Friday, December 30, 2005

2005: What a Year It Was

Just over a year ago, on November 9th, 2004, the Montgomery County (Maryland) Board of Education decided unanimously to adopt new Family Life and Human Sexuality curricula for 8th and 10th grades. That is, in ordinary parlance, "sex-ed." The new curriculum had been developed over the course of several years by an MCPS writing committee and a citizens advisory committee, who evaluated it and reviewed it for close to two years and then passed it to the Board, who approved it.

November 2004 was a strange pivotal time in American history. George Bush won the Presidential election for a second term. It was the slightest of wins, but the radical religious right took it as their own victory. You heard people saying that "family values" had won the election, and it does seem that the turnout by evangelicals made the difference in a couple of critical states.

Word was that the election was evidence of a "mandate" for the religious right's agenda -- and they were ready for it. They were going to "take America back" to its repressive Christian roots. They already had plans to change everything, to return America to a pristine condition unknown since the Dark Ages.

The election was held on November 2nd, the winner announced on the 3rd. The school board adopted the new curriculum on the 9th.

The new curriculum featured a video about condom use for 10th graders, and some information for both 8th and 10th graders about sexual orientation, all actually quite tame and ordinary. But with the blood of the national election in the water, some local extremists began campaigning to recall the entire school board on the basis of their moral outrage at the curriculum. They began a website,, with a message board that was often quoted across the Internet for its outrageous and unintentionally hilarious comments.

Some of us who thought the curriculum was OK attended the organizational meeting of the Recall Group, on December 4th, 2004, just to see what was going on. People stood up to speak about the "deviants" and "sodomites" and how their values were being undermined, as if Satan himself were running the public schools. They broke up into committees -- media outreach, legal, fund-raising, etc. -- and we realized somebody needed to fight this, and fast. We didn't know each other at that time, but quickly figured it out and made contact.

Our first meeting was held December 8th at Los Cobanos Restaurant in Wheaton. We quickly bought a domain name and a web host and got a web site started, including this blog.

And so we entered the new year. Let us go through some of the memorable events of 2005.

The Recall Group tried to say on their web site that MCPS was "hiding" the curriculum documents. It turned out they had the wrong URL.

The Recall Group started a blog in January. After the fiasco with their previous message board, they were wise enough not to allow comments.

In what would become a theme for the year, the Washington Times began publishing articles critical of the curriculum.

In January it was revealed that Richard Cohen, President of the anti-gay group PFOX, had been expelled for life from the American Counseling Association for ethical violations.

This was the month that James Dobson and others, including Peter Sprigg, criticised SpongeBob SquarePants for advocating tolerance and diversity.

An "Ex-Gay" organization put a big billboard up outside the MCPS offices on 355.

The Executive Director of Casa of Maryland, a leading Hispanic group, expressed support for the new curriculum.

The President of the Recall Group apologized to the school board for threats that were made by their members.

The Recall Group argued on their web site that exposure to information in the curriculum would result in students "exploring sexual variations", engaging in premature sexual activity, and dying of AIDS.

There were daily protests under the PFOX billboard.

We discovered that the Recall Group had registered the domain name and directed it to their site, so that people looking for us would find them instead.

The Recall Group sent flyers to PTA officers at various schools, using information from proprietary school directories.

The Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services sent a letter to the school board endorsing the new curriculum

MCPS announced the six schools where the new curriculum would be pilot tested in the spring.

This was the month that the surveys started coming out, showing that teens who took "abstinence pledges" were having oral and anal sex, meaning they were still technically virgins. Their STD rates were found to be higher than non-pledgers.

On March 19th, the Recall Group, now calling themselves Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum, held a "town hall" meeting. One gay dad who attended the meeting was quoted in a national magazine saying, "It just felt like you were a Jew in Germany in the 1930s." The theme of the meeting was "fear and hate of the homosexual agenda." The CRC leadership tried to distance themseves from their own speakers afterwards.

A group called "Parents Against X-Rated Curriculum in MCPS," which we have found out is connected to the American Nazi party, sent letters to the homes of pilot-test school families, with form letters addressed to MCPS, stamped and addressed. Families had only to put the letters in a mailbox to complain about the new curriculum. By a large margin, most returned letters had the original message crossed out, and a pro-curriculum message written in.

In March we witnessed the first public threat by the CRC to sue the school board. A rambling letter to the board explained that the curriculum will cause some students to think they are gay and engage in risky sexual behaviors. The narrative continued: "[Later] These young people find that they are not 'gay' but had chosen that lifestyle as a result of the indoctrination which began early in their school life. They will point to this School Board as the group who started the slide with the new sex ed. curriculum."

A theocratic group called the Center for Reclaiming America sent a letter to the school board, the County Executive, and other officials, complaining about the "outrageous attempt to desensitize our children or grandchildren into embracing homosexuality."

