Saturday, August 27, 2005

Transcripts of Public Comments at the BOE Meeting on 8-25-05

There were 15 speakers scheduled, 13 of whom showed up to give Public Comments to the Montgomery County Board of Education. Here are transcripts made from a videotape recording of the meeting of some of the speakers:

Speaker #1 Ruth Jacobs
A man came to me for a sexually transmitted disease. He was a well-developed, muscular man. He stated he was taking steroids. Routine lab work was done and I called him in dismay about the results. Both anabolic and female steroids/hormones can cause liver damage, high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, stroke, blood clots, irritability, and depression. Recently, the suicide risk of androgen hormones has been highlighted in the death of Rob Garibaldi, Taylor Hooton, and Ephriam Narkio. All athletes. The sudden heart attack death of former baseball star Ken Caminiti at age 41 highlighted both the risk of substance abuse and performance enhancing steroids.

Transgender youth also use steroids. They have higher than average rates of depression, suicide attempts, substance abuse, sexually transmitted diseases, school failure, family rejection, and homelessness. HIV is 35% in men transforming to females. In October 1979, sex reassignment surgery was stopped at Johns Hopkins University. The chairman wrote, "The zeal for this sex change surgery, perhaps with the exception of the frontal lobotomy, the most radical therapy ever encouraged by 20th century psychiatrists, did not derive from critical reasoning or thoughtful assessments. This sex reassignment surgery has distracted from genuine investigations attempting to find out just what has gone wrong for these people.

In the prior curriculum, MCPS was distracted from critical reasoning into embracing transgender as normal. It is wrong to promote the use of steroids and mutilating surgery to change sex as normal to our youth. MCPS must warn that the devastating risk of transgender lifestyle...

Pat O'Neill:
Thank you very much...

Speaker #3 Rosemarie Briggs
Good morning. I was encouraged to hear at the last Board of Education meeting several Montgomery County residents request that the word "marriage" be emphasized in the 8th and 10th grad health curriculum. I personally appreciate Mr. O'Neill's mention of her 34 year marriage. In my experience, teenagers need concrete words when making important decisions and setting long-term goals. "Marriage" is a concrete word.

Marriage is a legal union between a man and a woman that requires a license. Youth especially understand the meaning of a license because they are anxious to qualify for a driver's license. Marriage involves a ceremony. For most people the marriage ceremony is attended by family and friends and followed by a big celebration. Marriage is necessary to be called husband or wife. For these reasons, youth can understand that marriage is a long-term commitment with the goal of a lifetime commitment.

I believe youth are confused when parents, educators, and society throw abstract words at them. In regards to when a person should have an intimate relationship, words like mature, ready and responsible are too abstract. Imagine if the state of Maryland said a youth could drive a car when he or she feels mature, ready or responsible. I personally would not feel safe on the road.

My goal is to help teenagers look at important decisions with a long-term perspective using concrete words they are capable of understanding. Studies show a majority of youth want a good marriage and family life. Youth in other school districts are benefiting from this type of curriculum. State and federal are available to defray costs. The state of Maryland recognized the wisdom of marriage instruction with the passage of a marriage law in 2001 that provides a reduced marriage license fee for couples receiving 4 hours of instruction. Let's start this valuable instruction in high school and teach youth relationship skills to prepare them for a marriage.

Speaker #4 Matthew Lowe
Good morning. My name is Matthew Lowe and I'm a senior at Sherwood High School. I'm an Eagle Scout, Captain of the Varsity Cross Country team, straight A student and profound advocate of pro-abstinence and traditional family oriented sexual education. I wish to depict how the current options for sexual education are not satisfactory, how an alternative class is the correct solution, and to stress that education must include complete coverage.

The truth is that there are youth in this county who have not forsaken the moral fiber of their elders, who have decided for religious or moral reasons that sexual intercourse is to take place only within a marriage between one man and one woman. Yet despite these convictions, the County has constructed a curriculum opposing these beliefs, requiring students (unintelligible) to listen to degrading notions and suggestions such as homosexual role-playing and the encouraging of teens to practice mutual masturbation and watch erotic movies.

