Thursday, March 01, 2007

The County Responds to the State

Yesterday MCPS filed a brief in response to the CRC/PFOX/FLN request for a stay of the new curriculum. That sounds boring, I know, but it's actually a pretty good piece of writing that, in my opinion, hits the nail on the head.

To review: on February 7th, the Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum and two other groups filed a complaint with the Maryland state school board, trying to get the state Superintendent to overrule the county's decision to implement a new sex-ed curriculum. The Superintendent, as I understand it, had five days to issue a stay without approval by the state school board, and didn't. But the state board can still stop the curriculum, and they gave the county a deadline to get a response back to them, so they can consider whether the complaint warrants interference by the state in county affairs. I would think that would be pretty serious, in fact ... that would be serious, if the state decided the county was incompetent to do its job.

You can read the appeal document at the CRC's web site, whatever. We broke it down in a post HERE. That post is too long, sometimes we put stuff here, not for the reading enjoyment of it necessarily, but just to get it on the record and out in the open.

So the county had to respond to the complaints in the appeal, and yesterday they did.

[Update: the MCPS legal brief is HERE.]

I was a little surprised at how directly and bluntly MCPS countered the complaint -- the gloves are off. The gist of this response is summarized in this paragraph from Page One:
When stripped of incendiary language and unsupported assertions presented as "fact," it is evident that Appellants simply disagree with the curriculum and want it rewritten to include their views on sexual orientation. They base their objection primarily on religious grounds and on a fundamentally flawed view of the applicable law. Appellants do not raise any valid legal basis for concluding that the Revised Lessons violate either federal or state law.

OK, that's good.

You might remember that the school district's response to last year's CRC/PFOX lawsuit was underwhelming. The district seemed to be taken completely by surprise, and had no comeback for the cleverly obfuscating complaint filed by Liberty Counsel. I talked to people who were in the courtroom, who described a kind of cold wave of realization that swept through observers as they realized that MCPS was actually going to lose, even though there was essentially no substance to the complaint. It simply met no resistance.

So I am glad to see the school district jumping down their throats this time.

This document goes through numerous gripes listed in the CRC appeal, and then reveals what is actually in the curriculum. A lot of the complaints were about "covert politically correct code talk" (the CRC's term), where the suers tried to read between the lines, whining about stuff that literally didn't exist. Some of the complaint was based on word-twisting. Some of it was ... it just didn't matter. Some facts are taught in class -- that's a complaint?

After addressing particular grievances, the school district's brief goes through the legal arguments. It has sections on:
  • First Amendment - Free Speech
  • First Amendment - Free Exercise
  • First Amendment - Establishment Clause
  • Equal Protection
  • Article 36 of the Maryland Bill of Rights, and
  • COMAR,

addressing in turn the Constitutional and regulatory issues implied or expressed by the suers' appeal.

Here's the Conclusion section:
Appellants are not likely to succeed on the merits of their Appeal. The Appellants simply disagree with the contents of the Revised Lessons and want them re-written to include their views on sexual orientation. The fact that Appellants believe that the revised lessons should contain additional information is not a reason to stay field testing of the revised lessons.

It is important to note that CRC and PFOX were actively involved in review of the revised lessons and video as members of the CAC [citizens advisory committee]. Representatives of both groups offered numerous changes to the lessons which were rejected by the CAC as not being appropriate for the curriculum.

The lessons provide definitions and information; they permit discussion; they encourage students to think; and, hopefully, they promote tolerance and respect for individuals regardless of their sexual orientation. There is no reason, factually or legally, to stay these revised lessons.

OK, I'm happy with that. The school district did a great job developing the new curriculum. A team of pediatricians started it off, MCPS staff added their pedagogical touch to it, a gang of lawyers went over it with a fine-tooth comb, a committee of citizens reviewed it and suggested changes, the Superintendent recommended it and the school board accepted it unanimously.

Then the usual whiners did the usual whining.

There is nothing here for the state to overturn.

