Thursday, September 15, 2005

September 13, 2005, BOE Public Comment Transcripts

Here are transcripts of some of the Public Comments made at the MCPS Board of Education meeting on September 13, 2005.

Speaker #2 was Dr. Dana Beyer:

Good morning. I’m Dr. Dana Beyer. I thank you for allowing me this time which I will use to respond to the scurrilous, hateful remarks of Ben Patton and Dr. Ruth Jacobs at last month’s meeting.

As my time is very limited, I’ll get right to the fundamentals. You need to understand what sex is to understand who transgender people are. Ignorance feeds fear and hatred. But I will say in Dr. Jacobs’ defense that when she and I were medical students this topic was not covered. That, however, doesn’t excuse her from speaking without understanding her material, particularly since it is not her specialty.

Sex has many attributes – chromosomal, genetic (and epigenetic), gonadal (testes or ovaries), genital, hormonal (blood levels & receptors), morphological and, most importantly, brain sex. We all know that “sex is between the ears, not between the legs,” but we assign a sex to our children based on their genitals. Sometimes we make a mistake. Over 2% of live births are intersexed, where all the sexual attributes do not line up. Transsexual persons are, simply put, neurologically intersexed, where the brain sex is the opposite of genital sex.

Transgender people are not mentally ill, mentally disturbed, sexually deviant or perverted. Those of us who survive the often unremitting hostility of the uninformed during our youth are remarkably well-adjusted. We are normal people with a congenital condition, like cleft lip or palate.

The treatment for transsexualism is remarkably successful, again counter to Dr. Jacobs’ use of grossly outdated, biased references. Treatment consists of social transition, where one lives in the gender of one’s brain sex, and medical transition, which means taking hormones that are no different from the hormonal replacement therapy used by post-menopausal women, not some bizarre form of steroid abuse. And, finally, surgical reconstruction to bring one’s body into congruence with one’s brain, a highly successful procedure with a 95%+ success rate. Calling it mutilation simply betrays one’s ignorance.

So, to answer Mr. Patton’s question: “Why do you want to teach our children that transgenderism is normal, natural, and healthy?” The answer is because we are as normal, natural and healthy as you are, and because it is important that children know that people come in all forms, that human diversity is not a curse but a blessing.

Speaker #3 was Christine Grewell:
Good morning Dr. Weast, President O’Neill, and Members of the Board of Education:

Some rather extraordinary statements were made during the August 25 public comments.

One was that MCPS has “constructed a curriculum . . . requiring students to listen to degrading notions and suggestions such as homosexual role-playing and encouraging teens to practice mutual masturbation and watch erotic movies.” The FACT, however, is that there has never been anything of the sort in either the existing curriculum or in the revisions you approved for piloting last November.

Another was a statement by a high school senior that when she took the Health Education course in 2003, she assumed she had to take all the units in order to graduate. That is strange, since she would not have been permitted to take the portions on Family Life and Human Sexuality unless her parents gave explicit, affirmative permission to do so.

The same speaker described her shock at “the homosexuality unit” that allegedly was presented in 2003. That is also strange, since then, as now, there is no “homosexuality unit.” Indeed, there has never been any mention of homosexuality in the Family Life curriculum. Your wise efforts to include basic, accurate information on sexual orientation were temporarily stymied by litigation last spring. But it is hard to understand what the speaker was talking about in 2003.

MCPS has long recognized that some families do not want their children to take the Family Life and Human Sexuality Unit, which includes basic information on contraception. In the past, 98-99% or more of students have been given the required explicit permission to take those units. Yet, a few people have urged the development of an entire alternative class that would not include those materials. For a typical 30-student cohort, that would mean having a separate class for about half a student. A few people have expressed concern that such students are stigmatized by having to get up and leave the class. I don’t know if that actually happens, but if it does, the simple solution is to have them report directly to the media center for their alternate learning materials.