The CRC submitted petitions to the school board with 3,500 signatures opposing the new curriculum. That works out to about a third of one percent of the population of Montgomery County, which is not to say that all the signatures were those of county residents.

MCPS edited the curricula in preparation for pilot testing to begin in May.

CRC sent letters to families of the pilot schools, misrepresenting the curriculum. Against regulations, they used PTSA student directories to acquire addresses.

May 3rd CRC finally filed their long-planned lawsuit.

There was confusion in the newspapers over whether MCPS would or would not allow parents to sit in on the new health classes. The decision was that parents could come into the classroom, but could only attend their own kids' classes.

May 5th the federal judge granted a 10-day restraining order for implementation of the curriculum.

NPR's story that same day generated a lot of interest in our group, and lots of petition signatures.

MCPS cancelled the pilot testing for the school year, and then the calendar year as part of negotiations over the temporary restraining order.

The CRC's lawyer threatened legal action against a member for comments made on a listserve about the CRC's President. The TTF member had called CRC's President a liar. It also turned out that it was very easy to prove that the allegation was in fact correct. The threat was ignored and there was no follow-up.

Tilden Middle School's PTSA adopted a resolution demanding that CRC explain why they used the PTSA's school directory for their mass mailings, and promise not to do it again.

On May 23rd, the school board decided to start all over again, developing a new curriculum. The condom video was also jettisoned.

Still not satisfied, on May 24th the CRC issued a press release saying that they felt the school board was trying to execute an "end run," and worrying that they would not include "ex-gays" in the curriculum.

The Montgomery County Council of PTAs (MCCPTA) Executive Board passed a resolution reprimanding CRC for misuse of school directories.

The web site shut down.

June 27th, MCPS lawyers settled with CRC and PFOX's lawyers, Liberty Counsel, a Florida law firm associated with Jerry Falwell's Liberty University. The district agreed to pay the out-of-town lawyers $36,000, plus guaranteeing PFOX and CRC membership on the new citizens adisory committee, plus a couple of other things.

Also on the 27th, TeachTheFacts members showed up in force for the Board of Education meeting, with signs, and many speakers in the public comments section of the meeting. Board members congratulated us and thanked us.

June 29th, CRC issued a statement, carried in The Times, complaining about the school board "changing the procedures" for selecting members for the new citizens advisory committee. (The board had required three nominees from each organization, and also would not allow former committee members to re-apply.)

The 4th of July, the Washington Post ran a really supportive editorial titled "Sensible Sex Education."

July 5th, the Washington Times had an article called "Schools incite feud with sex-ed advisers," which quoted the CRC threatening to sue again because they didn't feel they should have to follow the board's rules for applying for the citizens advisory committee. There was nothing about the schools inciting anything, or about any "sex-ed advisers."

In that same article, PFOX announced that they would nominate the Family Research Council's Peter Sprigg to be their representative on the committee.

Starting about the 6th, an interesting development. It turned out that the CRC's old discussion bulletin board was accessible through the Google cache. A couple of people emailed us copies of the discussions and posted them in the blog comments section. These discussions allowed us to catch them at innumerable lies and secretive plots. For instance, we learn that they had been planning their "last-minute" lawsuit since January. Coincidentally, at about the same time the CRC's President sent out a stupid email to a lot of groups, apparently not realizing that it had inner-circle discussions among CRC leaders appended at the bottom of it. They were planning to badmouth us at a school board meeting, which they did. We got a number of these caches over the month, giving us profound insights into the CRC's thinking, their deceptions, and their secret affiliations with national groups.

Late in the month, a CRC member tried to raise a fuss because a Gay-Straight Alliance web site at one of the high schools had a dead link that had been bought out by a commercial search engine, so when you put "gay" into it, it showed you gay sites. They complained to the school board that MCPS was "allowing the gay-straight club at Walter Johnson High School to use the school's Internet web address to meet sexy, single gay men for dating, romance, and more... Browse through the profiles of like-minded men, and participate in our exciting chat rooms."

July 29th was the last time the CRC updated their blog, which had become an illiterate, repetitive list of rightwing catchphrases.

A program on Montgomery Community Television called "The Citizens Link to Community Awareness" scheduled a half-hour show on the subject, "Health Education: Where do we go from here?" Their guests were going to be three representatives of the anti-MCPS group CRC, plus PFOX's Richard Cohen. Some people called and emailed to complain, and so they removed Cohen and added lesbian State Delegate Anne Kaiser. Then they added David Fishback, former chair of the citizens advisory committee. When they did that, the CRC members withdrew in order to avoid debate. The whole thing ended up being cancelled, with the show's producer (a CRC confederate, it turned out) putting a nasty disclaimer on the web and sending a histrionic letter to everyone involved.

