Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Public Comments Last Night: Interesting

This might be a longish post, since I'll be quoting several full statements made during the public comments section of the Montgomery County Board of Education meeting last night, plus some comments by board members.

There were a number of topics discussed, but of course we're interested in one. Michelle Turner, Retta Brown, and Steina Walter of the Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum (CRC) were called up in the same group with David Fishback, former chair of the citizens advisory committee. You're thinking, oh, this is going to be good!

Ms. Turner, President of the CRC, spoke first. Here's her statement:
Dr. Haughey, Members of the Board of Education and Dr. Weast:

As stated in our June 5 letter to Mr. Weaver, Supervisor of School Counselors, we have several concerns about the information the school counselors are giving to parents and students about sexual variations.

The resources provided by both the Supervisor of School Counselors and the high school counselors appear to suffer from the same problems as the information contained in the previous curriculum that was criticized by a Federal Judge. The provided resources are factually incorrect, biased, oppose certain religious viewpoints, and do not present different scientifically based views on the subject of homosexuality.

I see a fact sheet put together by GLSEN to promote "Day of Silence" but where is the fact sheet from the Alliance Defense Fund promoting "Day of Truth"?

I see a fact sheet from GLSEN about Gay/Straight Alliance Clubs but where is the fact sheet from Liberty Counsel/PFOX about Gay to Straight Clubs? Are the counselor's being funded by GLSEN?

The National Mental Health Association's [1] resource condemns certain religions [2] under the topic of "Is Homosexuality Immoral?" This same resource advocates parents tell pre-school children that two mommies make a family [3]. This is offensive and against some parent's religion.

The NMHA resource advocates tolerance for homosexuals, bisexuals and transgender but denies tolerance for former homosexuals or religious viewpoints critical of homosexuality. I see suggested internet resources from only pro-homosexual advocacy groups like GLSEN and PFLAG but no internet information about former homosexual groups such as PFOX.

Instead of presenting all of the facts on sexual orientation in a fair and balanced manner, current MCPS school counselor resources encourage confused and impressionable youth to immediately self-identify as 'gay'.

The school counselor, and by extension the school, is presenting a biased viewpoint on the subject of homosexuality.

Please correct this problem.
Michelle Turner
President, Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum

Ah, yes, you remember when we talked about the Day of Truth? I figured that about two thousandths of one percent of American students participated in that homophobic celebration. Wow, there sure ought to be a brochure in every classroom for a popular cause like that.

I was curious about the "fact sheet from Liberty Counsel/PFOX about Gay to Straight Clubs." Liberty Counsel (bottom of the page) does link to a Gay to Straight page. But look up at the top, at the title bar, where it says "International Healing Foundation Home." Do you remember what the "International Healing Foundation" is? Here's what Wikipedia tells us:
The International Healing Foundation directed by Richard Cohen, M.A., calls homosexuality a Same-Sex Attachment Disorder (SSAD) and has developed a program alleged to be a reparative therapy enabling homosexuals to transition to heterosexual behavior.

Cohen based his ideas on the teachings of the Unification Church, but in the late 1990s he announced a break with the church and recast his ideas in largely psychological terms.

This thing is put out by Richard Cohen, banned for life from the American Counseling Association, who can't charge people so he "accepts donations" for his man-hug and pillow-wacking therapy.

As Mad used to say: yeccccchhh!

Even Warren Throckmorton is grossed out by Cohen.

Oh, by the way, somebody else showed me the link to the National Mental Health Association's brochure: HERE. The only thing I see about religion is this:
Is homosexuality immoral?

Some religions continue to teach that homosexuality is immoral, and other spiritual communities and faiths accept people of all ages who are gay, lesbian and bisexual. No matter what your religious beliefs, a key value to share with your child is to treat all people with respect.

This is almost identical to wording in the previous curriculum that the CRC members on the committee accepted. Some religions approve, some don't.