Speaker #4 was David S. Fishback:
Recently, statements have been made during public comments suggesting that the Health Education Curriculum units on Family Life somehow discriminate against marriage or ignore the importance of marriage. Those testifying along those lines either are not familiar with the curriculum, or have another agenda.

I think it time to correct the record. MCPS posts the curriculum on its website, so it is there for all to read. The 10th Grade Curriculum, for example, explicitly covers the following:

The responsibilities and psychological impact of marriage and parenthood.
How laws relate to marriage.
The importance of monogamy in building trust in a marriage.
Issues that may enhance or threaten marriage.
How the media and social trends influence marriage.

As President O'Neill pointed out last summer, not all families are able to continue with two parents in the home. The MCPS curriculum can - and does - stress the importance of marriage without undermining the efforts of such families.

I hate to have to say this, but I fear that much of what you have been hearing from those attacking MCPS is based upon a view that any family that does not comport with the "one man/one woman" form should be rejected as unworthy. Such an approach would be particularly, and unnecessarily, hurtful to the children of gay and lesbian couples in our community. Current laws in Maryland do not provide for such couples to formally marry. That surely does not mean that, in Montgomery County, those families should be dismissed as less than worthy. Sadly, the negative view of gay and lesbian families seems to be the linchpin of those testifying against the existing Health Education curriculum and the approach to curriculum revisions you approved last November. MCPS has a choice to make. I am confident it will choose wisely.

Speaker #6 was Dr. Ruth Jacobs:
I’m an infectious disease physician and I was named as one of the top doctors in Washington, DC. Recently a young boy came in for evaluation of a wart in his nose. Despite excision, it had recurred several times. The best advice I could give was repetitive excisions until the body’s immune system would kick in which would hopefully happen within the next two years.

Anogenital warts are even more difficult to treat. One textbook states, “Highly effective and safe treatments for HPV are not yet available and therapies have little effect on the eradication of HPV or transmission of infections.

A young man called me, panic-stricken because after a few months of marriage, his wife had cervical dysplasia. He had done research and realized he may have carried HPV and the risk of cervical cancer to his wife. He wanted to be checked. He wanted to be cured.

The penis is soaked in acetic acid. Many of the infected areas turn white and can be ablated. Although the warts may be removed, human papilloma virus persists. Human papilloma virus has no known cure.

Anogenital warts may not be as visible as a wart in your nose, but human papilloma virus but human papilloma virus can affect the birth process, be psychologically devastating, and with cancer subtypes, it can be deadly.

Human papilloma virus can be transmitted 66% of the time with a single sexual act. As of this moment, human papilloma virus is not even included in the outline for the sexually transmitted disease section of the curriculum. The failure of condoms to protect against human papilloma virus must be made clear to students of Montgomery County Public Schools.

Speaker # 7 was Jim Kennedy:
Dr. Weast, Ms. O'Neill, members of the board, thank you for allowing me to address you. I have many concerns about what has been happening with the health curriculum, but I would like to focus on the aspect of it that most worries me professionally.

Let me briefly introduce myself. I am a founding member of I received my doctorate in social psychology from the University of North Carolina and am a member in good standing of the American Psychological Association, the American Psychological Society (which exists to promote the science, as compared to the practice, of psychology), and the American Association for the Advancement of Science; I publish in both computer-science and social-science journals and conference Proceedings, besides book chapters and a book on swarm intelligence that is used as a graduate level textbook. If you have read Prey by Michael Crichton then you know something about my research.

Education extends well beyond high school. Our society relies on the institutions of education to produce experts who have the deepest knowledge of their field, participants in the international academy of scholars. These scholars interact with one another according to some formal processes of debate and discussion, replication and review - the process we call science.

The attack on the MCPS health curriculum has been, above all, a direct attack on the academy of scholars. When peer-reviewed scientific research, published in the academic literature, conflicts with the self-published reports of religious and political organizations, there should be no controversy about which will be taught in the classroom. It is not a question of public opinion, it is a question of the validity of knowledge. If we are to produce an excellent crop of Montgomery County scholars, we must start by presenting them with the best quality of knowledge available, and respect for the educational institutions that make advances possible.

