Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Examiner Adds a Detail or Two

I've given The Examiner a hard time in the past for, well, especially for getting a story entirely oppositely wrong, to the point that they had to issue a correction. But this morning's report on the CRC's appeal to the state has a couple of pieces of information that I had not heard before.
Field testing has come and gone for the sex education curriculum that’s sparked so much division in Montgomery County.

And now the decision about whether the teachings will make it to all of the school district’s classrooms lies in the hands of Maryland State Board of Education members.

Curriculum opponents asked the board members a month ago to rule on the teachings — which, most controversially, discuss sexual orientation and teach high schoolers how to put on condoms — after Maryland School Superintendent Nancy Grasmick sided with Montgomery County.

According to board spokesman Bill Reinhard, it’s unclear how long it will take for a decision to come.

“It usually takes a couple of months,” he said of requests for the state board to consider county challenges. “They probably will schedule a hearing.”

Yet the board is not required to hold a formal hearing and legally has no limit on the time it takes to recommend action. State board left to rule on sex ed teachings

Well, isn't that interesting? They'll "probably" schedule a hearing. I guess that means they "probably" won't. The question is just the values of those probabilities. (FYI, I am blogging this from the back row of a session in a conference on computational intelligence. An anthropologist/computer scientist is talking about simulating ancient population patterns at an site in Mexico.)

The CRC's lawyer/president, John Garza, was recently talking about the huge "trial" he wants this to be. He wants to depose dozens of people, including MCPS school board members, citizens advisory committee members, all kinds of people, and make the state school board wade through all of it, to decide whether Montgomery County erred in adopting this new curriculum.

I don't know why the state would take this spurious complain seriously. You read through it, you see what's going on. Are they required to humor every cranky bigot that wants to take up their time?

Apparently not.

There's a little more here, mostly stuff we already knew.
In her written comments about Montgomery County’s sex ed curriculum, Grasmick last month emphasized that blocking educational material is a power she only uses sparingly, and she did not feel it was justified in this case.

“It is my view that the merits of the First Amendment arguments here are balanced equally on each side,” she wrote. “I do not have a degree of certainty that constitutional injury causing irreparable harm is present here.”

Because Grasmick allowed field testing, the material did make its way into all six schools chosen for the testing, Montgomery Public Schools spokesman Brian Edwards confirmed Monday.

He said the curriculum is presently in an “evaluation phase.” “[The Montgomery County Board of Education] is gathering feedback from students and teachers,” Edwards said. “They’ll evaluate the lessons and decide if changes are needed.”

Two years ago, the conservative groups now resisting the lessons successfully sued the school district for viewpoint discrimination.

That "successfully sued" thing: the so-called "conservative groups" (Barry Goldwater is rolling over in his grave) won a ten-day temporary restraining order, based on a judge's opinion that someone's rights might have been deprived if the 2004 curriculum had been implemented. That ruling forced the school district to negotiate with the suers, leading to the situation we're in today -- and at this point I think we see the light at the end of the tunnel.

As far as I can tell, nobody really knows what is supposed to happen next. The state school board has CRC's documents and the MCPS response. CRC is talking like they'll make a show trial out of this (uh, if they can find the money for it), and the state is saying ho-hum, I guess maybe we'll look at it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Field testing has come and gone for the sex education curriculum that’s sparked so much division in Montgomery County." yeah...about as much division in Montgomery County as the overwhelming demands that we be told who the father of Anna Nicole Smith's child was! The Examiner, as is true of other print media in our area, gives entirely too much credence to the dozen (?) members of the so-called Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum. But, as writers have been saying here for a long time, why should we expect journalists to have any ethical sense of responsibility in their reporting?

April 05, 2007 9:51 PM  
Anonymous Frank said...

I hope you're not surprised that what the State BOE rep says about a "probable" hearing and what the CRC rep says about a "trial" have little to do with each other. Everybody knows the CRC misrepresents everything about this curriculum in their obsession to eliminate it.

It's just like when the CRC pointed out State Superintendent Grasmick's decision found "likelihood of success on the merits" of the legal arguments "at best rest in equipoise." That's all they say about her decision, but she assessed two other aspects of this case as well, the "balance of harm" and the "public interest" and she did not find them to be equal. She found in MCPS's favor for both of these concerns.

