids locked away from the world, trying to change their souls into something alien, torturing them into accepting that there's something evil about themselves, something wrong -- and these guys have the ... nerve ... to try to make it sound like normal, sensible people are being intolerant of them! I try to keep my language G-rated here on this blog, and I will do that, but this tests my resolve. These people are evil.

This ex-gay business shows you the worst of the human species. These are people consumed with hatred, people with no sense of compassion, taking it out on innocent young victims.

Remember that there are people who want this stuff promoted in your Montgomery County schools. That lawsuit was filed jointly by CRC and PFOX. PFOX is an organization of "ex-gays," they support this guy that's holding Zach captive. They live to crush the spirit, and they want to teach your kids to feel the same way.

Maybe, like most of us straight people, you're not comfortable with homosexuality, maybe you don't understand it, but think for a minute about the very most fundamental human need -- the need for love -- and try to explain to yourself: who would think that kids like Zach don't need it like the rest of us? Let's not incorporate this kind of poisonous attitude into our county's school system, okay?

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Good Debate on Reparative Therapy

Recently, a Presbyterian therapist, C. Richard Carlson, published a short article on the Covenant Network entitled Sexual Reparative (Conversion) Therapy Revisited, in which he reviewed a paper that had been published in 2001 by Robert Spitzer, and the news splash that succeeded it. As Carlson notes, even Spitzer himself expressed surprise at the interpretations that were made of his work, saying:
Of course no one chooses to be homosexual and no one chooses to be heterosexual.

Carlson reviewed some of the ethics statements of professional organizations, discussed NARTH -- an organization that seeks to convert homosexuals to heterosexuals -- and listed some reasons that reparative therapy, discredited by medical and counseling professionals, has survived.

Morton Throckmorton, who has written on the MCPS curriculum (he's against it) and supports the CRC, wrote an article of response to Carlson's: Sexual reorientation therapy reconsidered. In this article, Throckmorton defended reparative therapy. His main argument was that it was the client's choice what he (almost always a he) considered to be a psychological problem. If a gay person wants to change, what could be wrong with helping them?

Carlson responded with a third article in the series: A Reply to Professor Warren Throckmorton concerning Reorientation Therapy. If you're busy and don't have time to wade through all of these, flip immediately to this one. He takes Throckmorton's points apart very carefully. He names two distortions in Throckmorton's arguments.
The first distortion has to do with the need for selection criteria for the treatment. This is something that reparative therapists never even mention. In their view, everyone is a candidate who is willing to try. This hardly constitutes a scientific or ethically sound basis for treatment.

To understand the second distortion, consider what happens when reparative therapy doesn't work - which according to Dr. Spitzer himself - would be most of the time, since the "vast majority of gay persons would be unable to change." Persons, frequently full of self-loathing, find a therapist who agrees with them that there is indeed something wrong with them, that their sexual orientation is a sickness at best and a terrible sin at worst. They have come because newspaper ads and "ex-gay" ministries and many churches have proclaimed that they can change. The therapist tells them that change is possible if only they try hard enough, pray fervently enough and keep coming long enough. God, after all, wants them to change, and "with God all things are possible."

But change doesn't happen. What happens to their self-worth when the cash runs out and there is no reorientation? What happens when these "children of God are unable to integrate their sexual identity with their faith and beliefs?"

We know what happens: at best, their self-loathing worsens; at worst, drug and alcohol addiction, hospitalization for mental illness and suicide happens. The harm goes tragically beyond "distress."

Next, Carlson challenges Throckmorton's claims on scientific groups.
Second, where is the evidence for sustained change? In the past four decades, reparative therapists have not produced any rigorous scientific research to substantiate their claims of cure. I asked Jack Drescher, MD, Author, Training and Supervising Analyst at the William A. White Institute in NYC and a past president of the American Psychiatric Association to comment on Dr. Throckmorton's clinical arguments:

"Dr. Throckmorton neglects to mention that despite the claims of people like himself of innumerable people being helped by sexual conversion therapists, that it was quite difficult for Dr. Spitzer to even find 200 subjects. First, Dr. Spitzer's study lacks any claim of scientific objectivity. Given that all of Spitzer's data stemmed from a 45-minute telephone interview, that there were no measures of pre- and post-treatment, that there was no follow-up interview to see if people's stories remain unchanged, all one really sees are 200 subjects primarily recruited by NARTH, who claimed that everything got better. One's interpretation of the data depends upon one's willingness to believe the subjects who were recruited. By analogy, if an organization that opposed the strict new antismoking regulations in New York City wanted to do a "study" debunking the harmful effects of tobacco, they could situate themselves outside a Manhattan cigar bar. Then one of the researchers could go in and tell everyone inside about the study they were doing and why they were doing it. They could then interview the first 200 people who walked out, asking them if cigarette smoking had any harmful effects on them. I can only imagine the objectivity of the data such a study would provide."

