Tuesday, January 23, 2007

An Interesting Complaint

Somebody sent a letter to the Gazette with an interesting complaint about the new sex-ed curriculum. Here it is:
Teril Wright, Gaithersburg

Please tell me I am not the only one who is angry and appalled at the school board's decision to unanimously approve a new sex-education curriculum that they know is flawed enough to invite another court battle.

First, they spend millions of precious education dollars on an updated Family Life class. Then they spend more on the defense and loss of a court challenge. Then they spend more on developing a new, "improved" curriculum. And finally they will spend more on another legal challenge.

Not only did they know this time that it would most likely be attacked again, but they invited it. The Post quoted board member Sharon Cox as saying, ''I believe we will be sued. That's OK ... Bring it on."

Where do these people get off begging for more money "for our children" while spending it on avoidable court cases? If the judge the first time mandated changes to conform to his ruling, then why the heck didn't they do the job right? And why do we have to pay for it? Money wasted on flawed sex-ed curriculum

The pivotal word in this message is "flawed." The writer assumes that MCPS expects a lawsuit because they know there's something wrong with the curriculum, that it's got flaws. As if it's somehow easier to just put out any old junk and then fight about it in court than to produce something that is legally robust in the first place.

Back in early January of 2005, just a month after they'd first organized their group, the CRC's inner circle was discussing strategy among themselves, in a message board that later turned up in the Google cache where everybody could read it. One of them wrote a short summary:
1. Continuing outrage streaming in to their castle headquarters
2. John Garza proceeding immediatley with his lawsuit. (Lawsuits tend to get peoples attention - merit or no merit because it forces them to deal with their legal team on a continuing basis)
3. 50,000 plus signatures between the paper petition and the on-line petition.
4. Tabulation of all the outrageous things said about us and this issue, and posted on both web sites.
5. Massive email campaign to inform and INFLAME.

In other words, aggressive tactics.

That's about as clear as it gets. They didn't care if there was "merit or no merit" in the lawsuit. It wasn't about actually having a case, suing over an actual grievance, the point was to "get peoples attention."

We sympathize with the person who wrote this letter to the Gazette. It really is a big waste of taxpayers' money. We looked HERE at what could have been done with the money wasted on the last suit, and it's terrible. And we know the school district has been very careful this time, they've had a special team of lawyers look at every word of this new curriculum, making sure that the suers won't win in court this time. Because, remember, last time school-district attorneys were completely taken by surprise; it wasn't that the anti-MCPS groups had such a good case, or that the curriculum was flawed, they lost because their lawyers were not prepared to argue the case.

The suers don't have to win to waste our money. There doesn't actually have to be anything wrong at all for them to file some papers and make everybody go through the process. Because the CRC has pro bono representation from Jerry Falwell's Liberty Counsel, a group that goes around the country filing these crazy things to build up the religious right and tear down the separation of church and state, it doesn't cost them anything. MCPS, on the other hand, does have to spend money to defend itself -- and attorneys aren't cheap.

So they find themselves in a kind of blackmail situation, and this letter-writer disagrees with the school district on what to do. They could defer to the threat of an expensive court battle, just give up and stay with the curriculum we've got now. And I guarantee you, a fly on the wall at the Carver Center would definitely have heard that option being discussed. They could let our community's educational system take orders from any group that can get lawyers to threaten to file papers.

Or MCPS could move ahead and do what needed to be done, despite the threat. Knowing that the lawsuit has already been threatened, a little bravado was not uncalled-for. Sharon Cox and Pat O'Neill both made their statements in the board meeting, that if the lawsuit was inevitable, they were ready for it. I am sure they knew what they were saying when they made those statements, and that they were both fully aware of the threats, of the chances that it would succeed, and of the wishes of the community.

Montgomery County has some of the best schools in the country at a time when public education is under attack in a wave of anti-intellectual provincialism. The board needed to make a choice. It's clear they made the right choice, not to cave in to a handful of litigious whiners.


Blogger Orin Ryssman said...

Jim writes,

The suers don't have to win to waste our money. There doesn't actually have to be anything wrong at all for them to file some papers and make everybody go through the process. Because the CRC has pro bono representation from Jerry Falwell's Liberty Counsel, a group that goes around the country filing these crazy things to build up the religious right and tear down the separation of church and state, it doesn't cost them anything. MCPS, on the other hand, does have to spend money to defend itself -- and attorneys aren't cheap.