The current alternative? Those who find this material offensive must stand up in front of the whole class of peers and not really make an exit, to go find the packet as if being punished for their views. It is absolute intolerance. Tolerance is not being dismissed from an opportunity to sit in the classroom and learn, nor is it forcing misleading and offensive material against someone's moral and religious convictions into one's head. I find it simply humiliating. The correct answer is an alternative class where those who promote traditional values have the option to sit through a more censored class.

It is your responsibility as educators to teach what is best for our mental and physical health, giving us complete coverage of the topic. Premarital sex remains more dangerous than currently taught. The highs and lows that accompany the passion and excitement of sex leave the participants depressed and low on self-esteem. Depression driven suicide is 3 times more likely in sexually active girls and 8 times more likely in sexually active young men. This is absent in the new curriculum. Also in encouraging protected sex and the alternative encounters, the high rate of STDs is hardly even mentioned, despite their frequent and fatal side effects.

Thank you.

Speaker #6 Teresa Wallace
Good morning. In the early 1980s I managed several stores in downtown San Francisco. A large percentage of my employees were gay men. Most were my employees as well as my good friends. It was a time before AIDS and sexual promiscuity was rampant, encouraged, and an integral part of that community.

One of my assistant managers immersed himself in the philosophy that permeated the gay organizations and newspapers at the time which was basically anything goes sexually -- if it feels good, do it. One day this friend called in sick. Doctors thought he had mono, then leukemia. Finally after a long period of endless suffering, he died of pneumonia. Later when the AIDS virus was identified and ravaged that community, we all realized that he had the classic symptoms of AIDS and was probably one of the first to die from it there.

No one knew then that gay sex could be deadly. No one knew the risks, now one knew the facts. That ignorance resulted in untold pain, misery, and a horrible waste of human life. Today we do know the risks. For example in 2003, 63% of the newly reported HIV cases that were identified were in gay men. The gay community has significantly higher rates of rectal cancer, hepatitis B, and other STDs. In addition, Dr. Ronald Stall of the CDC stated, "We have a least four other epidemics going on among gay men. Among these are higher than average rates of partner abuse, drug abuse, and oppression." As a result, the CDC has recommended the ABC framework. A for abstinence first, B for be faithful to one partner, and C to use condoms correctly and consistently if you do choose a risky liflestyle.

This is an intelligent basic and common sense approach to sex education and I strongly encourage you to include it in the curriculum. Teaching tolerance does not mean relinquishing responsibility and white washing the facts....

Speaker #7 Sarah Fletcher
Sex is everywhere you look – on TV, in magazines, books and movies. Since we live in a society awash in sexuality, the messages kids gain about themselves and morality is extremely important but now may be harder to impart.

I was 12 years old in 6th Grade when I opted out from the sex education unit. My teacher sent me to the library with a thick packet filled with nutrition and health exercises, which he didn't even collect at the end. Although I completed the packet, I knew it was simply busy work and I remember feeling alone and bored.

Two years ago health class was a required course for graduation so I assumed we had to take all units. I wasn't told that I could opt out. When the homosexuality unit surfaced, it was taught with much laughter, awkwardness, and blunt description. While some peers joked about it, the majority felt as I felt – awkward. It assigned the same value to a committed relationship as marriage. Maybe that's why the divorce rate has risen to nearly 50%.

At the same time, I do have a gay friend and while I respect his decision and enjoy friendship, I am not interested in hearing explicitly about safe sex and anal intercourse, etc. Students who have found the courage to state their own beliefs are told that they are uninformed, naive, bigoted and even laughed at. When I said that the material violates my family and religious beliefs, I was told that the instructor would handle any trouble from my parents. I felt ridiculous. Should I have?

Family is such a main part of my life. They are the people who support me, laugh with me, teach me, and the people who I have the strongest relationships with. I believe that kids who don't want to learn or hear about homosexuality and the safe ways of intercourse shouldn't have to opt out but rather have the family unit as the main course and allow the small minority of those who'd like homosexuality information to opt out.

