Thursday, November 03, 2005

State Law Contradicts Letter, and Weirdness

[Note: this post took a very strange turn as I was writing and researching it. I don't like where it goes, but have every reason to believe that these leads are accurate.]

A few days ago, we talked here about a column in The Washington Post, where some English teachers had assigned reading from a banned-books list, and a small number of parents -- less than five, the school said -- had complained. Of course, the world being what it is today, with Liberty Counsel enforcing political correctness and all, the school retracted that interesting and challenging assignment. I blogged about it HERE in case you didn't see it.

Yesterday there was a letter to the editor in The Post, commenting on that column. It went a little something like this:
Wednesday, November 2, 2005; Page A20

Marc Fisher's Oct. 20 Metro column, "Views of the Few Send a School Into Retreat," about the Cabin John Middle School English teacher who asked eighth-grade honor students to choose a reading assignment from a list of 100 banned or challenged books, missed the point.

Under Maryland law, only books approved for use by the county school system may be used by teachers. Although the standards for acceptability may be too low in some instances, this assignment contravened clear law.

The public should know that the parents who complained about the assignment had the law on their side and that the teacher who gave out the reading assignment had no lawful right to do so.

SUSAN JAMISON
Poolesville

Maryland Law Banned These Books

I saw that, and it was, like, OK, so that explains that. I thought it was a pretty good assignment, there were a lot of good books on that list, but if it's against the law, I guess they couldn't do it.

We've written about Susan Jamison, the author of this letter, before: HERE. She's the one who sent all those letters to families of students who were going to be in the pilot test of the new sex-ed curriculum. The mailings contained post-cards with return postage paid to the school board and to the MCPS health coordinator, so parents could easily write in and complain about the curriculum and say they wanted to pull their kids out of it.

Unfortunately for Ms. Jamison, a great majority of the letters received at the district offices had her message scratched out, and parents wrote in words to support the curriculum.

Ms. Jamison has described herself as the Director of "Parents Against X-Rated Curriculum in MCPS," or MD-PAX, a group which, by the way, had a representative on the citizens committee that proposed the new MCPS sex education curriculum. So, OK, she's a little extreme, it takes all types, whatever.

After I'd forgotten all about this (I have a short memory), somebody sent me a link to the state laws regarding materials that can be used for assignments.

And guess what: Maryland state law does not say anything about approving reading materials. They leave the whole thing up to the counties.

Here's the law:

...(a) On the recommendation of the county superintendent and subject to the provisions of this article, each county board shall adopt procedures for the selection and purchase of the following necessary items, at the lowest price consistent with good quality, for use in the public schools:
............(1)......Textbooks;
............(2)......Supplementary readers;
............(3)......Materials of instruction;
............(4)......Visual and auditory aids;
............(5)......Stationery; and
............(6)......School supplies.

...(b)......(1)......Each county board shall adopt procedures for the selection and purchase for use in each public school library or media center of a collection of books and auditory and visual materials concerning African American history.
............(2)......The collection in each library or media center shall be appropriate for students in each age group and reading level in the school.
...(c)..... Each county board shall furnish the materials and supplies listed in subsection (a) of this section:
............(1)......Free of cost for use in the public schools; and
............(2)......In sufficient quantities for the different grades in the public schools.

[Dots added for formatting in html]
Maryland State Law

That's the whole thing, as far as selecting and buying books and stuff. I flipped all through the different codes, and I couldn't find anything else remotely related to this topic.

Do you see where it says "only books approved for use by the county school system may be used by teachers"? No, state law empowers the superintendent to recommend books, but there's nothing that says anything at all about restricting school reading to "approved" books. We called the Maryland state school board just to be sure, and talked with someone in the office of Cindy Schaefer, Management Associate in the Office of Academic Policy, and were assured by her assistant that the counties are responsible for defining and implementing those policies and processes.

The Montgomery County school district does have policies regarding instructional materials and library books, where the definition of "library books" seems to include this sort of outside reading, and you can read that HERE. In some cases it is not clear where these policies refer to books for the school libraries, or to any book assigned for reading, so, again, we called the county school district's evaluation department, and were informed that, indeed, the county reviews all materials that are assigned for reading.