I think this presents a compelling reason to give "loser pays" tort reform a try...though trial lawyers are vehemently opposed to such a reform.

January 23, 2007 3:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Orin's point is a little off-topic, but is interesting. I would prefer a more aggressive use of Rule 11 sanctions. (Sanctions a court may impose upon lawyers for bringing utterly frivolous lawsuits.)

Why? Because a "loser pays" system would have prevented "long shot" litigation that has exposed some of the greatest environmental hazards ever to befall people in this country -- notably asbestos exposure. While the current asbestos litigation is a mixture of legitimate and frivolous cases, when the litigation began nearly 40 years ago, nearly all attorneys thought the suits would lose because the asbestos companies had so much money to fight the lawsuits. Yet, a group of then-small plaintiff-side attorneys were able to expose the perfidiousness of companies like Johns-Manville and secured just recoveries for the families of workers killed and crippled by asbestos exposure. But if a "loser pays" arrangement had existed then, the plaintiffs' attorneys could not have afforded to bring the lawsuits. It is one thing to swallow your own expenses when you lose a case; it is quite another to have to pay the expenses of big companies with nearly limitless resources to defend suits. (Note: I am not a plaintiff personal injury lawyer.)

January 23, 2007 5:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just as a note PFOX sent out letters to my school today as the new semester started and I am happy to report that every body in my homeroom threw theirs away. I also saw many other letters in trash cans and on the floor around the school. Their intended audience, the LBGT students were appalled that PFOX existed and insisted that nothing was wrong with them and that they don't need "treatment". Great job PFOX you just wasted a lot of trees for nothing.

January 23, 2007 5:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

did the CRC win. I thought so.
an I wrong?

January 23, 2007 8:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, CRC won a ten-day restraining order, nearly a year ago.

January 23, 2007 8:35 PM  
Blogger Orin Ryssman said...

How about this for off topic?

Without Condoms: Unprotected Sex, Gay Men, and Barebacking (Paperback)
by Michael Shernoff

Book Description

After years of activism, risk awareness, and AIDS prevention, increasing numbers of gay men are not using condoms, and new infections of HIV are on the rise. Using case studies and exhaustive survey research, this timely, groundbreaking book allows men who have unprotected sex, a practice now known as "barebacking," to speak for themselves on their willingness to risk it all. Without Condoms takes a balanced look at the profound needs that are met by this seemingly reckless behavior, while at the same time exposing the role that both the Internet and club drugs like crystal methamphetamine play in facilitating high-risk sexual encounters. The result is a compassionate, sophisticated and nuanced insight into what for many people is one of the most perplexing aspects of today's gay male culture and life style. Michael Shernoff digs deep and forces us to see that the AIDS epidemic is not over. We must now ask the hard questions and listen to the voices that answer. The stakes are too high to ignore.

and here is the only reader review at Amazon,

Reviewer: Michael E. Holtby "LCSW, BCD" (Denver, CO USA) - See all my reviews
If you work with gay men as a health care provider, especially as a psychotherapist or health department prevention case manager, this book is a must. It is directed at professionals, and is quite scholarly, with thirty-three pages of references. However, the fact that the author talks about his own experience as a clinical social worker in private practice, and also the fact that he, himself has HIV, makes the book all the more compelling. It is extremely thorough (with one exception), and explores, in depth, the many reasons that gay men choose to have sex without condoms. The conclusion is that there is no simple answer, and clinicians need to individualize their assessments. No broad brush can put the crystal meth party boy in the same category as the committed couple who stop protection. "Barebacking" can be too easily demonized. The bare, unvarnished fact is that the majority of gay men are not 100% safe, 100% of the time. As health care workers we must be realistic, and look for other interventions besides, "Just say no". In this vein Shernoff discusses the "harm reduction model", offering very specific suggestions. Our challenge is to accept our clients where they are, without condemnation, if we are to truly engage them in a process of change. At the same time we must acknowledge it can be a challenge to witness what seems to us to be provocative behaviors. Shernoff explores his own reactions to his clients' confessions, and how he deals with them; encouraging all of us to do the same.

The one exception to this extremely thoughtful and in-depth examination has to do with Shernoff's cursory treatment of sex addiction. He devotes less than a page to the subject, and describes it as "controversial" and "based on a heteronormative concept". Sorry, I beg to differ: it is based on an addictions concept. If you substitute "sex" for "alcohol" in the criteria for alcoholism, the many parallels are obvious. In no way does this mean that the sex gay men have, even in a casual context, is a sex addiction, just as a gay bar patron is not necessarily an alcoholic - but in some cases both meet the criteria of addictive behaviors. The significance of this is that groups such as Sex Addicts Anonymous and the 12-Step process can offer significant support for alternative ways to cope with life, and better choices for harm reduction. For more information the interested reader can get another perspective from Robert Weiss's book, Cruise Control: Understanding Sex Addiction in Gay Men (LA: Alyson Books, 2005).