If the course is outlined as family life education, then let's focus more on the strength that comes between a mother, father, and children. It is my hope that the school board reevaluates the homosexual material being taught in health class in high schools and puts a stronger emphasis on family unity and relationships. It's rather funny to me that I learned about the implications of homosexual intercourse a whole year before I even had kissed a boy.

Speaker #10 Christine Grewell
Good morning Dr. Weast, President O'Neill, and Members of the Board of Education: I was going to bore you with more statistics today, but instead I have something much more exciting to share with you! is very pleased to announce that one month from today, on September 25, 2005, at Bethesda Chevy Chase High School, we will host an educational forum that we call, "Teach the Facts – Just Say NOW to Comprehensive and Inclusive Health Education." Speakers will include an expert from the American Medical Association, a nationally renowned Maryland health educator, and a Montgomery County resident who is also the Sexuality Education Policy Manager at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, among others. is pleased to personally invite each member and officer of the Montgomery County Board of Education and Superintendent Weast to attend this educational forum. We hope you will join with us as we raise public awareness about the need to promote tolerance and fact-based health education curricula.

As we did in June of this year, we will again demonstrate the deep support in this community for teaching about and acting with mutual respect. All supporters of the newly revised curriculum feel strongly that our children should learn mutual respect for all people regardless of their own or a family member's sexual orientation. In June, recent Walt Whitman High School graduate Andrew Bennett pointed out the MCPS Student's Rights and Responsibilities Handbook states, "All students and staff will conduct themselves in a manner that promotes mutual respect for others." In the past, this policy could not been fully followed, due to the deafening silence in the family life and human sexuality curriculum on basic information on sexual orientation. Now, finally, MCPS is on the way to fully realizing their goal of "conduct[ing] themselves in a manner that promotes mutual respect for others."

Thank you for your efforts to ensure mutual respect for all is taught in our public schools and for this opportunity to show the community's support for your efforts. Please join us on September 25th. Thank you.

Speaker #11 Ben Patton
One of the sexual categories in what would have been introduced to our children under the now banned revised curriculum is transgender. I ask you, why do you want to teach our children that transgenderism is normal, natural, and healthy? I don't get it.

Why do you want the schools to instruct children as young as 13 about transgenderism in the first place? I don't know.

Would the discussion also have included the particular sexual practices associated with this supposed gender, perhaps fisting and rimming where participants ingest feces? Of course not.

Are you even aware that the American Psychiatric Association categorizes transgenderism as a gender identity disorder and advises children and adults so afflicted to seek therapy? It appears not.

Apparently you have sided with extremist social activists who are attempting to normalize the abnormal. In fact, a teacher's resource actually includes a reference linking a Scotsman's wearing of a kilt with transvestitism. Scotsmen wear kilts ergo they are cross-dressers; therefore cross-dressing is a normal and accepted practice in some societies.

This type of sophistry is unworthy of a major public school system. Our children should not be the lab rats of these social engineers who have a highly disturbed view of the world, especially when their agenda runs contrary to parents' deeply held religious and moral beliefs.

It is very disturbing that the disbanded Citizens Advisory Committee had several representatives peddling transgenderism as a sexual variant. NARAL, Planned Parenthood, PFLAG, Montgomery County Mental Health Association which were all represented on the committee, each have stated unequivocal support of the transgendered. PFLAG in fact believes, and I quote, "There is no known cure or course of treatment which reverses the transgendered persons' manifestation of the characteristics and behavior of another gender." This of course is flat earth bunk. But then again there is so much about that curriculum that was false and misleading let's not repeat the mistakes.

Speaker #13 Letitia Hall
Last month I heard people ask you to create a class on "traditional families." I noticed that none of them specified what family traditions they wanted you to teach. When I was a student at Montgomery College from 1997 through 2000, I had classmates who were born in Africa in traditional polygamous families. I remain friends a young South Asian woman who vigorously defends arranged marriages. Her twins will be enrolling in MCPS next year. Will we teach these family traditions?

Last month I heard that long-married people are healthier and wealthier than people who divorce. That testimony implied a false cause/effect relationship by omitting the stresses that poverty and ill-health place on families and the role they play in divorce.