The county policy says this:
When the appropriateness of instructional materials or library books is questioned by a parent, student, or staff member, resolution begins at the school level.

The policy then goes on to name the steps to be taken, appeal procedures, stuff like that. It sounds like Cabin John school followed these procedures.

So it appears that the letter to the Post is substantially wrong. There are policies at the county level, and it appears that staff at various levels can sign off on materials, and there is a clear appeal process for parents and others who object to classroom resources. But there's no state law saying you have to do it that way.

Now we're getting to the strange part. When I write about something like this, I often spend a little time looking up information about the topic. Who are the people involved, what organizations are in on it, background information, that sort of thing.

In doing that, I came across an article about Susan Jamison that was published in the Libertarian Socialist News (now overthrow.com) in 2001. It says:
Susan Jamison, who came to prominence earlier this year when she filed suit seeking an injunction to stop Montgomery County Public Schools from forcing children to read obscene sexual material, has announced that she will be leading a group of parents in an effort to make the School Board alter their policies. Calling themselves PAX, “Parents Against X-rated [and r-rated] books in Montgomery County Public Schools”, the group has organized, with the help of local religious and community groups, members and volunteers to launch a website and to staff a booth at the County fair demanding change. Public Schools Violate Student Liberties: White Backs Parental Group Organized To Stop Forced Consumption Of Obscenity

I looked up some background on this web site and suddenly this letter to the editor began turning into a trip into the dark side. This article is on a site called overthrow.com. The site's "editor" is Bill White. In the site's FAQ, they describe him (e.g., he approves of this text) in this way:
Bill White, born 1977, is the administrator of the far-right, anti-Semitic website Overthrow.com, and its news service, Libertarian Socialist News (LSN), formerly the Anarchist News Service, which publishes news of extremist groups. FAQ

At the top of the page is a link to "Join the National Socialist Movement," which, you may know, is the Nazi Party. So, I wondered, why are the Nazis writing about this lady, and announcing the formation of her group?

This same article makes it clear that this is no spurious relationship, this is not a story they picked up from Reuters. Bill White is involved in establishing this MD-PAX group. Regarding Jamison's group, overthrow.com's article says:
Legislative District 39 candidate Bill White will assist the group in developing a website to inform the public about material that the schools force children to read.

This is the neo-Nazi editor of the overthrow.com web site.
“I am absolutely against public schools forcing children to read material of little or no educational value in order to promote the anti-cultural values of political correctness that define the ruling elite in Montgomery County,” White said today, “The issue here is that there are students who strongly object to the reading material being foisted on them by the NEA and other Democratic party aligned special interest groups, by way of the ultra-political Montgomery County School board, and that these students have turned to their parents to help them fight the political bureaucracy that wishes to impose cultural tyranny upon them.”

OK, this is getting too creepy for me.

Ms. Jamison, if you know of a Maryland law that nobody else can find, that says "only books approved for use by the county school system may be used by teachers," then please, email us here at info at TeachTheFacts.org, or put something in the comments below this post. We don't want to be wrong about this, but since we can't find the evidence that supports your assertion, and since everybody we've talked to says otherwise, we are starting to think you were not correct.

[End note: I definitely did not set out to go into Nazi territory on this post, especially right after a post about the Ku Klux Klan. I thought this was just a nutty lady who fires off letters to the editor and does weird things every once in a while. It was only while searching the Internet for background information, in fact it was after I had written half this post, that I stumbled across this very disturbing connection.]

16 Comments:

Blogger andrear said...

well, Jim, it is always good to say there is a law/a rule- but not cite it- and makes it seem like you are telling the truth. Newspapers don't even check facts in articles some times- so letters to the editor get through with nothing more than a check to see if the author actually exists.

Couldn't find MD-PAX(died a well-deserved death- I hope) anymore but PABBIS is still around. On their list of lists(books you better check before your kid touches them) is included Little Women and Jane Eyre. No wonder I am so twisted-these are two of my favorite books.