During August, mostly, almost everyone who disagreed with CRC's party line was banished from their online "forum." Quickly, activity on the site dropped off to nearly nothing.

The Nation had a great article about the Montgomery County controversy.

Applications were submitted for the citizens advisory committee.

September 25th we held our forum. Nationally known speakers discussed the medical, scientific, and educational aspects of sex education. Comments and questions from the audience were beautiful and very informative. About a hundred people showed up. It was a positive, informative event.

The school board was going to announce the citizens advisory committee membership on October 11th, but because CRC and PFOX failed to apply properly, they delayed the decision.

The CRC's web site posted a personal attack on one of the speakers at our forum, a person who had undergone years of reparative therapy.

On the 24th, the Board of Education announced the membership of the new citizens advisory committee. They allowed Peter Sprigg to represent PFOX, even though that organization had nominated only one person. They did not appoint anyone to represent CRC, presumably because their nominee had been on the previous committee, and so was disqualified. I was appointed to represent TeachTheFacts. On the board, only Gabe Romero voted against the resolution. We noted that the CRC's President is apparently the treasurer for his campaign.

On the 25th, the CRC was quoted in The Post threatening to sue the school district again.

CRC put a statement on their web site that "TTF has become the front for GLSEN - Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network." This almost surely came about because of an email that someone at GLSEN sent to the TeachTheFacts Yahoo group, which was misinterpreted by CRC moles on the group.

On November 19th the CRC had an "informational meeting" that a couple of us attended. There were about 20 people there. Psychologist Warren Throckmorton spoke, and promoted a viewpoint that is essentially what we have been saying all along: stay close to the scientific research, and teach a nuanced view of sexual identity. A member of the audience noted that "we basically have lost already." Their President repeated the allegation that is associated with GLSEN.

The Christian web site AgapePress describes as "a homosexual advocacy group whose founder has close ties to the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN)." (Even though we have no founder and no close ties to that group, and most of us are straight.)

The Montgomery County Council of PTA's Delegates Assembly passed a resolution reprimanding the CRC for misusing the schools' address books for their mass mailings.

The first meeting of the MCPS citizens advisory committee was December 19th. That group now waits for the district to produce a new curriculum for evaluation.

And so we arrive at the present, and the new year. The CRC seems to be out of gas. One of their leaders is a lawyer, so we figure they'll keep filing lawsuits. But they don't even seem to have anybody legitimate they can nominate for the citizens advisory committee; their seat, guaranteed by the settlement agreement, is vacant. Their web sites are rarely updated, some of them apparently abandoned.

Work is moving forward on a new curriculum. It is possible that the MCPS team working on it will review the previous curriculum, see that it was good, and pass it back to the committee for evaluation. Maybe they'll modify it. Maybe they'll write a new one, we don't know.

The year 2005 has seen the breakdown of the religious right's death-grip on American culture. High-ranking politicians are being indicted and investigated for corruption; the President has to say in a press conference, "I am not a dictator," even though he admits he does not feel obligated to adhere to the Constitution or submit to legislative or judicial oversight. There are national scandals involving contractors, lobbyists -- Iraq, Katrina, leaking a CIA agent's name, bribery, torture, out-of-control pork-barrel spending, domestic spying without warrants, financial breaks for the wealthy and reduction of aid to the needy, imprisonment of citizens without charges ... And so on, there are so many ways that "the mandate" has failed at the national level.

And at the local level, they have worn out their welcome. In Dover, Pennsylvania, sane voters and a sane judge made sure the radicals failed to impose their crazy ideas on the community. Elsewhere, too, we see common sense returning in communities, in response to challenges to Americans' personal liberties and good sense. Though some states have passed laws against gay marriage, for instance, more recently the idea has failed to elicit enough support to move forward in a couple of states.

Here in Montgomery County, the process is healing itself, the school district is getting its feet back under it. A new curriculum is being developed, a new committee is formed and ready to review it. The CRC's complaints are subdued, only The Times will print their whining any more.

We approach the new year with hope that a sad, fearful period of American history will fade into the past, and that reason will be revived in the public consciousness of the country, and of our little suburban county.


Anonymous Jason Tseng said...

Hey! it's Jason Tseng, from way back in June. I haven't been able to keep close tabs on what was happening with the Health Ed curriculum debate while at school, only checking into the blog every now and then. I am so pleased, relieved, and proud of this group! Fighting the good fight and keeping intolerance and hatred at bay. I feel so honored to have helped in what little way that I could, and wish everyone a happy new year, 'cause, at the look of things... it's gonna be a good one.

December 30, 2005 8:19 PM  
Blogger Christine said...

Happy New Year to you too, Jason.