The "traditional family" class is a red herring; students do not need a semester in blinders to avoid two 45 minutes classes. Colleges and universities have many classes on marriage and family. I think our job in MCPS is to get students there with the skills they need to be successful, and that brings us back to our health ed. curriculum. Students who accept diversity are better prepared for college. Students who know about sex and contraception, including condoms, are better prepared to safely navigate the dating scenes on campus.

I transferred to College Park the year my daughter entered as a freshman. As an Undergraduate Teaching Assistant in a "University 101" class, I worked with students who had never before known anyone not of their own faith or economic class, who feared their gay and lesbian classmates, who knew nothing about different methods of contraception. The University 101 class includes diversity training and condom demonstrations because experience proves that the students need it.

I don't want to misrepresent college as a den of iniquity, because it isn't, but university campuses provide an astonishing array of stupid choices. Alcohol is there. Sex is there. While not all college students will be sexually active, they all will need reasons to say no and knowledge to stay safe. MCPS graduates should not go to college needing remedial sex education. They should enter their college years already prepared to make good choices.

Speaker #14 Alexis Guild
I understand that the Board of Education will soon be considering applicants to the Citizens Advisory Committee on Family Life and Human Development (CAC). I strongly encourage you to include a representative from a local reproductive health organization like Pro-Choice Maryland to protect the interests of Montgomery County parents and residents.

For the past several months, Pro-Choice Maryland’s public outreach efforts have included discussions with hundreds of Montgomery County residents about the Family Life and Human Development curriculum. We have found residents strongly support a comprehensive curriculum that includes a condom demonstration video, and medically-accurate information about preventing unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.

We have also found Montgomery County residents are very concerned they will not end up with a curriculum reflecting local values. They fear the process has been hijacked by nationally funded anti-choice, anti-education groups, and that their children will end up the losers in a larger political game.

I am here before you because we at Pro-Choice Maryland know this is not the case. We are confident you are committed to providing MCPS students with an appropriate sex education curriculum that equips them with facts about preventing unintended pregnancies and disease, and we applaud this effort.

As you probably know, Congressman Waxman’s report on abstinence-only education found countless errors in federally funded curricula including: grossly distorted information about birth control and condom failure rates, rampant gender stereotypes, and erroneous information linking abortion to infertility and breast cancer. There is no doubt a national movement to present as fact misleading information to our children. We cannot let this take hold in Montgomery County.

This is why I encourage you to include a representative from a local reproductive health group, like Pro-Choice Maryland, on the new CAC. We will ensure no biased or misleading information becomes part of our local curriculum, and that the curriculum does not omit vital information. We will advocate for a curriculum reflecting the views of the majority of Montgomery County parents. We work with them on a daily basis, and we understand their concerns.

After the Public Comments were over, Board of Education President Patricia O'Neill made some remarks about a conference she had just attended.

: .....I had the privilege as the President Elect of the Maryland Association of Boards of Education to attend the National School Board Associations President's Retreat....I was supposed to be back on Monday for the bus campaign but I got stuck in Minneapolis, but I have to say I've been to many conference in the seven years I've been on the Board of Education and this was one of the most inspiring. There were Presidents from every state. Some states sent 2 representatives. There was a representative of Canada.

Many of the Presidents cone from very small districts. The president of the New Jersey Association came from a district of 350 kids K to 8. The National School Board President Elect is from Pinellas County, which is one county that we benchmark against frequently. But the commonality of issues whether you were big or small was so great and we worked on many issues on the National level.

No Child Left Behind and the problems created by No Child Left Behind were tremendous. Saturday afternoon there was a presentation that involved the Presidents from Texas, Florida, Connecticut, and Utah, and the intrusion into states rights and the ability of states to determine education. No one said we wanted to step away from accountability. No one wanted to step away being able to prepare all children for college and have high expectations. But I was struck by the burdens for many of the states. Rhode Island, Vermont and New Hampshire, very small states that have less kids than we have, have combined to create a consortium because they can't afford to do the testing and create the testing. The President of the Florida Association said it appears to him that the two Bush brothers do not communicate because the problems in Florida with No Child Left Behind are not being taken care of by the national level so it was wonderful.

