Update: The Board voted 6-1 to adopt the new curriculum with the provision recommended by Superintendent Weast, discussed below. Congratulations to Teach the Facts for all their hard work and perseverance. A well-deserved victory for the kids.
The Montgomery County sexuality education curriculum saga continues, with the County Board of Education scheduled to decide today whether to expand the curriculum to all schools as written, or to revise it according to the recommendations of the Citizens Advisory Committee.
From the Washington Post last Thursday:
[Montgomery County schools Superintendent Jerry] Weast wants the lessons to go forward essentially as written, but a citizens advisory committee wants board members to add passages stating that mainstream medical and mental health organizations have concluded that homosexuality is neither a disease nor a mental illness. Weast and his staff oppose adding the material and say they have sought to keep the lessons as neutral as possible.
Um…informing students of the conclusions of mainstream medical and mental health organizations is neutral. Censoring that information in response to the demands of special interest groups – those whose opinions fall outside mainstream medical consensus – is biased.
Superintendent Weast sent a memo to the Board yesterday indicating a partial change of heart. He now supports at least allowing teachers to answer direct questions from students. Hopefully, someone on the Board today will exercise leadership and move to accept the entire recommendation of the Committee.
A little history: According to Jim Kennedy of Teach The Facts,
The citizens committee made those recommendations last winter, and the Superintendent’s staff decided not to include them. The school board had a lively debate on the topic, and in the end decided to leave them out at that time, before the testing, but to wait and see if there were questions that teachers couldn’t answer. There were.
The WP reports that “Teachers and students who participated in the field tests chafed at the tightly scripted structure of the lessons, and teachers reported confusion about their authority to answer questions posed by students. Teachers were instructed to answer no questions that strayed outside the health curriculum and to refer such inquiries to ‘a trusted adult,’ such as a parent or counselor.” As Jim Kennedy puts it, “But they could easily answer those questions, with a few pages of articles from the medical and psychological experts.”
This mandated response to a student’s question about sexual orientation is not neutral. It goes beyond a simple failure to provide information that could help the student. It actually constitutes a harmful, biased response, because it creates the impression that the topic is so shameful and inappropriate that it can’t be discussed at school. For the students who most need the affirmation and support of medically factual information, this is exactly the wrong message.
When the Citizens Advisory Committee voted again to recommend adding the organization statements, only the representatives from “Citizens for Responsible Curriculum” (CRC) and PFOX (one of whom is Family Research Council’s Peter Sprigg) voted no. The CRC has blasted out an email to their list calling for a demonstration this morning. They instructed participants to bring children in strollers and, inexplicably, to carry signs reading “No Unisex Bathrooms.”
Could it be that the Board of Education takes seriously the threat of litigation leveled by these groups? “It is inconceivable that a court will tell a school system that its curriculum is illegal because the school system provides information from the American Medical Association (AMA), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the American Psychological Association (APA),” says David Fishback of DC Metro PFLAG.
Right. What is more likely, that including the positions of mainstream medical organizations will support or undermine the school’s defense of the curriculum? Are you kidding me?