- The Washington Times - Monday, June 27, 2005

The Montgomery County Board of Education has reached an agreement that binds them to include members of a conservative parents group and a group of former homosexuals in redesigning a new sex-education curriculum.

The board began talks with Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum (CRC) and Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX) after a federal judge halted the course in May, just days before it was to be taught.

CRC and PFOX said the course had promoted homosexuality and promiscuity while disparaging religious views that say homosexuality is immoral.

The county had argued that the course taught scientific facts about homosexuality and transgenderism and would decrease harassment and bullying experienced by homosexual students.

The agreement, signed at a board meeting last night in Rockville, does not make any guarantees about content, however, and the board rejected requests by PFOX and CRC that the perspective of former homosexuals be included in the curriculum.

“I’m quasi-satisfied,” said Michelle Turner, CRC president. “I don’t like the way the board has gone about this.”

CRC attorney John Garza said his group signed to have peace with the board.

“It’s a good agreement,” he said. “It will hopefully lead to a successful new curriculum next year. But we won’t know how good it is until we see what the new curriculum looks like.”

Superintendent Jerry D. Weast will work with school staff in the fall to design a course that includes instruction on “sexual variations,” including homosexuality.

“We were prepared for a good fight in court, if necessary, but it would’ve been costly in terms of both time and resources,” Mr. Weast said. “Reasonable leadership of the school system requires that we find a way of settling this dispute without compromising the Board of Education’s sole authority over the curriculum of our school system.”

This will be the school system’s second try to replace its current sex-education course, in which teachers may discuss homosexuality only if a student asks about it.

On May 23, the board scrapped the entire curriculum it had designed to take the place of the old one, as well as the citizens advisory committee that had crafted much of the content.

Under the agreement, the schools agreed not to “discuss religious beliefs on the issues covered by the revisions or characterize beliefs as attributed to specific religious denominations or sects.”

The schools also agreed to give ample notice of parent information meetings before the content is taught and to have all materials available for parents at the meetings.

The Citizens Advisory Committee on Family Life and Human Development, which is mandated under state law, will have only 15 members. There were 27 members on the previous committee.

CRC and PFOX each are guaranteed one spot on the committee, though that agreement expires after the new course is implemented.

The schools also will pay $36,000 to the two groups to reimburse them for their legal fees, as required by federal law in cases involving infringement of civil rights.

Mr. Garza said most of the money will go to Liberty Counsel, a Christian law group that helped with the case.

Tomorrow, Mr. Garza will file to terminate the lawsuit brought by CRC and PFOX against the school system. The temporary restraining order issued by U.S. District Court Judge Alexander Williams Jr. then will be void.

David Fishback, who had been chairman of the advisory committee, had argued against a settlement with CRC and PFOX. In a letter sent to the board Friday, Mr. Fishback said he was surprised to learn from an attorney for Parents, Families and Friends of Gays and Lesbians (PFLAG) that the schools were negotiating with CRC and PFOX.

In the letter, he said the groups’ ideas were “dubious.”

“To agree to such a settlement in order to avoid litigation costs … would be an act that would make the people of Montgomery County ashamed,” Mr. Fishback wrote.

However, Jim Kennedy, of the parents group teachthefacts.org, said he did not mind if CRC and PFOX were on the committee.

“If they were going to include ex-gays then that was going to be serious,” he said.

Last night, a handful of high school students, organized by teachthefacts.org, protested against the current curriculum because they say it marginalizes homosexual students.

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