Speaker #10 was Mary Beth Hastings:
Good morning. Guess what I'm going to talk about! My name is Mary Beth Hastings, and I’m the mother of a Montgomery County School student – or at least she is in her fantasy play; since she’s only two-and-a-half, she still thinks homework is something to look forward to!

Through my work in international development, I’ve dealt with countless communities struggling with teen pregnancy, AIDS, and other STDs. They face daunting barriers in getting quality information to young people – especially low literacy rates and the lack of resources. I’ve also seen how these groups have overcome obstacles. We have the education and the resources in this community to provide the best in sex education, and it would be a shame for those resources to be wasted on anything less.

I realize you’ve heard from a number of concerned parents about this, and I thank you for all of the listening that you’ve done. It’s clear that a lot of parents and students have come before you without the facts, because they’re simply repeating lies and distortions they’ve heard about what comprehensive sex education includes. I know we can trust you to sort out these distortions from reality and make a reasoned decision about a new curriculum.

We trust you to make these decisions because you know what’s at stake and you know it goes beyond statistics. There are lives in the balance here, and to deny comprehensive sex education in today’s world would be to deny some kids their future. We can’t just hope parents will have all the facts and be able to communicate them effectively to their teens. We can’t just hope that if the parents fail, our teens will be guided by their peers toward good choices. Yes, making these changes may offend some people, but the alternative would abandon sexually active teens to a high-stakes gamble. The alternative would tell gay and lesbian teens that they should be ashamed of themselves. We know you will make the right decisions, because the alternative is unacceptable.

Thank you.

Speaker #11 was Steina Walter:
Ah yes, good morning Dr. Weast and Board of Education.

We are led to believe that the MCPS finds discrimination against anyone intolerable especially if it results in bullying or emotional distress. Dr. Weast has stated students who have different sexual orientation other than heterosexual, often do not feel safe because of the emotional distress and physical violence displayed towards them by some students and adults in the general population. Board of Education has however been unable to provide documentation in support of Dr. Weast’s concerns.

On the other hand, there are reports of reverse discrimination taking place. At Whitman High School Gay Straight Alliance Club meeting, members passed out cards claiming bigotry and harassment by Whitman students towards homosexuals. These cards were distributed to other students during school hours and posters were on display on the school walls.

The Board of Education and Whitman Administrators condone such deliberate bullying by the Gay Straight Alliance member at Whitman High School. However, when members of the Gay Straight Alliance were asked about incidents of harassment, they responded none took place at their school, but probably happened in other schools.

What is taking place in our schools is that students who disagree with the homosexual agenda are harassed and labeled. Many high school and middle school students do not dare to speak out against the homosexual agenda. They are the ones who have been silenced. So why are Dr. Weast and Board of Education so selective in their apparent concern? Don’t all of our students deserve the same protection from bullying? Or does Board of Education think that homosexual students are more equal than the other students?

Thank you.

Speaker #12 was Ben Patton:
Patrick Henry, who was famous for his phrase, "give me liberty or give me death," ardently fought for religious freedom. Prior to the Revolution, Patrick Henry defended Baptist and other ministers in the Commonwealth of Virginia who were as members of a religion not fostered by the State, often persecuted and sent to jail. The Baptists chronicled the martyrdom of their preachers recording preachers pulled down while preaching, dragged out, pelted with apples and stones, brutally assaulted, arrested, abused. Their suffering became a watchword, a testament of faith, but coupled with it went a story of one stalwart friend, Patrick Henry.

Henry rode 50 miles out of his way to volunteer his services to Baptists jailed in Spotsylvania. He fought for religious toleration acts and the Bill of Rights. It is wrong that Baptists, fundamentalists, and other religions have to celebrate Judge Williams’ protecting their religious faith with a restraining order.

Superintendent Weast – You said the curriculum is a viewpoint curriculum. You stated it is necessary to present the homosexual lifestyle as healthy and happy. This may not be Virginia, but it is America and it is a sad indictment of our school system that the references used in order to promote this viewpoint showed religious discrimination.