The brochure says nothing -- nothing at all -- about "ex-homosexuals" or critical of any religion, though Ms. Turner sat there and told the school board it does.

Go look over that brochure, it is one evil document, I guarantee it.

Ms. Turner was followed by the next CRC holdout, Henrietta Brown:

It is hard to believe MCPS would again allow religiously biased and factually contentious information on homosexuality to be given out to students and parents by school counselors! Last Spring a Federal Judge found fault with the previous health curriculum for the same ills.

One example is the unsupported and biased material provided by the Supervisor of MCPS school counselors, as a primary resource: "What does Gay Mean?" from the National Mental Health Association. [1] This resource also contains no citations to support the author's conclusions and opinions.

Where is the proof for the statement, "...people are born with their sexual orientation"? [2] Professionals concede no proof has yet been found for a "gay gene" and studies to date indicate the absence of a genetic causation. [3] There is no proof you are born that way!

Where is the proof that psychotherapy to eliminate desires for same sex attraction may be harmful? [4] American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, and the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, to name a few, do not say that psychotherapy to eliminate desires for same sex attraction is harmful.[5]

Where is the proof that a therapist cannot help a young person change their sexual orientation? [6] What about the thousands of former homosexuals who have, with the help of a therapist, changed their sexual orientation?

Where is the proof that there are "more than two million school-age lesbians and gay Americans?" [7] What is "School age"? 5 year olds? college age? What is the definition of a homosexual? Is it based on some sexual Fantasy? One sexual encounter? Persistent encounters? Of what kind?

Why does the author suggest to parents that children get information on homosexuality by talking with gay teens on the internet and contacting non-medical, homosexual advocacy organizations and youth groups? [8]

Why does the author ignore that transgender is a gender identity disorder needing psychiatric treatment as recognized by the America Psychiatric Association?[9]

Just as appalling is that school counselors provide incorrect and biased internet resources from the Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League (SMYAL), a non-medical, homosexual advocacy group. Would you want your child given internet links which discuss and encourage risky sexual behavior, without you, his parent, first knowing about it? One internet resource, for example, even presents only a favorable religious viewpoint of homosexuality without mentioning other, less favorable viewpoints held by many religions (a clear 1st Amendment violation). [10]

Please address this problem and check out all the resources being distributed.

Wow. Where to start.

These people can say this stuff over and over again. You can drag out the evidence and show them, but they come right back to this. It's the Bush Doctrine: repeating a statement often enough makes it true.

The CRC's barrage ended with Steina Walter. Her statement:
Dr. Weast and the members of the Board of Education

I am at a loss as to why Montgomery County Public Schools allows school counselors to give students and parents Focus Area 3 information concerning Safer Sex, STD and HIV/AIDS that comes from a youth organization that is a pro-homosexual advocacy group. (Footnote 1) Has this information been approved of by the Citizens Advisory Committee, Dr. Weast, or the BOE? This information is given to students without parent's approval. How can counselors "get around" COMAR by giving out any material they want to with relation to Focus Area 3 material without first going through the proper channels?

In one of the resources, given out by the schools counselors on health issues, there is a section for parents that provides arguments whether homosexuality is a sin. (Footnote 2) Why is MCPS giving out religiously biased information to students? Why is MCPS giving out only pro homosexual information and not including other viewpoints on homosexuality?

Please remove this Internet Resource Sheet provided by the Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League as a resource for school counselors and check out any other resources that may contain religious information or is not from a credible source.

1. SMYAL - a two sheet of Internet resources for LGBT? Youth-One heading is Safer Sex, STD and HIV/AIDS Information; Coalition for Positive Sexuality, Safer Sex Information, Teen Health with Internet web addresses.