Third, he confronts Throckmorton on the spurious comment that the APA and other groups were pressured by gay activist groups into issuing statements sayiing that reparative therapy is unethical:
Third, Dr. Throckmorton quotes Dr. Spitzer as saying essentially that a gay activist group, very strong and vocal, has taken over the American Psychiatric Association and there is nobody to give the other side. I asked Dr. Dresher about this:

"Dr. Spitzer, whom I consider a friend, currently occupies no official position within the APA. Dr. Spitzer has no current knowledge of how APA position statements are initiated or the lengthy vetting process they must undergo before official APA adoption. The 2000 position statement, for example, came out of the Commission on Psychotherapy by Psychiatrists (COPP) which at the time was chaired by Dr. Glenn Gabbard, MD. One would be hard pressed to make the case that a psychiatrist of Dr. Gabbard's stature is under the sway of "a gay activist group" as Dr. Throckmorton claims. In fact, this commission studied the issue, modified and edited it, then sent it on to the APA Board of Trustees for approval. After BOT approval, it then went to the APA Assembly where psychiatric representatives from around the country, the vast majority not gay, approved it.

Fourth, he takes on Throckmorton's" comment that clients have the right to determine what kind of therapy they will receive:
Fourth, I asked Dr. Drescher to comment on Ray Fowler's statement, quoted by Dr. Throckmorton, that a client has the "right to self-determination." (Dr. Fowler is the Director of the American Psychological Association).

"Throckmorton neglects to point out that historically, sexual conversion therapists have tried to convince patients struggling with their sexual orientation that they should change. Anyone who has read the literature in this area will see the strong antigay bias in it. According to Shidlo and Schroeder, clients who saw sexual conversion therapists and who did not change were rarely referred to gay affirmative therapists. Dr. Throckmorton's argument that undergoing conversion therapy "is the decision of the client" overlooks the obvious fact that professional organizations have an ethical obligation to protect clients from "clinicians" who engage in practices that fall outside the mental health mainstream. By analogy, a patient has the right to choose laetrile to treat his cancer. However, a physician who prescribes laetrile as the treatment of choice is in violation of professional standards and ethics."

And finally, Throckmorton's assertion that the APA and other organizations' ethical principles were politically influenced by gay activists:
Fifth, Dr. Throckmorton's claim that "mental health associations have politicized the issue of reparative therapy" is ingenuous at best. In fact, those on the political and religious right are heavily invested in publicizing sexual conversion therapies as effective, primarily as it dovetails with their political position that homosexuality is not innate, that it should not be normalized and that gay people are not entitled to civil rights protection (that would represent "special rights"). As a matter of fact, Dr. Throckmorton's research seems to have a bit of politicizing to it as he suggests that it is not sexual reorientation therapies which are harmful, but gay-affirmative ones.

He closes this article with a statement that reflects, to me, what Christianity can be about -- of course, I was raised Presbyterian, maybe this is just my own prejudice here:
Perhaps the true reorientation therapy which is needed is one that helps the Church and society understand that "homosexuality per se implies no impairment in judgment, stability, reliability, or general social or vocational capabilities" and that homosexuality is a normal variant of human sexuality and not something bad needing to be fixed.

That true reorientation therapy is simply the Good News of God's wildly inclusive love in Jesus Christ.

Good discussion, this is a hard topic, and one that goes to the core of the MCPS sex-ed controversy. There are people in our county who want you to believe that reparative therapy, also called conversion therapy and reorientation therapy, is an acceptable and successful technique for making gay people straight.

It isn't.

Recall Closes Web Site

I see that the Original Recall Site has been shut down. That notorious message board provided a lot of laughs for quite a while, but clearly the "recall the school board" mantra needed to be chanted more softly.

Now members of that group can claim to have no wish at all to recall the school board. That, plus making sure there is no ability to comment on their blog, plus telling their members not to discuss the issues on our blog site, should make it that much easier for the lawyers and out-of-town advisors to keep control of the message.

I wonder if those email addresses still work? Betcha they do.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005


Those who oppose the teaching of safe-sex practices often point out that condoms are not successful at stopping the spread of human papillomavirus (HPV). Because HPV is considered a sexually-transmitted disease (STD), and because it can be spread in ways that a condom does not protect against, these people argue that condoms are ineffective against STDs. It's a weak argument, but they keep repeating it, and as long as they stay with the bottom line: "condoms don't prevent all STDs" -- then, people being what they are, nobody will really notice the insufficiency of the argument.