With the facts showing increased risk of depression, drug abuse, HIV and other health issues in homosexuals, do not continue religious discrimination in the new curriculum by promoting a religion or belief that homosexuality is happy and healthy. If you want to teach the facts about homosexuality, then teach all the facts, not just your politically correct viewpoints.

The phrase "give me liberty or give me death" may take on new meaning if you continue to proscribe the liberty to tell the whole truth about risks associated with homosexuality.

There was some discussion by Board of Education members about the award citations that had been given prior to the Public Comments, particularly about the Whitman family that started the backpack for Katrina victims drive here in Montgomery County. After Valerie Ervin finished speaking about the Katrina tragedy and the heroic efforts to provide for the survivors, President Pat O'Neill took the floor and said:
Piggy-backing on your comments about Katrina and I know that we’ve had many people come and speak to us over the months about traditional families. One of the pieces that struck me on the news was how many grandmothers were with their grandchildren, fighting to make sure that those children were saved. And you know, not passing any value judgment on anyone’s family situation, but I commend those grandmothers who are raising their grandchildren and providing them, to the best of their ability, to have a healthy and safe environment.

When people talk about traditional family values, you know, not all families come in a tradition, and I commend those grandmothers who are there for their grandchildren. We have had a lot of talk about tolerance and historical references and I count my blessing that I have the luxury of a husband and two wonderful children.

But I think that I have worked very hard in this community, and particularly in the Walt Whitman community for many many years. When I got my mailing this summer from the school, with emergency forms and calendars and such, I was struck and I want to speak to it because the Board of Education has a policy on character education that we have had for more than a dozen years. And every community has embraced their own version. In Gaithersburg it has been supported by the City of Gaithersburg – Character Counts.

The Walt Whitman cluster has a Colors of Ethics program and you know, in this mailing to the high school parents, it speaks volumes. I mean this is pretty important: Respect, Honesty, Responsibility, Moral Courage, Fairness, Caring, Empathy, Cooperation, and Trust. And in the beginning of the mailing, it speaks of who Walt Whitman was and what he stood for and it says “poet, journalist, lover of freedom.” And I think that is incredibly important.

And in this mailing was a list of wonderful resources on intervention, prevention, and/or treatment. It has the AIDS Hotline, Al-Anon, Alcoholics Anonymous, Center for Eating Disorders, Family Stress Line, Help Line for Asian Families in Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Hispanic Hotline, Montgomery County Crisis Center, Montgomery County Public Schools Safe and Drug-free Schools, NAACP, Narcotics Anonymous, Open Door Runaway Shelter, Operation Runaway, Party Busters, PFLAG, Rape Sexual Assault Crisis.

Someone raised the issue that you know, where did this list come from and was this something new that was in here. Now I’m a pack rat. In the 1998-99 Walt Whitman Telephone Directory is included this same list of resources. And I commend the Whitman Community for including it, and it’s in the new telephone directory that I just got last week.

But I think that if we talk about tolerance, I think of the words about Walt Whitman as a lover of freedom. I think we need to constantly remind ourselves about that.

So with that said we now move on to....

Christine Grewell


Blogger Kay2898 said...

From Ben Patton:

The phrase "give me liberty or give me death" may take on new meaning if you continue to proscribe the liberty to tell the whole truth about risks associated with homosexuality.


What kind of threat is this?????? Is he threatening Weast?

Does this joker realize how he sounds and comes off in BOE meetings while attempting his public comments?

On another note:

Needless to say if I were one of the other speaker's patients (Ruth Jacobs)..I would be seriously thinking of complaining about her.

In I think every one of her testimonies she has described things that I would think her patients would not want talked about.

Kay R

September 15, 2005 2:21 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

Somebody else asked me afterwards if Ben Patton was threatening the board. Do you suppose he was? I admit I wasn't paying attention when he was talking, so I didn't notice what he said.

