Saturday, March 19, 2005

More than 200 people took part yesterday in an intense, three-hour meeting about teenage sexuality in Montgomery County public schools.

The town hall meeting was sponsored by Citizens for Responsible Curriculum, a parent-run group opposed to new sex-education classes in the schools because of what they call “moral and scientific gaps” in the curriculum.

Among the concerns is a video on using a condom and elements of the curriculum that, group members say, portray homosexuality as the moral equal to heterosexuality, and fails to present alternative moral perspectives or full discussions on the health risks posed by homosexuality.

“I am shocked and appalled at what I have seen here today,” said Tonya Wilkerson, mother of a 16-year-old boy. She also said the video’s failure to “at least give equal billing to abstinence” was “abhorrent.”

The curriculum will be tested in six schools in May before the county school board votes on final approval this summer. The video, which shows a young female teacher fitting a condom onto a cucumber, will be shown in all schools this spring.

Among those who attended the meeting at Johns Hopkins University’s campus in Rockville were representatives from the Family Research Council, Concerned Women for America, state Delegate Don Dwyer Jr., Anne Arundel Republican, and members of, a parent group that supports the curriculum.

“I thought we were fair in allowing all sides and opinions to be shared,” said Michelle Turner, a Citizens for Responsible Curriculum organizer and a dissenting member of the citizens advisory committee that recommended the curriculum to the school board.

Scott Davenport of Bethesda addressed the crowd during the public comment section. “I have to tell you I’m scared,” he said. “I’m a gay man, and this is a very scary place for me to be right now.”

Mr. Davenport said he and his male partner of 28 years have a daughter on the honor roll at one county public school and a son in junior high.

Mr. Davenport said he distinguished a “tone of hate” at the meeting, which was really an “anti-gay meeting.”

Some parents who are opposed to the curriculum thanked Mr. Davenport for speaking and told him that they do not hate him.

Mr. Dwyer, who opposes the curriculum, said yesterday he himself was “spreading the hate of homosexual activists … and the fear of what is going to happen if we don’t do something about it.”

Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum members distanced themselves from such statements.

“We do not go to the extremes that some of the speakers went to,” said Steve Fisher, a group spokesman.

Said Mrs. Turner: “This was not about promoting hate or intolerance. We want the school system to know … we want our values recognized as well.”

Christine Grewell, a member and a Silver Spring mother with public school children, said the meeting was “a lot of what I expected — a lot of misconceptions, a lot of picking and choosing what are the most inflammatory words to use.”

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