England's The Guardian had an article yesterday, a column by an archaeologist who has been asked to look into the HPV issue. Some of her comments are interesting:
Many of my friends are involved with the new vaccine against HPV (human papillomavirus), the development of which has been largely funded by pharmaceutical companies. The vaccine has gained a lot of press attention. HPV 16 and 18 are linked to 78% of squamous cell cervical cancer and pre-cervical cells (CIN). In the long-term this vaccine and its successors will hopefully consign the many cancers associated with HPV to the history books.

There are only two problems with the vaccine. The first is that it needs to be administered before women catch HPV, so we need to know how and when papilloma is acquired.

The second is an image issue, because HPV is seen as being sexually transmitted. Condoms do not stop its spread, so certain Christian groups in the US, such as the American Family Association, see HPV as demonstrating that safe sex does not work. They use it as an argument for abstinence, and now they are opposed to the new vaccine. These groups are very powerful in the US, and have managed to get warning stickers put on school textbooks stating that Darwinism was only one of many theories. Creationism is the one they prefer. Dying of ignorance

(I love the way they talk about us here in the US as if we were monkeys in a zoo. You can just see that British eyebrow go up, can't you?)
The logic of their anti-HPV vaccine argument is based on "facts" that many doctors and scientists, including the World Health Organisation, repeat as gospel truth. The problem is that these facts are based on long out of date research, because scientists are not keeping up with developments in the field. Cures bring glory. Asking about the background to the virus, and how it is spread, is of less interest to the men in white coats.

The theory of papillomavirus being a sexually transmitted disease (STD) should have been consigned to the history books long ago. Numerous studies have shown that papilloma can be contracted in many non-sexual ways, but for some reason those studies are being ignored.

Scientists made the link between HPV and the main type of cervical cancer about 15 years ago. Two types of HPV (six and 11) are sexually transmitted, so they assumed that other types of HPV were too. That assumption has become axiom, despite numerous studies that contradict this assumption.

Ah, do you get how this works? HPV is spread by sexual contact, yes, and by everything else -- in another part of the article she notes:
Condoms do not prevent the spread of HPV, because condoms only stop semen, and HPV 16 and 18 are not typical STDs. HPV 16 is passed by skin to skin contact, not through semen, so kissing, sharing spoons, breastfeeding, playing sports will all pass it on.

The bottom line is that papillomavirus is everywhere. Some studies show that 90% of all adults have or have had the virus. It's like the flu, and most of the time we fight it off without realising we ever had it.

You may have wondered why the abstinence-only advocates were so loud in telling you that condoms don't work against HPV, when the CDC, for instance, ( LINK) says they do. Well, condoms don't help you fight off the flu, either. The trick is that HPV is not necessarily, maybe not even usually, a sexually transmitted disease.
Cervical cancer is the easiest cancer to detect, but 1,400 women in the UK are still dying from it each year because we are not sharing and publicising research. Many of those women are dying because they didn't get a smear test out of embarrassment or ignorance. If we can get the new research across, we can make women realise that HPV is normal and encourage them to go for smear tests.

Cervical cancer need not be a battle; the treatment, if caught early, is swift and relatively painless. The real battle with cervical cancer is to get the facts about HPV across. The bottom line is that women are dying of ignorance because basic medical research is being ignored.

There is a new HPV vaccine which will come out soon. Some nuts argue that it should not be administered because it would encourage young women to have sex. These people need to be stopped. The facts about HPV need to be publicized. Teenagers need to learn the correct way to use a condom.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Dumberer and Dumberest: The Education Doctors

I just saw the strangest thing. The CRC blog has a thing where apparently somebody from wrote a letter to a web site and they are answered by these two ladies who call themselves the "Education Doctors." Is that what this is? And I see the ladies have a web page over in Prince George's County (at least it's on a PG web host)-- Education Doctors -- and it does not appear that the Education Doctors are actually doctors of any sort, just two ladies who have an opinion or something. (Here's their picture from their web site.)

So Ex-Recall posts this illiterate, misspelled, rambling response to somebody's letter. I assume that it comes from somewhere on the Education Doctors' web site, but the site is so chaotically disorganized that I admit I can't find it.

Regarding their long-winded suggestion that Matthew Sheppard was not killed because he was gay, but that this is a story to promote the "liberal agenda," I can only note that his family members do not seem to agree with that! And what kind of cynic would take such a horrible murder and try to defend it? Is that what CRC stands for? Making excuses for murderers? Is that what this is about?