This, however, is a very minor drawback to an otherwise exhaustive examination of the issues. I have worked in this field since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic both as a private therapist and health department consultant. Even with an extensive background and experience this book had much to say to me, and much that I could apply to my own practice. If you work in a related field, this should be required reading.

Michael E. Holtby, LCSW, BCD


Could this be assigned reading for MCPS students?

January 24, 2007 7:22 AM  
Blogger Christine said...

Antarctic temperatures are rising according to the Frontiers of Freedom organization based in Oakton, Viginia? No, Theresa, that is NOT a legitimate scientific group no matter how it may appear to you. The Chairman and Founder of FF.org is former Senator Malcolm Wallop (R, WY) "an outspoken conservative...ranking Republican member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee from 1990 to 1994...[who] has retired from the boards of Hubbell, Inc., El Paso Energy Company, and Sheridan State Bank....He is currently a Senior Fellow with the Heritage Foundation where he writes and speaks on issues of foreign policy and national defense." http://ff.org/about/mwbio.html

I prefer news from news sources, not spin factories.

From the BBC: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/1880566.stm

Tuesday, 19 March, 2002,

An Antarctic ice shelf that was 200 metres thick and had a surface area of 3,250 square kilometres has broken apart in less than a month.

UK scientists say the Larsen B shelf on the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula has fragmented into small icebergs.

Researchers from the British Antarctic Survey (Bas) predicted in 1998 that several ice shelves around the peninsula were doomed because of rising temperatures in the region - but the speed with which the Larsen B has gone has shocked them.

"We knew what was left would collapse eventually, but the speed of it is staggering," said Dr David Vaughan, a glaciologist at the Bas in Cambridge.

"[It is hard] to believe that 500 billion tonnes of ice sheet has disintegrated in less than a month."

From CNN: http://archives.cnn.com/2002/TECH/space/05/09/iceberg.satellite/index.html

May 10, 2002

(CNN) -- Satellite images from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have detected another in an increasing series of massive icebergs which has broken off the frozen continent of Antarctica.

The new iceberg measures roughly 47 miles by 4.6 miles (76 km by 7 km), or almost ten times the area of Manhattan.

In recent years, the escalating number of massive icebergs breaking free from the continent has raised concerns that temperatures are steadily warming in the Antarctic region.

Such a trend, which many scientists suspect is an early sign of global warming, could have implications for climate changes over much of the planet's surface. Also, many in the shipping industry consider the development a navigation hazard as icebergs drift northward and break up.

More recently from NOAA: http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2006/s2599.htm

March 24, 2006 — An iceberg about the size of Martha’s Vineyard broke off from the Fimbul Ice Shelf, a large glacial ice sheet, located along the northwestern section of Queen Maud Land, in the eastern Weddell Sea near Antarctica. (Click satellite image for larger view of iceberg D-16 taken on March 16, 2006, at 1:32 a.m. EST. Click here for high resolution version. Please credit “DMSP.”)

The National Ice Center, using visible satellite imagery from the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program, announced the discovery after it spotted the iceberg, named D-16, break off.

Currently, D-16, which measures 15 nautical miles on its longest axis and 8 nautical miles on its widest axis, is located 69 22’ 48” South and 0 12’ 0” East.

And it's not just Antarctica that's losing ice. Check out the graph showing the amount of Arctic ice changes since 1970 from the National Snow and Ice Data Center: http://nsidc.org/news/press/20050928_trendscontinue.html

January 24, 2007 7:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have worked in this field since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic both as a private therapist and health department consultant. Even with an extensive background and experience this book had much to say to me, and much that I could apply to my own practice. If you work in a related field, this should be required reading.

Michael E. Holtby, LCSW, BCD

The recommendation of the author, a licensed clinical social worker, is that people who work in fields related to his ("private therapist and health department consultant") should read this book. I doubt most MCPS students would qualify.

MCPS should continue to stress abstinence and do all it can to encourage proper and consistent condom use for all sexually active teens.

