Looking Back at a Victory
David Fishback posted a piece on his blog about the successful campaign to improve the sex education program in Montgomery County, Maryland -- the campaign lasted from 2002, through many ups and downs and hard battles, until the final decision was signed off in 2014. He included in his post the full text of the handbook "Montgomery County,Maryland: A Case Study and Handbook for Action," written for PFLAG -- I will not include the handbook here, but will copy David's comments. You can read the book at David's blog or in PDF form at the PFLAG web site. In it, David reviews the many incidents that occurred here in our quiet, progressive little county, and outlines the lessons that can be learned. I am reproducing his blog post here verbatim.
Also, let's take this opportunity to congratulate David for winning a 2015 Heschel Vision Award, given by Jews United for Justice, for his tireless advocacy of LGBT rights, education, and justice.
Successful Public School LGBT Curriculum Advocacy
David S. Fishback
Last month, I presented a workshop at the PFLAG National Convention in Nashville entitled Case Study in Successful Public School Curriculum and Guidance Office Advocacy.
What is taught – and not taught – in our schools about sexual orientation and gender identity is extremely important. Too often, there is a deafening silence about such matters. Such silence too often allows misconceptions and unwarranted prejudices to fester and poison the atmosphere for our LGBT children.
Efforts to change what is taught in our schools can be daunting. Such efforts demand hard work, wisdom, empathy, and determination. But they can succeed.
On June 17, 2014, the Board of Education of Montgomery County, Maryland, unanimously gave final approval to a revised health education framework for secondary schools. This revised framework is based specifically on the longstanding findings of every mainstream American medical and mental health professional association regarding sexual orientation and gender identity, including the propositions that being LGBTQ is not an illness and that so-called “reparative” or “conversion” therapies are dangerous and ineffective. This action brought to a successful conclusion a dozen years of work by members of the Metro DC Chapter of PFLAG and others to bring the wisdom of the mainstream health care professionals into the middle and high school health education curriculum.
The Montgomery County experience may be useful for others around the country who seek to make schools not only safe for our LGBT children and children of LGBT families, but to help create a climate in which all of our children understand and appreciate each other.
Based on that experience, as PFLAG Metro DC Advocacy Chair, I created this publication, Curriculum Victory in Montgomery County, Maryland: A CaseStudy and Handbook for Action. It may be found at the PFLAG website at http://community.pflag.org/document.doc?id=1027
I recommend that readers be aware, on the one hand, of the fact that this process took place in a relatively progressive community (which made it easier than it might be elsewhere); but also, on the other hand, of the fact that the culture in America has moved significantly in the last dozen years (which means that the dozen years it took from the start of the process in 2002 to the 2014 culmination could well be far longer than future efforts in other places).
In some communities, there may be widespread opposition to change; in others, opposition may be limited to a very small group of people. In some communities, political leaders may be very supportive; in others, they may be antagonistic or reluctant to “make waves.” In some communities, there may be a pent up desire to make the needed changes; in others, there may be a great fear of even talking about sexual orientation or gender identity. Within school bureaucracies, much may turn on the life experiences and hopes and fears of particular administrators. Every community is different, but there are common threads, the main one being that, as PFLAGers, we advocate for our children's lives, and we do so with the support of the mainstream American medical and mental health community.
See, also, http://focusonthefield.blogspot.com/2015/09/curriculum-victory-in-montgomery-county.html