November 03, 2005 3:10 PM  
Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...

I hope Ms. Jamison responds here. I tend to doubt she chooses to associate with the Nazis, and I will give her the benefit of the doubt on this. But she needs to respond to put our concerns to rest.

I have no idea if she's ever been to this site, but I'm sure one of our Anons or LM will notify her that she has a problem and should clear it up.

November 03, 2005 3:16 PM  
Blogger Kay2898 said...

In Jamison own previous challenge concerning reading material/MCPS and a school assignment for her child she cited no such law either as far as I can tell from materials provided from MSDE (Maryland State Department Of Education in her appeal against MCPS.)

If that law exists it must be only for Ms. Jamison as no one else in the state of Maryland can find it.

It should be noted that the president of CRC spent time yesterday posting Jamison's letter to various listservs including the Montgomery County Council of Parent Teacher Associations (MCCPTA) listserv.


(MSDE)
SUSANJAMISON.pdf
1See Board Attachment 2. 2See Board Attachment 3. SUSAN S. JAMISON, BEFORE THE Appellant MARYLAND v. STATE BOARD MONTGOMERY COUNTY OF EDUCATION BOARD OF EDUCATION, Appellee Opinion No. 03-36 OPINION This is an appeal from the Montgomery County Board of Education’s decision to retain the book


Relevance: 118
http://www.marylandpublicschools.org/NR/rdonlyres/0C56E1ED-B2BD-40BD-BCF8-21B4F88C4695/1854/SUSANJAMISON.pdf

November 03, 2005 4:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dana

Don't know this lady, so I can't provide the suggested notification.

Still, from what I see of Jim's post, another example of him jumping to conclusions from some very nebulous wisps. He really doesn't represent any significant part of this community.

November 03, 2005 6:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oops. sign that last one.

Lightning

November 03, 2005 6:23 PM  
Blogger Kay2898 said...

Lightning ...

It does not matter how much you try to pretend what you want others to believe...it never works.

Jim has a seat on CAC representing TTF...accept it and move on.

Maybe you should take the seat still open for CRC on CAC
then you could rag on Jim at CAC meetings.

November 03, 2005 9:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kay

earlier this week, he was trying to suggest that I want to imprison and exterminate gays (no, he was just asking me if i did- wink,wink)

next, he was trying to equate the KKK with Christianity

now, he's trying to link to Nazism a person that doesn't want their kids assigned a list of books, some with clearly morally corrupt themes

he's way out of the mainstream, and their placing him on this committee that was supposed to represent the community is something the Board will be addressing right up to the next election

get used to it

November 03, 2005 10:18 PM  
Blogger Kay2898 said...

Anonymous said "get used to it"

We have so why are you still bothered? Jim has the seat on CAC and nothing you can do will interfere with that. Haven't you noticed?

If Jamison wants to clarify things she can at anytime. If you want to clarify things you can at anytime.

But worrying about Jim having a CAC seat is way out of your control. At least Jim is a straightshooter and you know where you stand with him. He signs his name to his postings.

Can we say that about a person who continues under anonymouse going on and one about how much Jim is this or that. Say it in public with your name. Jim does.

November 03, 2005 11:35 PM  
Blogger Kay2898 said...

Okay Anonymous..question...

Do you think sex ed should be taught in schools?

November 03, 2005 11:38 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

Anon, I have never been so careful not to jump to conclusions. This lady is linked to the Nazi Party. I didn't go looking for it, I never suspected it, but that fact emerges from the evidence.

it might be that she doesn't know this guy is a prominent Nazi -- I think I have been very careful not to go beyond the documentable facts in this situation. If there are Nazis in Maryland, and there are, and they write letters to the editor, then it is hardly "jumping to conclusions" to point this out.

If it is "mainstream" to ignore Nazi connections of people who are trying to influence public policy, then I'm perfectly satisfied to remain an outlier.

Jim

November 04, 2005 6:47 AM  
Blogger Christine said...