January 24, 2007 9:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This letter from me was in this morning's Gazette on-line forum:

Teril Wright misses the point in her Jan. 17 letter, ‘‘Money wasted on flawed sex-ed curriculum,” expressing anger at the Board of Education for approving for piloting a ‘‘sex-education curriculum that they know . . . invite[s] another court battle.”

Board members Sharon Cox and Patricia O’Neill spoke directly and courageously in announcing that Montgomery County Public Schools will not buckle to intimidation from those who have minimal support in our community.

Groups aligned with James Dobson and Jerry Falwell threaten to sue because they do not like the content of the curriculum, even though it is based upon the wisdom of every American mainstream medical and mental health professional association. No court can properly set aside such a curriculum.

In 2005, a court issued a temporary restraining order barring implementation of the MCPS health curriculum revisions for two reasons: First, it (mistakenly) believed that the curriculum belittled the theological beliefs of those who believe that all homosexual activity is sinful. In the revisions approved this month, there is no mention whatsoever of religion, not even that statement (present in the 2005 curriculum) that ‘‘different religions take different stands on sexual behaviors and there are even different views among people of the same religion.” So that issue is off the table.

Second, the court held that the 2005 curriculum was unconstitutional because, in presenting the views of the mainstream health groups on sexual orientation, it did not present the ‘‘other side’s” viewpoint. That ruling was unprecedented, and last summer its analysis was rejected by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which covers Maryland. The Fourth Circuit stated unequivocally that ‘‘when the government alone speaks, it need not remain neutral as to its viewpoint,” and quoted the U.S. Supreme Court’s holding that when a public educational institution ‘‘determines the content of the education it provides, it is the [institution] speaking, and we have permitted the government to regulate the content of what is or is not expressed when it is the speaker.”
That is why, for example, ‘‘Holocaust deniers” could not force MCPS to include their ‘‘viewpoint” in our world history classes. Any new lawsuit would be barred as a matter of law, and MCPS would be able to defeat it with a simple motion to dismiss.

We should be proud of the Board of Education.

David S. Fishback


January 24, 2007 9:57 AM  
Blogger Christine said...

Correction to my comment:

"Antarctic temperatures are FALLING according to the Frontiers of Freedom organization based in Oakton, Viginia? "

January 24, 2007 11:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rare cloud formation seen in Antarctica
Some of the coldest temperatures on Earth brought a rare cloud formation to the skies over Antarctica, scientists said Tuesday. The clouds only occur at high polar latitudes in winter, requiring temperatures less than minus 176 degrees Fahrenheit. A weather balloon measured temperatures at minus 189 degrees Fahrenheit on the day pictured.

January 24, 2007 1:14 PM  
Blogger Priya Lynn said...

Orin, if you had any sincere concern for gay men having unsafe sex you'd be supporting and encouraging equal marriage for same sex couples. Its plain you don't care about this issue except to the extent that you can use it to paint all gays with the same broad negative brush.

Shernoff himself is trying to deflect blame for his own poor choices by erroneoulsy assiging it to gay culture rather than himself.

January 24, 2007 2:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Although Antarctica warmed around the perimeter from 1982 to 2004, where huge icebergs calved and some ice shelves disintegrated, it cooled closer to the pole...

Why is Antarctica getting colder in the middle when it’s warming up around the edge? One possible explanation is that the warmer temperatures in the surrounding ocean have produced more precipitation in the continent’s interior, and this increased snowfall has cooled the high-altitude region around the pole. Another possible explanation involves ozone. Ozone in the Earth’s stratosphere absorbs ultraviolet radiation, and absorbing this energy warms the stratosphere. Loss of UV-absorbing ozone may have cooled the stratosphere and strengthened the polar vortex, a pattern of spinning winds around the South Pole. The vortex acts like an atmospheric barrier, preventing warmer, coastal air from moving in to the continent’s interior. A stronger polar vortex might explain the cooling trend in the interior of Antarctica.


So according to NASA, either the warming around the perimeter of Antarctica OR the loss of the ozone layer above Antarctica is causing the cooling of the "high-altitude region around the pole."

January 24, 2007 2:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

another reason is that it is getting colder because of global cooling.
welcom to the new ice age.

January 24, 2007 4:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

so basicaly global warming is a rackt. a scam to get money from fools and institute as enviromental tax. got to love the left and there minipulation of the media wait they are the media.

