Friday, August 11, 2006

The Blade Reviews the Situation

The Washington Blade has a story out today about the current state of the Montgomery County sex-ed curriculum development process. The reporter, Joshua Lynsen, quotes me quite a lot.

This is probably a good time in our life-cycle to review where we're at, anyway. The summer has been quiet, things are going to heat up again. Lysen talked to a few people -- here's his whole article:
Maryland’s Montgomery County Public Schools will unveil a new sex education curriculum, which adds gay topics and instructions on proper condom use, starting Aug. 30.

Those familiar with the new curriculum said it offers progressive views on gay issues, including discussions of gender identity. The new curriculum was described as rooted in current medical and scientific understanding.

Pro-gay activists said this, the district’s second recent attempt to revamp its curriculum, is a better product than earlier drafts.

“It’s going to be surprisingly more progressive than the previous proposed curriculum was,” said Jim Kennedy, a member of the citizens’ advisory committee assembled to review the changes. “It’s going to be very thorough and very sympathetic.” Revised sex-ed curriculum to be unveiled: Montgomery County committee embraces gay topics after legal battle

I gotta say, that still kills me, being a "pro-gay activist." Who woulda ever thought that?

Well, hey, life could be worse.
Officials will publicly introduce the new curriculum in three stages.

Condom usage materials will be discussed at the 7 p.m. meeting Aug. 30, while “lessons on sexual orientation” for eighth and 10th grade students will be discussed at meetings in September.

All meetings of the Citizens Advisory Committee on Family Life & Human Development are open to the public. The evening meetings occur at Carver Educational Services Center at 850 Hungerford Drive in Rockville, Md.

Really, I think the people who opposed the "old new" curriculum are going to be sorry they won in court. Now that the curriculum is being advised by a team of pediatrians with no dog in this fight, it looks like the new curriculum will be more scientific, more objective, more fact-based -- which of course means, to certain people around here, more "liberal."

Whatever. Get over it. Sometimes you lose one.
The curriculum changes, originally slated for classroom testing in spring 2005, triggered a courtroom showdown when two conservative groups objected to the new content.

To settle the lawsuit, school officials agreed to abort the proposed revisions and restart the curriculum revamp process. One representative each from two conservative groups — Family Research Council and Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum — serve on the 15-member citizens’ advisory committee.

That's a little bit wrong. It was actually CRC and PFOX who sued -- it just so happens that PFOX's rep on the committee is from the Family Research Council.
Kennedy said the committee’s conservative members might challenge the new curriculum, but he expected the proposed changes to be approved.

“Everything in the group is done by majority vote,” he said, “and I’m confident that the majority will be reasonable.”

Well, yeah, I don't expect everybody will agree on everything -- we had a lot of close votes in our last meeting. That's why you have a team, to get diverse opinions. We're grown-ups, we can talk about things, we can negotiate, we can work something out.
Regina Griggs, executive director of Parents & Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays, said she hopes the revised curriculum focuses on “fact-based science” that is recent and unbiased.

“Failure to include equal access and information from all parties,” she said, “that would be a deal breaker.”

Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum officials did not respond to interview requests this week, but Steven Fisher, a spokesperson for the group, said in an earlier interview that his group opposed the first rewrite because it omitted alternative viewpoints on gay topics.

I might be wrong, but I don't think the Citizens for Responsible Curriculum actually exists any more, does it?

Anyway, you know that when Ms. Griggs says "all parties," she means "ex-gays." Sorry to say, that ain't gonna happen. As she says, that would be a deal-breaker.

Wow, this is a long story!
Years in the making

Changes to the Maryland school district’s sex education curriculum were years in the making.

New explanations of gay topics and proper condom use were approved in November 2004. Those changes were guided by the principle that people “have the right to accept, acknowledge, and live in accordance with their sexual orientation, be they heterosexual, bisexual, gay, or lesbian.”

David S. Fishback, who led the committee that approved the first rewrite, said the changes gave teachers unprecedented ability to discuss gay topics.

“This material is not that complex,” he said. “Homosexuality is not a disease. It’s not something people choose like they choose to wear a white shirt or a green shirt on any given day. It’s who they are.”

But in May 2005, U.S. District Court Judge Alexander Williams Jr. ordered school officials to put on hold plans to test the new curriculum.

The ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed by the conservative groups Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum and Parents & Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays. The Liberty Counsel, a law firm affiliated with Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, represented both groups.

Lawyers argued that the new curriculum was a violation of free speech because it didn’t include discussion of “ex-gays” — people who identify as straight after once identifying as gay. The omission was said to violate the Establishment Clause by promoting some religions over others.

Williams agreed, and said in his ruling that “the imminent threat to plaintiff’s First Amendment rights constitutes irreparable harm.”

Mmm, yeah, well, it wasn't exactly like that. But whatever, the bad guys got a temporary restraining order, which was enough.
Ready for review

The second curriculum rewrite recently underwent a lengthy legal review, and will next go before the Citizens’ Advisory Committee on Family Life & Human Development.

Fishback, who has two adult gay sons, said the committee will see a “fine, strong, medically accurate curriculum.”

“I’ve seen the materials they’ve presented to the superintendent,” he said. “I am very optimistic the curriculum will be a very strong curriculum — even better than the one [approved] in November 2004.”

Kennedy, who is president of Teach the Facts, a group that supported the first curriculum rewrite, said the district has given no indication it will dodge gay topics in the second rewrite.

Kennedy said the committee’s review process should be completed by November.

The committee will begin meeting again in a couple of weeks. Hopefully by then we'll have something we can sink our teeth into, something concrete. So far the citizen committee group dynamics have been positive. People have been willing to make concessions, we've figured out how to agree on things. We'll see if we can keep it up.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Blade? this is low even for you.

August 11, 2006 8:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

and they wonder why Bush is the president.

August 12, 2006 5:04 PM  

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