Regarding the "balance of harm," she "concluded that staying this field test would be detrimental to the students, teachers and parents of the Montgomery County Public School System. The lessons at issue here have been under development since May of 2005. Four medical consultants worked with the MCPS staff in developing the lessons. A 15 member Community Advisory Committee reviewed the lessons and provided feedback. They met nine times, for many hours, to review and revise the lessons. (Response, Ex. A). It is important for all of them to know whether a sufficient number of parents will provide permission for student participation; whether the lessons actually work in the classroom; whether the lessons are balanced and fair; how students react to the content of the lessons; and, ultimately, based on the field test results, whether to move forward toward full implementation."

And regarding the "public interest" she stated, "One of serious problems in our schools today is bullying and harassment. Indeed, in 2005 the General Assembly directed school systems to report all incidents of harassment against students based on race, native origin, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, or disability. Md. Educ. Code Ann § 7-424. The lessons at issue here address harassment problems as they relate to sexual orientation and gender identity. They emphasize tolerance and acceptance. They address ways to deal with bullying and harassment and how to prevent it. I believe it is in the public interest to field test those lessons to determine whether to move forward with full implementation of a curriculum designed, in part, to reduce bullying and harassment."

So according to the Maryland State Superintendent of Schools, that's
1. legal arguments - equal
2. balance of harm - MCPS wins
3. public interest - MCPS wins

Don't be fooled by all the suers' misrepresentations. They don't want to revise the curriculum; they want to turn it into "Respect for Only Chastity Until Holy Matrimony" lesson plans and eliminate lessons on "Respect for Differences in Human Sexuality" altogether.

April 06, 2007 7:53 AM  
Anonymous asker said...

"whether the lessons actually work in the classroom"

A phrase that's been thrown around since the field testing started.

A stupid question:

How will they know?

April 06, 2007 9:18 AM  
Blogger andrear said...

A dozen members? Johnny, Michelle, Theresa, Steina, Ruth, Retta/precious/Bianca(sorry, multiple personalities only count as one),and Ben(or does he actually belong?).

April 06, 2007 10:17 AM  
Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...

It's not a stupid question, since the lessons are carefully scripted to prevent any discussion.

I hope the gag order is lifted when enough students and teachers complain. I know some students who already have done so.

April 06, 2007 10:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Go to

On the right hand side of the page, click on "Revisions to the Grade 8 and Grade 10 Health Education Curriculum" and then on "Watch Now" to hear what data various Board of Education members asked MCPS staff to collect from participants in the field testing of the new lesson plans. BOE members discuss the field testing from 2:19 through 2:34 on that video. The data collected from those who have now participated in the field testing of the additional lessons will be used to determine if the lessons "actually work inside the classroom."

As Jim has pointed out before, the CRC's plan to encourage their supporters to deny permission for their students to participate in the field testing was probably not the best tactic. By not participating in the field testing, their supporters will not provide any feedback data sought by the BOE to evaluate the new lessons.


April 06, 2007 12:20 PM  
Blogger digger said...

I think about those "trusted adults", such as nurses, counselors, teachers, etc., and I reflect on the divergent, and in my opinion often erroneous, ideas my colleagues have about LGBT people. If MCPS wants to be supportive of LGBT youth, they should include in their teacher-training mandatory inservices on the characteristics, concerns and experiences of lgbt students. MCPS should use the same standards of reliance on medical and scientific opinion that it does in the student classes. DC has optional training for staff. Arlington I know has had some trainings for counselors. Fairfax sometimes addresses anti-lgbt harassment in its sexual harassment training (the courts are divided on this). The only district around here that I know of that has had extensive mandatory inservices for all staff at the secondary level is Falls Church City, the smallest district in the metro area.

If we're going to educate students, it makes sense to educate staff as well. In fact, I think it is essential.


April 07, 2007 7:03 PM  
Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...

I agree, Robert, and I'm working to make Montgomery County much more progressive in that regard.

April 08, 2007 12:02 AM  
Blogger digger said...

Awesome, Dana.


April 08, 2007 12:28 PM  

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