January 24, 2007 9:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Last night CBS News aired an interesting item on the global warming report that's due next week. The whole segment can be viewed at:

"Report Cites Global Warming Cause, Effects
Draft Obtained By CBS News Blames Humans, Predicts Global Changes

DAVOS, Switzerland, Jan. 24, 2007

(CBS/AP) Next week, an international panel of top climate scientists, including Americans, will issue a long-awaited report on climate change.

The long-awaited report to be published next week puts hard scientific fact behind the cliché images of global warming. A final draft, obtained by CBS News, contains the strongest language yet on how fast the world is heating up and who to blame.

The answer? Us.

The study traces global temperatures and so-called greenhouse gases going back thousands of years. It shows a gradual variation until the Industrial Revolution begins, when fossil fuel use skyrockets, as do temperatures, CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips reports..."

January 25, 2007 8:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

propaganda from cbs why am I not surprised will the other side be given a chane to respond no no fair and balanced attempt at cbs just left wing propaganda.

January 25, 2007 12:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

FOX got scooped again. Boo hoo you :(

They can see the global warming report next week like everybody else.

They're so "fair and balanced" they won't even mention it.

January 25, 2007 3:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I bet they will and unlike cbs (commie bull sh*t) they will give both sides.

January 25, 2007 4:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's a graph of global temperatures from the Industrial Revolution until now posted by the US Government.


Do you have the same "healthly set of doubts on the next set of data presented by the" current conservative US Government as you do for data presented by the "liberal media?"

January 27, 2007 7:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

can you please provide proff that man made carbondioxid is the cause of global warming not dogma or theory but sciantific proof. Can you state what percent of the atmosphere is made up of carbondioxid and what percent of that is man made? can you give sciantific proof of what percent of global warming is caused by man made carbondioxid?

January 27, 2007 10:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bush's Climate Remarks Weighed for Policy Shift

...In 2005, however, Europeans sensed a shift when Bush was asked about the issue in Denmark. "Listen," he said, "I recognize that the surface of the Earth is warmer and that an increase in greenhouse gases caused by humans is contributing to the problem."...


January 27, 2007 8:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Time for some real enlightenment.

What a fascinating SEPP website Theresa. Thanks for linking us to it.

80 scientists (50 U.S. scientists among them) signed the Leipzig Petition here: http://www.sepp.org/policy%20declarations/LDsigs.html

The SEPP site claims the Oregon Petition has been "signed by some 17,000 U.S. scientists and counting" at the bottom of this page: http://www.sepp.org/policy%20declarations/home.html

When you click on the link for the Oregon Petition (http://www.sepp.org/policy%20declarations/Oregon_Petition.html) you find this information: "The Oregon Petition: To be added soon, (July 29, 1999)" which makes me wonder what they're waiting for. If you can find a link to this supposed list of "17,000 U.S. Scientists" who signed that petition, it might convince some people that there's a touch of truth to SEPP's claims.

Oh, and by the way, here's what Wikipedia has to say about the founder of SEPP, S. Frederick Singer (one of the 80 signers of the Leipzig Petition):

"Siegfried Frederick Singer (born September 27, 1924 in Vienna) is an atmospheric physicist. He is best known as President and founder (in 1990) of the Science & Environmental Policy Project, which disputes the prevailing scientific opinion on climate change.

Singer is also skeptical about the connection between CFCs and ozone depletion, between ultraviolet radiation and skin cancer[2] [3] [4][5][6] and between second hand smoke and lung cancer[7][8][9]. Singer has also worked with organisations with similar views, such as the Independent Institute, the American Council on Science and Health, and the National Center for Policy Analysis."


Are you planning to stop using sun-block on your kids because Dr. Singer doubts the connection between UV radiation and skin cancer? Or maybe you enjoy breathing second hand smoke without a worry since Dr. Singer also doubts there's a connection between second hand smoke and lung cancer.

If you're so upset about the fact that one scientific report was changed by political people that YOU HAVE TO YELL ABOUT IT, perhaps you should take the time to learn about other political people within the Bush Administration who have altered numerous scientific reports. I suggest you read this statement and check out who signed it:

"Restoring Scientific Integrity in Policy Making"

"Signers of the scientists' statement on scientific integrity include 52 Nobel laureates, 63 National Medal of Science recipients, and 194 members of the National Academies."

The list of the 11,000 AND COUNTING other scientists who signed is posted on line here:

January 29, 2007 11:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The last link posted by Warning is wrong, but I found the right one.

"The list of the 11,000 AND COUNTING other scientists who signed is posted on line here:"


January 29, 2007 2:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice design of blog.

August 13, 2007 3:39 PM  

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