I want to make sure our readers who may have missed it know that Jason was the driving force behind the June 27, 2005 demonstration at the MCPS Board of Education meeting. Jason came to and asked for help to show support to his fellow GLBTQ MCPS students. We gladly provided him with guidance and support. While many audience members held small paper signs of support, six MCPS students and former students along with three members made public comments urging the Board to remain strong against the outside national forces that were trying to influence this local school board issue. Some Board members publicly voiced their gratitude for the demonstration. is proud to have worked with you Jason and we all look forward to working with you in the future. Best wishes for a joyful, prosperous, and safe New Year to you and all our readers.


January 01, 2006 9:05 AM  
Anonymous David S. Fishback said...


Thank you for the survey. It helps to recapitulate 2005 as we all look forward to 2006.


January 02, 2006 6:00 PM  
Anonymous RT said...

Happy New Years Jim.

Where is your post about how outraged you are that the new history books coverage of the Clinton impeachment don't mention that it was all about a blow job?

I know you are a big proponent of public school classrooms being the appropriate place for our kids to be taught about sex acts, what.... are you biased against heterosexuals performing blow jobs?

Don't you think the history books should go into detail about how that stain got on Monica's dress? Maybe they should break out the old cucumber and give a visual representation.

Must be some kind of neo-con conspiracy to bury the truth.

January 03, 2006 2:44 AM  
Anonymous RT said...

btw, somethings wrong with your RSS feed. The last three posts here did not show up in my reader.

January 03, 2006 3:11 AM  
Blogger JimK said...


I disabled the RSS feed when we were having so much trouble with Blogger last week. I'll try to get it going again today if I find time.

I haven't heard anything about how Montgomery County history books handle the Clinton impeachment, and actually don't understand why you bring it up.


January 03, 2006 6:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's so sad about Jim's assessment of the political assessment here is that the liberal left seems to have periodic delusions that the tide has turned in their favor. Up until election night in November 2004, the media had convinced them that they were going to win. Post-mortem, they talked about being out-foxed and out-organized because they simply can't accept the fact that the American people disagree with them. Period.

When was the last time a non-southerner Democrat was elected President? 1960. That's because the southern Democrats have had to pretend they're conservative to survive politically. You guys better hope Mark Warner catches on and Hillary decides to go into acting.

January 03, 2006 2:50 PM  
Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...

Hey, Anon,

Since you've decided to go political here, in the national sense -- why don't you just keep it up? Keep pushing and pushing, and before you know it, we liberals outside the Confederacy might just figure it's time to cut you loose, this time for good. And stop sending our tax dollars down South to support the Rebels of the Lost Cause.

I hadn't thought it was feasible, since I've been told that it's unconstitutional, and therefore truly a Lost Cause, but since it seems it is now up to the President to decide what's consitutional, and not the courts, President Clinton can just go ahead and boot you sorry folks out of this nation.

And the great thing about that is that we'd all be happier for it, including you. You can make the Concerned Women for the Confederacy into a cabinet level post. Sound good?

January 03, 2006 7:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Since you've decided to go political here,"

actually, if you'll read the original post, you'll see it was Jim's decision to go political

"in the national sense -- why don't you just keep it up? Keep pushing and pushing, and before you know it, we liberals outside the Confederacy might just figure it's time to cut you loose, this time for good."

Uh, how would you do that? You have no political power on the national level and what little you have seems to diminish daily. Need I say: Alito.

"And stop sending our tax dollars down South to support the Rebels of the Lost Cause."

I think the West and Midwest is with us, too. Maybe you guys can start a retirement home in Cuba.

"I hadn't thought it was feasible, since I've been told that it's unconstitutional, and therefore truly a Lost Cause, but since it seems it is now up to the President to decide what's consitutional, and not the courts, President Clinton can just go ahead and boot you sorry folks out of this nation."

Sad thing is- she will win the nomination. Then we'll spend all fall of '08 trying to figure out how she stayed out of jail for insider trading and obstruction of justice. She made a hundo grand out of thin air and subpoenaed evidence was found in her personal quarters.

"And the great thing about that is that we'd all be happier for it, including you. You can make the Concerned Women for the Confederacy into a cabinet level post. Sound good?"

Dana, let me introduce you to the next President, John McCain. He appeared on MTV last week and said schools should teach both evolution and IT and then let the students decide for himself. Condi will be VP.

January 04, 2006 9:19 PM  
Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...

Boy, you really aren't paying any attention to the implosion of the Republican party these days, are you? Conservatism no longer exists -- just imperialist neocons and reactionary Christian fundamentalists.

Good luck with McCain -- your people hate him a lot more than ours.

And we'll see about Alito. I don't think he'll make it.

January 04, 2006 10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"And we'll see about Alito. I don't think he'll make it."

We're on day two. What do you think now?

January 10, 2006 4:03 PM  

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