16 Comments:

Blogger Orin Ryssman said...

And this, from OpinionJournal.com's Best of the Web, dated Thursday, March 1, 2007,

The Associated Press reports from Santa Rosa, Calif., on an interesting political-correctness kerfuffle:

When a few classmates razzed Rebekah Rice about her Mormon upbringing with questions such as, "Do you have 10 moms?" she shot back: "That's so gay." . . .

After Rice got a warning and a notation in her file, her parents sued, claiming officials at Santa Rosa's Maria Carillo [sic] High violated their daughter's First Amendment rights when they disciplined her for uttering a phrase "which enjoys widespread currency in youth culture," according to court documents.

Testifying last week about the 2002 incident, Rice, now 18, said that when she uttered those words, she was not referring to anyone's sexual orientation. She said the phrase meant: "That's so stupid, that's so silly, that's so dumb."

But school officials say they took a strict stand against the putdown after two boys were paid to beat up a gay student the year before.

"The district has a statutory duty to protect gay students from harassment," the district's lawyers argued in a legal brief. "In furtherance of this goal, prohibition of the phrase 'That's so gay' . . . was a reasonable regulation."


We're not sure this is worth making a federal case over, but it's certainly a revealing window into the politically correct mindset. So vigilant is Carrillo High about protecting gay students from harassment that it has declared certain phrases unsayable, even when the intent plainly is not invidious and when--as appears to have been the case here--there were no gays around to feel "harassed" by the comment.

Yet according to Rebekah's parents, the students who actually were harassing her for her religion were not disciplined. Political correctness is not really about sensitivity and courtesy, which require mutual respect. Rather, political correctness entails intolerance for some prejudices but impunity for others.

March 02, 2007 4:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's interesting Orin, but back here in Maryland...

The CRC appeal is so full of lies, it's pathetic. Lying is not a good way to persuade people, especially those who sit on the Maryland State Board of Education who know enough to read the curriculum to determine if it actually says what the CRC's lying appeal says it does (it doesn't).

Now the CRC has sent mail full of the same lies to parents of students in the pilot test schools, once again breaking PTA rules.

I guess that means that we can add "breaking PTA rules" to "lying about the MCPS curriculum" to the list of CRC family values.

MCPS Mom

March 02, 2007 9:30 AM  
Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...

Hi, Orin,

Is Opinion Journal part of the "War against Christianity" mentality? Oh, sorry, most Christians don't consider Mormons to be Christians, do they?

I have no problem stating that both sides should have been chastised. An insult is an insult. There should not be (though there usually is) a hierarchy of insults.

That being said, this is not a "federal case," and the point about "That's so gay" is particularly salient BECAUSE it has become distorted to mean "that's so stupid." If the phrase survives the youth culture I imagine the sting will ease and this won't be so significant in years to come. People still say "to Jew someone down" or "a chinaman's chance" or "to Shanghai someone" . . . often being oblivious to their origins and the potential affront.

March 02, 2007 9:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps, Orin, we could put this situation in perspective if we substituted the phrase, "That's so nigger" (sic) or "That's so Jew" (sic). The connotation of using "gay" is that it is something bad; it is a form of the typical put-down. The best way to understand why a gay individual would find this negative use of the word so abhorrent is to put yourself into his/her shoes. It's even worse for a gay adolescent. The sooner we can put an end to its use in a negative context, as we have in using other perjoratives, the better.

March 02, 2007 10:02 AM  
Blogger Orin Ryssman said...

Deck the halls with boughs of holly,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
'Tis the season to be jolly,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Don we now our gay apparel,
Fa la la, la la la, la la la.
Troll the ancient Yule tide carol,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

See the blazing Yule before us,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Strike the harp and join the chorus.
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Follow me in merry measure,
Fa la la, la la la, la la la.
While I tell of Yule tide treasure,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Fast away the old year passes,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Hail the new, ye lads and lasses,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Sing we joyous, all together,
Fa la la, la la la, la la la.
Heedless of the wind and weather,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

March 02, 2007 11:10 AM  
Blogger Randi Schimnosky said...