"earlier this week, he was trying to suggest that I want to imprison and exterminate gays (no, he was just asking me if i did- wink,wink)"

Is that you, Lightning?

If so, I hope you'll get to respond to my question on the "Do They Really Believe This?" blog

Christine

November 04, 2005 7:14 AM  
Blogger andrear said...

I think Lightning is trying to steer this away from the fact that this is more than a parent trying to steer some kids(not hers) from books. So far as anyone can find- including her previous attempt to sue MCPS- she is claiming she is backed by law/statute/policy-not true. And it is clear that Bill White - who helped set up the now seemingly defunct MD-PAX website- is a neo- nazi- his own website prominently states- Join the National Socialist Party with a link to their site. However, having neo-nazis support this movement doesn't surprise me- book banning is a staple of that group. Lots of crazies among those in the book banning movement- the ones in New Mexico burned Harry Potter books-shades of Nazi Germany

November 04, 2005 7:36 AM  
Blogger Christine said...

I don't see that Jim has drawn any conclusions about Ms. Jamison or her supporters. All he did was report what he found when he researched her work against our public school system.

Mr. White was born and raised here in Montgomery County and he graduated from Walt Whitman High School. Please note, even with a "liberal" MCPS education, he turned out to be a Nazi. I guess Mr. White's Nazism shows that the MCPS curriculum isn't as powerfully indoctrinating as some of our opponents believe it to be.

What Jim found that is most disturbing to me personally is this: "Legislative District 39 candidate Bill White will assist the group [Ms. Jamison's group, PAX] in developing a website to inform the public about material that the schools force children to read." We must all make note of the fact that this quote was written by Mr. White himself back in 2001.

Now, Jim has offered Ms. Jamison a public opportunity to distance herself from Mr. White. After all, it is possible that Mr. White may have imagined his involvement with her group. Only Ms. Jamison would know if she actually worked with Mr. White or not.

If Ms. Jamison and her group have not worked with this self-avowed Nazi, then I hope she will take this opportunity to set the record straight. Some folks from the CRC might hope she does too, particularly after sending Ms. Jamison's letter to several public MCPS listserves yesterday.

Christine

November 04, 2005 9:34 AM  
Blogger JimK said...

Let me respond to a couple of things here.

Anon said earlier this week, he was trying to suggest that I want to imprison and exterminate gays (no, he was just asking me if i did- wink,wink)

Anon, your views of gay people are meanginless unless some action follows from them. You think they're unclean, that they spread disease, that being gay is "dangerous." So -- what policy follows from that? In some times and places, when one group of people feels that way about another group, extermination and imprisonment have been implemented; look at what we're doing today, at Guantanamo, at Abu Graib, and now we find out other secret prisons around the world -- it's not that crazy an idea, the United States of America does it. Your "I'm a libertarian and wouldn't do anything about it" answer expressed pure passivity and failure to act as a responsible member of society. If there are public health problems involving a significant minority of the population, it would seem to be your duty as a citizien to contribute to the solution of the problems. Your solution is to do nothing and let whatever happens happen. Nice.

You said next, he was trying to equate the KKK with Christianity -- and this is the kind of misconstrual we have learned to deal with. The Klan themselves call themselves Christians, I sure didn't make that up. Christianity is at the core of what they believe. You did say you don't agree with their racist policies, and I think most of the Christian radical right has learned not to say racist things. But the Klan still does, they didn't learn not to. When your people, say Don Dwyer, talk about "political correctness," what do you think they mean? Of course the subtext is that they feel restrained because they can't express "all" their opinions. And what would those be? Hmmm, I wouldn't put words in their mouths.

Many Christians still follow the teachings of Jesus, teachings of fairness and compassion and forgiveness. However, many use the institution of the church to persecute minorities -- these days it is mostly gay people they choose to hate, but the target population changes over time, it might be blacks, immigrants, Jews, Catholics, the French, Arabs, SpongeBob SquarePants... The Klan uses the church to justify their hatred. Groups like the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, American Family Association, Concerned Women for America, etc., do the same thing, they're just smart enough not to mention race.