This fake-doctor says
It is also important that you understand that I respect all humans and religions, however as it relates to homosexual’s desire to be considered a separate but equal race that by the way means my race (Black) will be further marginalized and that is not an option I will support.
Did you realize that? That gay people desire to be a race? Or that respecting gays would marginalize black people? That commas have gone out of style? You feel like saying something about a "straw man," but you realize they wouldn't understand the concept.

Did you realize this?
... experimenting with the homosexual lifestyle leads to wild use of mind-altering drugs needed to escape the pain associated with their sexual activities and the threat of terminal decease associated with their promiscuity and un-natural sexual interests.

Isn't "terminal decease" nearly redundant? And I'm wondering, where do deceased people get mind-altering drugs?

I mean ... look at this ... they say to us here at
How can you truly say that abstinence does not work?
Huh? Abstinence education does not work, abstinence would be pretty good, if by "work" you mean prevents pregnancy and STD. Nobody over here ever said that abstinence doesn't work.

Or how about this:
I do not support the homosexual lifestyle, I do not agree that human beings are born homosexual, and I do not believe the innocence of our children should be stripped with one-sided information that based on my research, is nothing more that indoctrination and recruitment attempt to create more homosexuals that will grow up to vote a certain way – if they live.

If they live. Isn't that from the old joke about the insurance salesman? Oh, never mind. This whole statement is as clear a denial of science and its findings as you'll ever see. This is well into the realm of paranoid delusion.

See, I know there must be some reasonable voice on the other side, this can't really be all there is to it. Right? But here's the CRC, the voice of the other side, posting this letter from a fake-doctor as if it contained an important message. Is this really the best they can do?

The Post: Many Teens Have Already Heard About Sex

The Washington Post had a front-page article this morning that highlights a feature of the sex-education debate that is not often brought out. The reporter talked to students, and came away with the conclusion that sex is not such a big deal to the kids themselves. They talk about it in the hallways, see it on TV and on the Internet, and talking about it in health class is really just ... no big deal.
This is what teenagers at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School tell you: They talk about sex.

In the hallways. At lunch tables. Who's doing it. Who's not. Girls talk to their girlfriends. Boys talk to boys. Girls talk with boys who are friends, or their boyfriends.

People talk about sex all the time," said 16-year-old Claire Davey-Karison. "It's casual [conversation], you know. You'll hear gossip. It's no big deal."

But sex education has become a big deal in some Montgomery County schools -- a deal that involves lawyers, organized parent groups and a federal court. Although students like Claire talk about sex in the same casual manner they might discuss last night's homework or the hijinks of Marissa and Ryan on "The O.C.," some adults are less than comfortable with them learning about it -- or certain aspects of it -- in class. Teens' Take: Sex Is All Around Them

Our times -- and here I mean the era inhabited by us antediluvians who crawled out from under rocks in the middle of the twentieth century sometime -- are typified by change. You could almost make the case that nothing is the same now as it was a hundred years ago. A hundred years ago, cars were a big deal, fer cryin' out loud, light bulbs were a big deal. A hundred years ago, telephones were new. Never mind television and computers and all that stuff that still feels new to us all.

And social norms have changed. A hundred years ago, women couldn't vote. Blacks had to use separate facilities from whites. Irish needed not apply. Ankles were titillating.

Tides roll in and out, and norms change. Hemlines go up and down, "cool" becomes "groovy" and then "radical" and then "tight" and then "cool" again. Birth control pills liberated sexual behavior, herpes and AIDS put a lid on it. Kinsey and Elvis, Miss Sherry and Liberace, put sex in the news. Gays were always an important part of the entertainment industry, but you never saw gay roles -- when did Rocky Horror Picture Show come out, or Victor/Victoria? In advertising, what is it that sells? What do you think TV channels like MTV and E! are about? Janet Jackson, Michael Jackson ... It's all about sex.

Like it or not, it's everywhere. The most basic behavioral feature of all species higher than protozoa is no longer a secret. Teenagers know it's there. And they don't see the big deal.
With summer break a few days away, about a dozen students from Bethesda-Chevy Chase High recently offered their take on the sex education debate. The teenagers said they are fortunate because they feel comfortable talking about sex with their parents. They worried about youths who don't have adults they can turn to.

"I know it's a big deal to adults," said Laura Brewer, 15. "Adults fear that if we're learning about it, we'll be more influenced to carry it out. But not teaching it isn't the way, because one day kids are going to have sex, and they're going to need to know how to protect themselves."

Laura and the other students said they realize that some of their peers hold different views, that not everyone talks about sex in hallways and lunchrooms, and that some adults prefer to keep discussions about sex within the family. Still, they said, it's important for parents to understand that teenagers these days are bombarded with sexual images.