Orin, in this thread

http://www.teachthefacts.org/2007/02/sub-may-spend-her-life-in-prison.html#comments

you were castigating someone for commenting about something unrelated to Jim's post and here you are doing the same thing. Typical of your subjective morality - something's wrong if someone else does it, but okay if you do it. Much like your bigoted stance on marriage - you should be allowed to marry the one person you love most, but not gays.

Orin said "So vigilant is Carrillo High about protecting gay students from harassment that it has declared certain phrases unsayable, even when the intent plainly is not invidious and when--as appears to have been the case here--there were no gays around to feel "harassed" by the comment.". And there's no way to use gay as a condemnation that isn't invidious. When I was in grade school we used the N word as a nickname for one of our dark skinned white friends. No harm was intended, but I'm sure today no one refers to him by that name and I'm sure you wouldn't think it was okay at the time either.

That's so profoundly ignorant. What makes you think there were no gays around to be harrassed? Most LGBTs are in the closet and silently endure the hateful comments of others who assume we don't exist. I assure you we do
and just about any time you're in a group there are silent LGBTs present.

Orin said "Fa la la la la, la la la la.".

You're losing it Orin, have you forgotten to take your meds?

March 02, 2007 12:24 PM  
Blogger Randi Schimnosky said...

And I'd agree that the students making fun of the girls mormon background should have been equally punished.

March 02, 2007 12:26 PM  
Anonymous David S. Fishback said...

I grew up in Montgomery County in the 1950s and '60s and never experienced any anti-Semitism.

I do remember vividly the only time I ever heard an anti-Semitic remark, even though the person speaking it almost certainly did not think of it as referring to her Jewish classmates. We were sitting in home-room my first year of high school, and Brenda was chatting about a purchase in which she had "Jew'ed someone down." I felt sick to my stomach, but did not say anything. As far as I could tell, she did not mean it as an anti-Jewish slur. But the words, which evoked historical anti-Semitism, hurt.

My high school was probably at least 25% Jewish, and there were no religious tensions (at least as far as I knew). So the phrase, while unintentionally hurtful, was not signficant in the greater scheme of school life.

Unfortunately, I do not think that is the same with respect to the "that's so gay" phrase, which does have currency nowadays.

My older son, who teaches middle school, related to me how he handled the use of that phrase in class (I think I remember the salient facts correctly). Mike asked the student who used it what he meant by it. The student gave the answer given by Rebekah Rice. Mike then fostered a discussion about how students who might be gay would hear it. After that, the phrase seemed to have disappeared from those students' arsenal of retorts.

March 02, 2007 12:27 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

I grew up in the small town of Phoenix, Arizona, and I can remember -- this was about 1960, I guess -- standing in line for the school bus, when some kid used the word "jew" as a verb. That was NOT Montgomery County, and most kids there had never heard of a Jewish person; I'm sure the kid never thought of it as an insult to anybody.

Little Jay Naliboff, the only kid in our class who was shorter than me, came totally unglued on this kid. It was something. Man, that kid was apologizing left and right, and Jay beat the crap out of him.

That seemed to communicate the message pretty well.

JimK

March 02, 2007 12:52 PM  
Anonymous Aunt Bea said...

The Wall Street Journal's OpinionJournal said She [Ms. Rice] said the phrase meant: "That's so stupid, that's so silly, that's so dumb."

Orin said ...Don we now our gay apparel...

Don we now our STUPID apparel.

Don we now our SILLY apparel.

Don we now our DUMB apparel.

Ms. Rice's intent, as stated in her own words, was to use the term "gay" to mean "stupid, silly, dumb." Is that what you think the word "gay" in the Christmas carol is supposed to mean, Orin?

March 02, 2007 12:54 PM  
Blogger Randi Schimnosky said...