2. http://www.chebucto.ns.ca/Health/TeenHealth/sexualhealth/orientation/orient-parentsbro.htm "A brochure for parents of gay and lesbian youth IS IT A SIN? How Religions View It This is one of the most difficult questions for religious people. Many religious teach that homosexuality is condemned. But nowhere in the Bible is there mention of those whose true nature is homosexual. Neither the Ten Commandments nor the Gospels mention homosexuality. Biblical scholars tell us that the oft-quoted (out-of-context) proscriptions in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 and St. Paul's Epistles Rom. 1:26-27, refer to male prostitution in the temples: sexual practices by heterosexuals."

You know, I'll bet counselors routinely get drawn into conversations with troubled students that take them way into territory you could never touch in a classroom.

I admit, I don't know why these CRC ladies have decided all of a sudden to get excited about some documents they found in the counselors' office somewhere. If they want to make a point that it's illegal for the schools to have this material, I think they'll have a long fight ahead of them. If they want the counselors to promote their anti-gay viewpoint, they'll put them at odds with the professional organizations they likely belong to, among others.

Finally, David Fishback brought common sense to the discussion:
The proper approach to revising our health curriculum is to draw on the wisdom of mainstream medical and mental health groups. Our students need to know that the medical consensus is that homosexuality is not a disease. It is heartening that Dr. Weast announced last winter that MCPS staff is following recommendations of physicians from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

At your last meeting, you were asked why it is taking so long to develop revisions to include what you recognized in 2004 is necessary: Basic factual information on sexual orientation to end the deafening silence that has done so much harm in the past.

I appreciate Dr. Weast's desire to make certain that the revisions and related resources can withstand any legal challenge. And I appreciate his commitment to submit the revisions in time for piloting next spring. There is absolutely no reason why this schedule cannot be met.

The law is not complex: The Supreme Court has made it clear that school boards have the right to decide what is in curriculum as long as they do not foster particular religious viewpoints. While the district court last year mistakenly thought that certain teacher background resources that assessed religious viewpoints were actually part of the curriculum, that will no longer be a problem because MCPS has decided not to use such resources.

Because the Board has the right to choose curriculum, it must choose wisely. Efforts by right-wing advocacy groups to include "conversion therapy" notions should be rejected because they have no basis in medical science; indeed, the American Medical Association explicitly opposes "conversion therapy" as dangerous and unethical. Jerry Falwell and James Dobson have no constitutional right to force any school board to include these notions in health curriculum.

Moreover, since "conversion therapies" are essentially theological, not scientific, their inclusion in a health curriculum would be unconstitutional, as a court found in a parallel situation last year in Dover, Pennsylvania, rejecting the use of "intelligent design" in biology classes because "I.D." was nothing more than theology pretending to be science.

There was actually applause after he spoke.

There were more public comments, about the rule against having cell phones at schools, one school wanted to know why their principal was being removed, etc., regular stuff. Then the board members commented on the comments.

This seemed weird to me, I didn't quite get it. Member Gabe Romero, who will be leaving the board this fall, and who has been known to have connections to the CRC, said:
I have a couple of questions. Regarding the health curriculum, I understand Mr. Fishback's testimony in stating the Supreme Court made it clear that school boards have the right to decide what is in the curriculum. And understanding that, I'd like to see if you guys can provide the answer on what criteria is being used to accept certain factsheets from certain organizations and reject certain other ones. What is the criteria for that?

I guess one question is, who are "you guys?" Was he asking the board's staff to do research into how to distinguish between science and bull-oney?

Here, I'll start: "Certain organizations" are composed of researchers, professors, and authorities in their field, while "certain other ones" are made up of quacks, unpublished pundits, and religious fanatics. Granted, the latter often masquerade as the former, and you have to peel back the curtain sometimes, but it's not that hard.

I couldn't tell if this was an anemic attempt to show support for the CRC, as if the nuts they quote might possibly have equal credibility with the mainstream scientific organizations they try to criticize. If he was asking staff for guidance, well, good, that should be easy: look who publishes in the journals. Gabe, if you weren't expressing support for the CRC I apologize for suggesting it.