"People act like they're dropping some bombshell on us," said Brandon Corbin, 16.

Brandon, who will be a junior in the fall, said many teenagers know what condoms are (and some have known since elementary school because of older siblings or classmates). They know people who are gay, might have friends who are gay and, even if they aren't themselves, have classmates who are sexually active.

Look, back when I was a kid in high school, shortly after my family moved from a cave to a brick house -- believe it or not, we didn't know about any gay kids in high school. Kids didn't just walk into class and say "I'm gay."

And what's changed? It's a simple thing, really, though hard to handle sometimes. Norms have changed. In my youth, slightly post-Adam-and-Eve, being gay was just something you didn't talk about. Those people were perverts, weirdos, and you didn't know any of them. Well, of course, actually you did, you just didn't know you knew any. Now it's changed. A gay teenager today doesn't have to keep it a big secret. Oh, it's hard, I don't doubt that. One of my kids has a gay friend with a Xanga site that documents his life day-to-day; I read it several times a week, just to see how it's going. At least for him, it doesn't seem to be so much bullying and outright hatred, but mainly misunderstanding and strange assumptions. But as the truth comes out more and more in the open, the assumptions will become more correct.

I think most of us (leave that word "us" to be defined as you prefer) think of the anti-gay reactionary movement as a kind of desperate attempt to stop inevitable change. In Montgomery County, the anti-gay forces argue that the sex-education curriculum that was proposed would "normalize" homosexuality. Well, people, I hate to be the one to break it to you, but ... it's already been normalized. People don't really think it's that strange any more. Between Will and Grace and Queer Eye, and Elton John and all those guys up in the top ranks of the Republican Party, between Melissa Ethridge and Rosie O-Donnell, it's just become a fact of life. Some people are gay. They're not all monsters. Get over it.

In another hundred years people will look back, and this stuff will be impossible to comprehend. There are people alive today who can remember when a company could (and would) fire a woman for getting engaged, or worse, for getting pregnant. But kids growing up cannot imagine it. They'll ask, Why didn't they sue the company? The answer is, because there wasn't anything wrong with it. Now there is. Times change.
The statistics speak for themselves: By the time they have reached their senior year in high school, three out of five young people in the United States have had sex, and one in five of those has had sex with four or more partners, according to the 2001 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance.

"You can take the sex out of the curriculum, but it's still going to be in society," said Laura, who just finished her sophomore year and would have been in the class introduced to the contested sex-ed curriculum.

A study by the Kaiser Family Foundation on the media habits of young people found that on average, 8- to 18-year-olds watch nearly four hours of television a day and devote nearly two hours a day to listening to music. Another Kaiser report released two years ago said that in a sampling of programming from the 2001-02 television season, 64 percent of the shows included some sexual content, 32 percent had sexual behavior and 14 percent featured strong suggestions of sexual intercourse.

Yeah, sex is out there. Teens see it, they hear about it, they talk about it ... they do it. You can fight it, but you can't turn back the hands of time. What's needed now is education that teaches the facts, that tells teenagers honestly what the issues are. Because they already know it's out there, they just need the correct details.

Norms come and go, but some things evolve in a positive direction. One of those things is knowledge. I don't remember if hemlines went up or down this year, but I know that science knows more this year than it did last year, and more last year than the year before that. More and more of reality, including human nature, is being brought into the light of knowledge. Human sexuality will be one of the last things, to be sure, the mystery is part of it and many people will fight to keep it secret. But it's happening, and it will be necessary for the school district to adapt to that truth.

Friday, June 17, 2005

HHS Report: Abstinence-Only Does Not Appear Effective

Man, I'll tell ya, there ought to be a job title "Research Digester." A couple of days ago it was the Heritage Foundation's faux-science report, today it's this monster from Mathematica, done for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). A hundred seventy eight pages of tables and numbers and graphs.

And you know what happens. Nobody reads this stuff. Then what happens is some media guys write whatever they want, knowing that nobody will double-check their work, and government guys will say whatever they were going to say anyway. So, for instance, here's how the Catholic World News put it:
A new study released on Tuesday by the Department of Health and Human Services reveals that abstinence education works. According to the interim report, teens who participated in abstinence programs had an increased awareness of the potential consequences of sexual activity before marriage, thought more highly of abstinent behaviors, and had less favorable opinions about sexual activity before marriage than did students who were not in abstinence programs. Federal study confirms abstinence education effective

and on the other hand, here's what Advocates for Youth read in it:
An objective reading of the study, conducted by Mathematica Policy Research Inc. for the Department of Health and Human Services calls into question the Bush Administration's support of abstinence-only as a national policy. Government Acting Like "Flat Earth Society," Promoting Abstinence-Only Programs

You might notice that these two summaries say opposite things. The study showed that abstinence-only programs work, or it shows that they don't work...

