- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Opponents and supporters of the proposed changes to the sex-education curriculum in Montgomery County are waging a battle over whether to allow school officials to include the topic of homosexuality.

Parents have begun campaigns to either encourage or stop the county from implementing the changes, which would, among other things, identify same-sex couples as a type of family. Opponents also started a move to recall the Montgomery County Board of Education, which voted Nov. 9 to test the new curriculum in six schools next spring.

“There is a storm brewing over this,” said Michelle Turner, a parent of four public-school students and a member of the citizens advisory committee that recommended the changes. Mrs. Turner was one of the committee members who opposed the changes.

About 75 parents angry about the changes showed up at a meeting Monday night at Damascus High School, where for more than two hours they questioned school officials about the new curriculum.

Meanwhile, parents who support the changes sent hundreds of e-mails to the school board members urging them to move forward with the new curriculum. Most of the e-mails came from parents and residents in the southern part of the county, where a homosexual state delegate has urged parents to express their opposition to “the fantasy world of the religious right.”

The new sex-education curriculum, which the school board will vote on for countywide implementation next summer, will teach eighth- and 10th-grade students that “sexual orientation is not a choice” and will list “same-sex parents” as one of nine types of families.

It also states as “fact” that “sex play with friends of the same gender is not uncommon during early adolescence,” and that a person’s “gender identity” is “a person’s internal sense of knowing whether he or she is male or female.”

David Fishback, who heads the citizens advisory committee that designed the new curriculum and made final recommendations to the school board, indicated that the “sex play” statement likely will be deleted after outraged parents demanded answers from him at the meeting at Damascus High School.

At the meeting, parents complained that they had not known about the proposed changes in advance. They also denounced Mr. Fishback’s 27-member committee, saying it had an agenda to promote homosexuality.

“It’s not that we hate gays. It’s not that we’re all right-wing nuts,” said Jim Creegan, a father of three Damascus High students, before the meeting. “They’re crossing over to promotion.”

Parents discussed organizing a schoolwide opt-out of the new curriculum if it is implemented next fall. Parental permission is required for students to take portions of the curriculum.

“We should have the right curriculum. We shouldn’t have to opt our kids out,” said Linda Johnson, of Potomac, whose child will begin kindergarten next year.

Yesterday, Mrs. Johnson said she asked a friend who works for first lady Laura Bush to bring the curriculum changes to Mrs. Bush’s attention. “[Mrs. Bush] is supposed to care about education,” she said.

A mother of a seventh-grade student, who did not want to be identified, said she did not understand how the schools could teach that homosexuality is genetic when science has not conclusively proven it.

“In Montgomery County, things can be recalled,” the mother said. “Don’t think we’re sitting here going ‘poor us.’”

Some parents who attended the meeting came from other parts of the county. They found out about the meeting through a Web site that was created to recall the school board. Many parents have since shifted their focus from recalling the board to stopping the changes.

After the meeting, Mr. Fishback said the opinions expressed at that meeting do not represent mainstream thinking in the county. “This meeting itself gives me no pause,” he said.

The school board had received about 200 e-mails over two days supporting the curriculum changes.

Delegate Richard S. Madaleno Jr., Kensington Democrat, who is homosexual, last week wrote a letter, urging parents who supported the curriculum to contact the school board.

One e-mail, sent by Amy Moore, a lesbian mother of six-month-old twin girls, urged the board not to “succumb to the pressure of a loud, vocal, unthinking, uncaring, hateful, bigoted, minority wrapped in a cloak of self-righteousness, shooting Scripture like bullets at anyone who doesn’t agree with their subjective and highly unreasoned opinions.”

• Amy Doolittle contributed to this report.

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