Board member Pat O'Neill had an interesting comment. Actually, she discussed a couple of subjects, and I'm not going to quote the whole thing. Here's part:
... Miss Brown's testimony refers to therapists a great deal. You know, our guidance counselors are incredibly busy people, stretched to the max. They barely have enough time to work to get our scheduling done, to work with students who are at academic risk, to work on the college information, which is a huge portion of their responsibility. They're not therapists. I know we will be brought up to date about the information that the CRC seems to have found. I guess if you're on a witch-hunt, you're going to find something, somewhere in this very large system.

But our guidance counselors are wonderful, wonderful professional individuals. If a parent wants to meet with them, I commend the parent for requesting the time to come in and talk about an issue with the guidance counselor. And if it is that your child has expressed that they may be homosexual, I commend the parent for talking the time to come in and talk to someone who has some training as a professional. But you know, our counselors are spread so thin. I hope that parents have the opportunity if there's any kind of issue, be it eating disorder, or suicide prevention, or whatever but ... I know I'm rambling but I feel that it's very important that the general public who may have watched this meeting understand what a load our guidance counselors carry in the schools but they are not therapists.

Good point: if you're on a witch-hunt, you're going to find something, somewhere in this very large system. The counselors have to deal with all kinds of situations, including gay and questioning students. There is good advice out there for them, and some of it -- yes, it's true -- comes from organizations that really care about gay people. How terrible is that? Apparently, terrible enough to bring out three of the four remaining CRC members for an evening in the Carver Building.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! Sounds like CRC has really got TTF psyched out. Well, it's comforting to know MCPS is making the same mistakes all over again. Guess the result will be about the same.


June 27, 2006 5:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

SOS (Same Old Spud)

Dream on

CRC is once again grasping at straws (or should I say condoms) in their need to act like they know what they are talking about. It is pretty easy to show they make it up as they go along just like before.


June 27, 2006 6:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jim K writes: This thing is put out by Richard Cohen, banned for life from the American Counseling Association, who can't charge people so he "accepts donations" for his man-hug and pillow-wacking therapy.

As Mad used to say: yeccccchhh!


This Richard Cohen smiling in all his man hugging glory????????



June 27, 2006 6:40 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

Yike! That's a big .. smile on that guy!


June 27, 2006 6:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"just like before.


"Guess the result will be about the same.


June 28, 2006 7:40 AM  
Blogger digger said...

I've seen the PFOX/Liberty Counsel materials promoting "Gay to Straight" clubs. Does anyone know if such an animal has actually been founded somewhere (in one of those tens of thousands of schools). Would such a creature be illegal in a jurisdiction which prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression? Or would it be permissible under legitimate viewpoint discrimination to exclude lgbt people who didn't want to change their sexual orientation?


June 28, 2006 8:02 AM  
Blogger digger said...

I've decided that the "Change is Possible", "Gay to Straight Club" efforts by PFOX and Liberty Counsel are adult-directed efforts to encourage bullying, thinly describing harassment as first-amendment-protected speech.

I searched online for Gay to Straight Clubs, and couldn't find any. I doubt they will find any high school students who identify as ex-gay, certainly only very few.


June 28, 2006 10:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Gay to Straight" clubs..... Would such a creature be illegal in a jurisdiction which prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression?"

June 28, 2006 2:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Someone should publicly call on PFOX to explain their ties to Richard Cohen. Ask them if they want school counselors to cuddle young boys and girls to offer them equal options to realize their values. Tennis rackets would need to be borrowed from the Athletic dept. During tennis season, no ex-gay counseling...

June 28, 2006 4:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Wow. Where to start."

How about advocating teaching all the facts instead of the g agenda?

sloppy joe

June 28, 2006 6:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sloppy j

Which facts? The proper methods of holding a tennis racket prior to beating a pillow, screaming at your parents? Or the proper method to hold a young sexually confused boy?

June 29, 2006 10:35 PM  

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