See what I mean? It oughta be somebody's job to read this stuff and summarize it for normal people.

This study is actually an experiment -- which is a good thing. Students were randomly assigned to participate in an abstinence program or a control group. There were four different abstinence programs, one in each of the geographical locations studied, and in each case it appears that the control group tended to take the regular health classes in their schools -- many had sex-ed training of some kind, it just wasn't the program being studied.

It is only by conducting an experiment, which is defined by random assignment to conditions, that causality can be assessed. The question here is whether the abstinence programs had any effect on subsequent attitudes and behaviors. Some measures were taken before the health classes, and some afterwards, so that change could be assessed.

I'm not going to go through this whole thing, which is generally well done (I have some quibbles with the Discussion section, but then I suppose Mathematica has a client to satisfy, don't they?). The question everybody wants to know is: do abstinence-only programs work?

The question is not answered in this study. The four cohorts interviewed here range in age from a mean of 10.3 years to 13.3. The question "Does abstinence-only education work," would require knowledge of whether the students had sexual intercourse before some criterion time, say in their teen years, or before marriage. You can't tell that by interviewing an eleven year old kid.

The substitute question, then, is whether abstinence-only education changed the students' attitudes and beliefs. And of course this form of the question has many components. The researchers report on five clusters of "intermediate variables": 1) views on abstinence, teen sex, and marriage, 2)peer influence and relations, 3)self-concept, refusal skills, and communication with parents, 4)perceived consequences of teen and nonmarital sex, and 5) expectations to refrain from sex. Some of these are attitude measures -- how the student feels about something -- and some are beliefs about how they will behave.

You are free to read the report online (LINK HERE), so let me jump to what is probably the most important variable, that is, the respondents' expectation of whether they will be abstinent through their teen years. On the questionnaire, the question was worded like this:
What is the chance you will have sexual intercourse as an unmarried teen? [Asked of non-sexually active youth only]
0 I definitely will do it
1 I might do it
2 I definitely will remain abstinent -- I will not have sexual intercourse

Do you think you will have sexual intercourse during the next year? [Asked of sexually active youth only]
0 I definitely will have sexual intercourse during the next year
0 I might have sexual intercourse during the next year
0 I definitely will not have sexual intercourse during the next year

(I hope that the zeroes for the codes on the last item are typos in the report!)

The results of this question are easy to report. There were no statistically significant differences, for any of the four programs, between experimental and control groups on the question of whether respondents expected to remain abstinent. When the two "older" groups were collapsed together, the authors report significance at the p<0.10 level, which is not usually considered "significant" in the social sciences, but the groups individually did not demonstrate significant differences. In all four cases, respondents in the abstinence-only programs reported slightly higher expectations, but in no case were these big enough to overpower the background noise.

But didn't Catholic World News say it worked? Didn't they say that teens were more likely to take abstinence vows after these classes? Well, yes they did, and the data support that. Respondents in three of the four programs pledged significantly more, at the p<0.05 level, than control group members. It is not said, but I have the suspicion that an abstinence pledge might be part of an abstinence-only class, and not part of a regular health class. So ... this is not really so surprising, is it?

One serious problem with this study has to do with confounded independent variables. Three of the four samples were made up of what the authors call "youth in high-risk communities." They were mostly black and poor, with unmarried parents. The fourth group was mostly middle-class white kids with two parents. These kinds of differences make it impossible to compare the effects of programs between groups. As each group received a different abstinence-only program, we cannot tell whether one was more effective than another, simply because program differences are confounded with demographic differences.

Effects are also obscured by the fact that the control groups were, well, uncontrolled, and not all students in the program groups actually attended the programs. Many students in the control groups took other health classes, including ones that talked about abstinence, and not all the kids in the abstinence programs did attend their assigned classes.

In three of the four programs, teens' attitudes were more supportive of abstinence and less supportive of teen sex than control group subjects. No difference was found in the level of support from friends for abstinence, or in dating and peer pressure estimates. Further, as the authors report, "Program and control group youth displayed no difference in their self-concept, refusal skills, or communication with parents." In all four programs, teens' perceptions of the potential adverse consequences of teen and nonmarital sex were increased significantly by the classes.

The authors also state that "There is limited evidence that the programs raised expectations to abstain from sex." This statement is not true, though, and would never survive a peer review process; expectations of abstinence did not differ significantly, at the p<0.05 level, between program and control groups. A p<0.10 was attained by pooling groups, though even that easy standard was not met by the programs individually.