We had exercises in some legal areas and I participated in one involving stickers on books regarding evolution, creationism, intelligent design, and establishment clause issues. I was struck at how in some jurisdictions, the small minority is trying to create a situation where religious values are imposed into schools and there was a situation in Georgia where there were about 2,300 who signed petitions who wanted intelligent design added into the curriculum.

It was a wonderful conference. I learned a lot. We had a discussion – Arthur Levine who is President of the Teacher's College at Columbia University talked about preparing education leaders, the need for more Superintendents, for teachers to become principals.

Dr. Weast, you'll find this interesting. The President elect of the Vermont School Board Association was a Superintendent in New York state for over 20 years, retired, moved to Vermont, became an elected School Board member so there's a future calling for you. (laughter)

But I would say most of the Presidents talked about No Child Left Behind, money, Governors, and state legislatures trying to impose their will on local school boards. There was unanimity of the concerns. So I hope to share what I've learned and continue to represent Maryland and Montgomery County on the national level.

I'll be going to Vermont in a few months to attend another conference – paid for by me, not Montgomery County.

Dr. Weast?

Steve Abrams interjected:
Well, Miss O'Neill, just a brief aside on that. I was struck by your reference to Connecticut which is one of the leaders in attacking Leave No Child Behind. I would also point out that Connecticut as a state has probably the broadest achievement gap of any school system in the country. There's some argument that their opposition is because they do not wish to be held accountable for their problems.

President O'Neill continued:
It's interesting because in the presentations from President of the Connecticut Association, there is a lawsuit that is being filed against the...

Mr. Abrams again:
I think they already filed it.

President O'Neill concluded:
And there are, I forget how many jurisdictions – they don't run county wide school systems in Connecticut, but of the Connecticut districts.... One, the Connecticut Association of School Boards has not taken a position on whether to pursue this lawsuit. and two, so far I think it's 47 jurisdictions in Connecticut have signed on to the lawsuit but not – by far and away – not all jurisdictions. There is also the Utah President who said that there had been a bill in the Utah legislature to opt out of No Child Left Behind and when push came to shove, there were 118 million reasons why not to opt out of No Child Left Behind, meaning 118 million dollars worth of money to local districts that was sorely needed in Utah. And there actually was a member in Maryland that wanted us to opt out of No Child Left Behind and their significant money.

Everyone really spoke to the need for accountability and that's not the problem. But the problem is the burden to local states and the funding. The vast difference in the end – Maryland is using a number 5 for their accountability system. Other states are using 50 or 100 so I look forward to sharing that.

Dr. Weast?

Christine Grewell


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaker #1 said, "A man came to me for a sexually transmitted disease."

I wonder which one she gave him.

Speaker #3 said, "Marriage is a legal union between a man and a woman that requires a license."

I wonder about Richard Cohen, the supposedly ex-gay President of the Virginia group that sued Montgomery County Maryland public schools who said he didn't get a license to "coach" his all male clientele because he "didn't want to jump through the hoops..."

Speaker #4 said, "The correct answer is an alternative class where those who promote traditional values have the option to sit through a more censored class.

It is your responsibility as educators to teach what is best for our mental and physical health, giving us complete coverage of the topic."

I wonder how he expects "complete coverage of the topic" in "a more censored class."

Speaker #6 mentioned, "higher rates of rectal cancer, hepatitis B, and other STDs."

I wonder if rectal cancer is an STD. (No, it isn't. )

Speaker #7 said, "I was 12 years old in 6th Grade teacher sent me to the library with a thick packet filled with nutrition and health exercises...and I remember feeling alone and bored." Then she asked to "have the family unit as the main course and allow the small minority of those who'd like homosexuality information to opt out."

I wonder if she felt alone when she was sent to the library, where did she think the majority of her health classmates were? (Hint: They were in health class. She's the "small minority" who claims to have opted herself to the library.)

Speaker #11, a CRC officer, asked, "Would the discussion also have included the particular sexual practices..."

I wonder if he's familiar with COMAR regulations which clearly state, "Erotic techniques of human intercourse may not be discussed." Apparently not. He had no problem graphically stating details about the erotic technique he found distasteful in front of the students present.


August 30, 2005 5:30 PM  

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