You tell 'em aunt bea. Orin's fa la la was so disconnnected from the idea of gay as a synonym for stupid, silly, or dumb I didn't realize he was trying to say the usage of gay in that context was by some magic supposed to be innocuous.

March 02, 2007 1:37 PM  
Blogger Orin Ryssman said...

Aunt Bea writes,

Orin said ...Don we now our gay apparel...

Don we now our STUPID apparel.

Don we now our SILLY apparel.

Don we now our DUMB apparel.


Is this the best you can do? Good grief...if you read the lyrics to Deck the Hall you will notice that there is a rhyme scheme.

Ms. Rice's intent, as stated in her own words, was to use the term "gay" to mean "stupid, silly, dumb."

As does the word lame...though it also means an enfeebled limb...words can mean alot of things to teenagers.

Is that what you think the word "gay" in the Christmas carol is supposed to mean, Orin?

Ok, I might have forgotten to take my "meds" but it would appear that I am not alone in that regard.

No, I don't...the word once meant to be cheerful, happy, celebratory...now it is a short, three letter word that means a male homosexual. Words can change meanings...

Randi writes,

And I'd agree that the students making fun of the girls mormon background should have been equally punished.

The whole point of the story was that those that were hassling her on account of her religious faith were not, and she was...

Randi writes,

You tell 'em aunt bea. Orin's fa la la was so disconnnected from the idea of gay as a synonym for stupid, silly, or dumb I didn't realize he was trying to say the usage of gay in that context was by some magic supposed to be innocuous.

I posted the lyrics on a lark...ok? And to show that some words can change meaning over time or depending on the context of usage. What is clear in all of this is something that Dana was sharp enough to pick up on: a present day double-standard.

FWIW, I sent this bit of news to a friend that lives in Santa Rosa. He said he knows the family and thinks the brouhaha is BS.

Oh, and Randi, I did take a look at my remarks on the blog entry...two things I noticed. First, unlike the person that posted, I post with my own name...I don't hide behind any anonymity. Second, I took exception to what Anon had posted because it was off topic AND incindiary (and I thanked Jim for posting this news item). I apologize if my posting this violated the norms of this blog.

And Jim writes,

Little Jay Naliboff, the only kid in our class who was shorter than me, came totally unglued on this kid. It was something. Man, that kid was apologizing left and right, and Jay beat the crap out of him.

Thank you for sharing that story...isn't it amazing how streamlined that the process for taking care of that was? It is a pity, but Jay would now be punished as well as the peer that used an ethnic slur.

March 02, 2007 8:22 PM  
Blogger Randi Schimnosky said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

March 03, 2007 11:38 AM  
Blogger Randi Schimnosky said...

Orin, the punishment of Jay should have been left up to the appropriate authorities, the adults running the school. A physical assault is never a justified response to words, only to an original physical assault I can't see applauding anarchical justice.

And just because you posted your name to your off-topic comment doesn't make your action any different than the anonymous posters. Don't get me wrong, I don't particularly disapprove of either of your actions, I just think it was hypocritical of you to criticize someone for something you'd do yourself.

March 03, 2007 11:41 AM  
Anonymous David S. Fishback said...

Re Jay Nabiloff. Obviously, we want to discourage both name calling and violent responses to name calling.

Still, I can't help thinking of Kinky Friedman's song, "They Don't Make Jews Like Jesus Anymore." (I was not able to find the lyrics on the web.)

March 04, 2007 4:39 PM  
Blogger grantdale said...

No problems David -- know the words off by heart...

A redneck nerd in a bowling shirt was guzzling lone star beer,

Talking religion and a politics for all the world to hear.


etc. Add in "and a sexual edjukayshun" and that opening situation in the lyrics seems, well, all too familiar... does it not?

I'm not going to post the rest, largely due to the long long list of racial and ethnic slurs we wouldn't want kids to stumble on if they find this page. *for the rest of us adults*

March 05, 2007 5:37 AM  

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