The authors write:
There is little or no evidence that the first year of participation in these programs changed other intermediate outcomes that may be vehicles for changing behavior. These include views supportive of marriage; the extent to which youth's friends hold views supportive of abstinence; and self-concept, refusal skills, and communication with parents.

Now listen to what the government is saying (from the Catholic World News):
"Students who are in these [abstinence education] programs are recognizing that abstinence is a positive choice," HHS Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation Michael O'Grady said. "Abstinence education programs that help our young people address issues of healthy relationships, self-esteem, decision-making, and effective communications are important to keeping them healthy and safe."

This is what I have been politely calling on this blog "bull-oney."

Looking back at the quotes at the top of this post, you've gotta think that the Catholic World News is reporting from the dream world, while Advocates for Youth wrapped it up pretty well: the government is acting like the Flat Earth Society, promoting programs even when their own research shows they don't work.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Science and Politics: Pledgers' STD Data Re-Analyzed

There has been quite a bit of hullaballoo in the past few days about a Heritage Foundation study that reanalyzed data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), a comprehensive survey of 90,000 seventh through twelfth graders. An earlier report on the data set by Hannah Brückner at Yale and Peter Bearman at Columbia, published in the The Journal of Adolescent Health had found that teens who pledged to remain abstinent until marriage had the same rates of STDs as those who did not. Yesterday's New York Times:
Challenging earlier findings, two studies from the Heritage Foundation reported yesterday that young people who took virginity pledges had lower rates of acquiring sexually transmitted diseases and engaged in fewer risky sexual behaviors.

The new findings were based on the same national survey used by earlier studies and conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services. But the authors of the new study used different methods of statistical analysis from those in an earlier one that was widely publicized, making direct comparisons difficult.

Independent experts called the new findings provocative, but criticized the Heritage team's analysis as flawed and lacking the statistical evidence to back its conclusions. The new findings have not been submitted to a journal for publication, an author said. The independent experts who reviewed the study said the findings were unlikely to be published in their present form. Studies Rebut Earlier Report on Pledges of Virginity

The Times' reporting on this is a model of ... whatever. They are balanced, I guess you could say.

So the reader is left with two analyses of the same data set that come to opposite conclusions. The ordinary person is going to just shake their head, muttering something about statistics, and move on to the funnies.

I spent some time looking at this, and I admit, the key to it slipped past me. It was just a little thing, but the sleight-of-hand was good, and I was looking the wrong way.

Here -- read what this blog, "Big Monkey, Helpy Chalk," says about it: A big red flashing sign saying "This science is completely bogus". It's a good, readable discussion about "junk science" -- which the Heritage Foundation guys accuse the academics of -- and how to tell the difference.

There are a couple of keys. First of all: peer review. The first paper was sent to a legitimate scientific journal. The editor of that journal sent it around to some reviewers, generally experts in the field. They are competitive, and hate it when some other researcher finds something before they do, so they criticize the paper to death. The author gets the comments, addresses them through changes to the manuscript, re-submits it ... sometimes this goes on for several cycles. Well, usually not -- most papers are rejected in the first round. But this one survived, and finally reached publication.

The Heritage Foundation paper, on the other hand, went from the conservative think-tank directly to the press.

That's your first clue.

The NYT and Big Monkey agree that a significance level of 0.10 is too high, and it is, but that's quibbling.

The tricky part is in the way the two studies defined STDs. Here's where the data came from for the original Brückner and Bearman study:
Biomarker data (urine samples) on STD status were collected from 92% of wave 3 respondents. A total of 1183 individuals (8%) refused participation in the biospecimen collection. Urine samples were collected in the field and analyzed for the presence of three sexually transmitted diseases, Chlamydia (CH), Gonorrhea (GC), and Trichomoniasis (TR). In addition, 7000 female respondents who reported ever having had vaginal sex in wave 3 were randomly selected for Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) assays. The specific procedure and tests used are described in detail in [5]. Both males and females were tested for the three bacterial STDs regardless of their sexual activity status.

Collection procedures followed a strict protocol; samples that arrived in a condition not suitable for testing were discarded. Between 4% (CH), 5% (TR), and 10% (GC) of the samples were not tested for these reasons [5,6]. Pledgers do not differ from others with respect to whether their samples yielded results in the testing (p = 0.32 for CH, p = 0.17 for TR, p = 0.20 for CG). Pledgers did not differ from others in the extent to which they refused to provide urine
samples (p = 0.28). Data are weighted to adjust for oversampling of various groups and wave 3 nonresponse.