I do not equate the Klan with Christianity. I don't equate any of these organizations with Christianity, as I learned to know it growing up.

JimK

November 04, 2005 9:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Let me respond to a couple of things here.

Anon said earlier this week, he was trying to suggest that I want to imprison and exterminate gays (no, he was just asking me if i did- wink,wink)

Anon, your views of gay people are meanginless unless some action follows from them."

No, it is meaningful because it's an unhealthy lifestyle- detrimental to the health and happiness of the participant and also to the health of society in general. We believe you should stop taking action that would ease and encourage the lifestyle by deceiving children into thinking it's normal. Lack of antisocial action is all we want.

"You think they're unclean, that they spread disease, that being gay is "dangerous." So -- what policy follows from that?"

I know it's hard for you to understand but government intervention is not the solution. They don't spread disease to couples who are in monogamous marriages, by the way. If they knowingly spread a fatal disease, that should be a criminal offense, and I think it already is.

"In some times and places, when one group of people feels that way about another group, extermination and imprisonment have been implemented;"

And most times that hasn't happened.

What your talking about is grouping people based on their behaviour and, thus, virtually everyone feels that way about another "group of people", including you.

"look at what we're doing today, at Guantanamo, at Abu Graib, and now we find out other secret prisons around the world -- it's not that crazy an idea, the United States of America does it."

There have been abuses. Particularly some sexual stuff from graduates of America's great valueless sex-ed system, but they pale in comparison to what's routine in the part of the world these guys come from.

"Your "I'm a libertarian and wouldn't do anything about it" answer expressed pure passivity and failure to act as a responsible member of society. If there are public health problems involving a significant minority of the population, it would seem to be your duty as a citizien to contribute to the solution of the problems. Your solution is to do nothing and let whatever happens happen. Nice."

It's not the only social problem- and possibly not the worst. Government action is not the best solution. Better for the government to stand back and let religious groups tend to the moral health of society.

"You said next, he was trying to equate the KKK with Christianity -- and this is the kind of misconstrual we have learned to deal with. The Klan themselves call themselves Christians, I sure didn't make that up. Christianity is at the core of what they believe. You did say you don't agree with their racist policies, and I think most of the Christian radical right has learned not to say racist things. But the Klan still does, they didn't learn not to."

Offensive and ignorant to say that conservative Christians are only pretending to not be racist. Did you know that orthodox Christianity is spreading in Africa faster than any other continent? Are these Africans too stupid to recognize the racist doctrines they're being taught.

"When your people, say Don Dwyer, talk about "political correctness," what do you think they mean?"

Political correctness was a term invented by socialist college professors. Did that Dwyer guy use that term?

"Of course the subtext is that they feel restrained because they can't express "all" their opinions. And what would those be? Hmmm, I wouldn't put words in their mouths."

Of course, the truth is you're reading what you want to hear into their opinions. Completely irresponsible, and, again, why you don't belong on a committee representing the community.

"Many Christians still follow the teachings of Jesus, teachings of fairness and compassion and forgiveness."

All of them believe in following them. That's the definition of "Christian".

"However, many use the institution of the church to persecute minorities -- these days it is mostly gay people they choose to hate, but the target population changes over time, it might be blacks, immigrants, Jews, Catholics, the French, Arabs, SpongeBob SquarePants... The Klan uses the church to justify their hatred."

If "persecution" means teaching that their conduct is immoral. Many racial minorities are offended that their racial identity is being equated with immoral conduct.

True "persecution" is what Christians face in most of the world.

"Groups like the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, American Family Association, Concerned Women for America, etc., do the same thing, they're just smart enough not to mention race."

So again, you think they're secretly racist, but just smart enough to keep it to themselves. Your assertion is bigotry, plain and simple. You have no basis for this statement.

"I do not equate the Klan with Christianity. I don't equate any of these organizations with Christianity, as I learned to know it growing up."

Thanks for clearing that up.

November 07, 2005 12:59 PM  
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