And another thing. Where Patton said Superintendent Weast – You said the curriculum is a viewpoint curriculum. You stated it is necessary to present the homosexual lifestyle as healthy and happy -- did Dr. Weast actually say those things? I don't know know what they would mean, and don't remember ever hearing him say them.

Like, what is a "viewpoint curriculum?"

September 15, 2005 3:49 PM  
Blogger Kay2898 said...

Jim K said....

Like, what is a "viewpoint curriculum?"

I guess a curriculum written from the only viewpoint that some think that matters..Recall(CRC) and PFOX's.

Seriously here is what Weast said as quoted by Wash. Times on July 7, 2005

The panel will convene in September, but schools Superintendent Jerry D. Weast, who has taken a central role in composing the new curriculum, said he already is moving forward with a redesign of the curriculum.

"What's at issue here, one of the many things at issue, is viewpoint curriculum. And I think there's a very slippery slope you fall into when you start getting into this viewpoint curriculum," he said.

"We will not be writing a curriculum that encompasses every viewpoint that exists out there," Mr. Weast said. "This debate is not nationwide. It's worldwide."

So maybe Ben Patton was talking about this in what some think could be a threat of some sort to Weast or BOE.

Kay R

September 15, 2005 4:23 PM  
Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...

I read Patton's quote of Patrick Henry as a threat. It weas the word "death" and the tone in which he said it that made my head snap back to look at him. I wasn't the only one.

Of course, he's not stupid, he quotes Henry so no one could file an effective lawsuit. Had he said "Give me my liberty or I'll kill you" it would have been a wholly different story.

I would infer it was meant to intimidate, though based on the hatred that spews forth from him I wouldn't put more serious action on his part past him. Let's just hope he was mimicing his role models Senator Cornyn and Rep. Delay who've used such language against the Supreme Court this year.

September 15, 2005 5:03 PM  
Anonymous Tish said...

Patton can easily argue that the "new meaning of 'give me liberty or give me death'" is the death of young adults who have not been fully educated in the lethal hazards of the homosexual lifestyle. Remember that the CRC complained to the court that children who learn about homosexuality will try it, get a disease and die. I didn't hear it as a threat. I heard it as Hysteria. (Hmmm... Hysteria comes from a Greek root word meaning there something about ol' Ben that we never suspected?)

As I read Mrs. O'Neill's comments about Walt Whitman I was struck by another of his outstanding characteristics--Whitman was an out bisexual in the 19th century, when outing yourself was extremely dangerous. I hope that Whitman's significance there is not lost on the CRC.

September 15, 2005 6:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Walt Whitman is a figure who engaged in multiple unsafe sexual practices, and Montgomery County should be sued for allowing his name to grace the entrance to one of its premier high schools, which encourages our emotionally vulnerable teenagers to get sucked into the dangerous homosexual lifestyle.

Right, Ruth Jacobs?

September 15, 2005 7:24 PM  
Blogger Kay2898 said...

Well does she care unless he is a patient she can talk about in BOE public commnets?

That seems to be her fixation.

Does she have patients so she can talk about them?

Does she tell them she will spaak about their concerns publicly while not naming them?

September 15, 2005 7:29 PM  
Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...

While we're at it, let's sue the states of Pennsylvania and New Jersey for the Walt Whitman Bridge.

September 15, 2005 7:38 PM  
Blogger andrear said...

Personally, I don't think Ruth Jacobs who keeps saying she was name one of the best doctors in Washington(in a poll where she and her CRC cronies probably voted for her 20 times each?)-certainly not by her peers- is talking about real people. I can't imagine any people with the problems she mentions being sent to her or wanting to be her patient. Would you want to see a doctor who really didn't like you because of who you are. I had a dr who seemed to be disdainful of women- so I never went back. why would anyone with an STI or who is gay want to see someone who holds them in contempt? That is how I see her view- not that she is deeply caring and concerned.


September 16, 2005 9:44 AM  
Blogger Christine said...

I found a few problems with Dr. Jacobs' Public Comments this week.