Unless otherwise noted, the analyses reported below are based on 11,471 respondents with valid data on STD status and grand sample weights. The majority of the results are derived from cross-tabulating pledge status with various outcome and behavioral measures.


HPV is analyzed separately because it is much more prevalent, may be transmitted by noncoital sexual behavior, and the testing was based on a different sample (n = 3317; sexually active females only). After the promise: the STD consequences of adolescent virginity pledges

I'll come right back to the STD measurement, but first...

Note that one criticism that the Heritage Foundation researchers had of the Brückner and Bearman study was, as they put it:
The centerpiece of their argument about pledgers and heightened sexual risk activity is a small group of pledgers who engaged in anal sex without vaginal sex. This "risk group" consists of 21 persons out of a sample of 14,116. Bearman and Bruckner focus on this microscopic group while deliberately failing to inform their audience of the obvious and critical fact that pledgers as a whole are substantially less likely to engage in anal sex when compared to non-pledgers. Virginity Pledgers Have Lower STD Rates and Engage in Fewer Risky Sexual Behaviors

First of all, it is not in any sense a "centerpiece" of Brückner and Bearman's paper. These sentences are tucked in the middle of a paragraph reporting a ton of statistical results:
... Similarly, 0.7% of nonpledgers report anal but no vaginal sex, compared with 1.2% for pledgers. Although too few females report anal but no vaginal sex, for males we find a significant difference between pledgers and nonpledgers (p = .021). Specifically, slightly more than 1% of male nonpledgers report anal sex but no vaginal sex, compared with almost 3% for inconsistent pledgers and 4% for consistent pledgers...

Let me reconstitute the totals here. 0.7 percent of 9,072 nonpledgers would be 63.5, call it 64 nonpledgers; 1.2 percent of 707 pledgers would be 9.3, call it nine of them. There is some ambiguity here -- if "pledgers" means all respondents who reported pledging, whether they were consistent over time or not, then that would be 0.012 percent of 2,399, or about 28.788 pledgers who had anal and not vaginal sex. So we're talking about 93 people, not 21. Whatever, the difference between 1 and 4 percent is significant in this sample, it doesn't matter that the percentages were small. They are certainly higher than the percentage of people who die from head injuries in automobile crashes, but we accept the conclusion that seatbelts significantly reduce that percentage.

They are counting on you not doing what I'm doing, that is, finding the original paper and doing the arithmetic.

We have read how Brückner and Bearman defined STDs in their paper. Now listen to the Heritage Foundation guys describe it:
One problem is that Bearman and Bruckner examined only one of several STD measures available in the Add Health data file. Analysis of the remaining measures reveals that adolescent virginity pledging is strongly associated with reduced STDs among young adults. These results are statistically significant in four of the five STD measures examined and are very near significance on the fifth measure. With all the STD measures, the allegedly ineffective virginity pledge is actually a better predictor of STD reduction than is condom use. Virginity Pledgers Have Lower STD Rates and Engage in Fewer Risky Sexual Behaviors

They make it sound like Brückner and Bearman ignored the other STD data. In reality, their Table 4 is just that. And it shows just what both groups say it shows: people who have pledged to be abstinent report having fewer STDs, and they report going to the doctor fewer times to be checked for STDs.

The Heritage Foundation reports cover up the differences between their data and the academic data, and as a smokescreen they assert that Brückner and Bearman looked at "only one of several STD measures available in the Add Health data file."

Brückner and Bearman analyzed real data from real urine tests. People peed in the cup and it went to a lab. It didn't matter what the respondent said, the laboratory measured whether there were signs of infection in the urine. The Heritage Foundation guys relied only on what the respondent said. According to Brückner and Bearman:
Add Health asked respondents also about their experiences with STDs. Specifically, all respondents were asked whether they had been diagnosed with various STDs in the past year; whether they had ever seen a doctor because they were worried about having a STD; and whether they had been tested for various STDs in the past year.

And those are the other STD variables that the Heritage guys like so much. No sensible person is going to think that someone's answers to those questions are more accurate than the lab results.

In sum, the Heritage Foundation papers are political, not scientific. They do not meet any of the standards of scientific literature. They are not peer-reviewed, they contain scurrilous ad hominem comments about other researchers, they conceal the nature of the data they used while implying that the other researchers' methods were inadequate. The Heritage Foundation wants abstinence pledges to succeed because it fits their ideology, and they will twist any data in whatever way is necessary to prove their point.

It's a sad statement, that science is under attack in this way, that any nut can put a paper on the Internet and call the newspapers, and people will accept it as if it were the real thing.