First, she described herself as being "named as one of the top doctors in Washington, DC." She did not elaborate that she was named that by the Washingtonian magazine. My experience with that magazine is that if you pay for a large enough advertisement in an issue with a story about your field of expertise, they'll say you're one of the best. I do not know if it worked that way when Dr. Jacobs was so named.

Dr. Jacobs described difficulties that can arise from human papilloma virus. One problem she noted was it "can affect the birth process." The first question, then, is, how commonly does that occur?

According to a CDC Fact Sheet on HPV, "Rarely, a pregnant woman can pass HPV to her baby during vaginal delivery." . So this does not seem to be the big reason for concern.

Regarding transmission of HPV, Dr. Jacobs stated, "Human papilloma virus can be transmitted 66% of the time with a single sexual act." But is this is most common way for it to spread, or the only way?

The US-HSS's website states: "You can get HPV from skin-to-skin contact with sores or infected genital skin that looks normal."

Skin-to-skin contact with sores, sores Dr. Jacobs explained may not be visible until after soaking the affected area in acetic acid, can allow transmission of HPV to occur. This means a handshake and other non-sexual forms of skin-to-skin contact can also spread HPV.

Dr. Jacob mentioned "the failure of condoms to protect against HPV." The site states, "Condoms may reduce your chances of getting HPV (causes cervical cancer) but not protect you all the time from getting it." This means some level of protection from HPV is produced by the use of condoms. Of course a condom won't protect you from viruses on the hands and other parts of the body, but it should provide protection from viruses on the genitals. The fact that HPV can be spread through any kind of skin-to-skin contact should not discourage people from using condoms.

The CDC reports, "Human papillomavirus is the name of a group of viruses that includes more than 100 different strains or types." It futher reports, "Approximately 10 of the 30 identified genital HPV types can lead, in rare cases, to development of cervical cancer." This means that roughly 10% of HPV strains may lead to cancer "in rare cases."

It is certainly true women die each year from cervical cancer caused by HPV. Why? According to the CDC Fact Sheet cited above, "The Pap test used in U.S. cervical cancer screening programs is responsible for greatly reducing deaths from cervical cancer. For 2004, the American Cancer Society estimates that about 10,520 women will develop invasive cervical cancer and about 3,900 women will die from this disease. Most women who develop invasive cervical cancer have not had regular cervical cancer screening."

Why don't some women have regular cervical cancer screening? They don't talk about Pap tests in Traditional Family/Relationship Skill classes. Students whose parents refuse to allow them to take comprehensive sex education but opt them into Traditional Family/Relationship Skill classes instead may miss out on this life-saving information.

The CDC Fact Sheet tells us, "Approximately 20 million people are currently infected with HPV. At least 50 percent of sexually active men and women acquire genital HPV infection at some point in their lives. By age 50, at least 80 percent of women will have acquired genital HPV infection."

Please note, the 10,520 women expected to develop invasive cervical cancer and the 3,900 of them expected to die include women expected to acquire cervical cancer by all causes, not just HPV. Dying of cervical cancer due to HPV is very rare even though 50% of sexually active Americans can expect to have it at some point in their lives.

As many times as we've heard the CRC leaders complain that the revised health education curriculum was too selective in the facts it presented, I must point out that this CRC representative, a medical doctor, was so selective in the facts she chose to highlight as to be misleading.

Christine Grewell

September 16, 2005 10:23 AM  
Anonymous Tish said...

I'm a little late coming back to this, but I want to point out something that might be easily missed.

Steina Walter has stated in her testimony that passing out anti-harrassment cards and putting anti-harrassment posters on the walls of classrooms is bullying. That is what her statement says. Furthermore, allowing such posters to be hung is condoning bullying. Let us just think about that one for a bit, shall we?

September 20, 2005 10:13 AM  
Blogger JimK said...

Tish -- Steina's message pretty much depends on nobody "thinking about that one for a bit," don't you agree?

September 22, 2005 4:38 PM  

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