Court proceedings for a lawsuit against Montgomery County public schools’ new sex-education course will go forward today even though Superintendent Jerry D. Weast suspended the curriculum last week.
“We’re not backing away from this. We’re amenable to resolving this with the school district, but we’re going to push forward on this issue,” said Erik Stanley, chief counsel for Liberty Counsel, a Florida-based Christian law group representing the groups that filed the lawsuit.
U.S. District Court Alexander Williams Jr. today will set a date for an evidentiary hearing in the case, unless the school system requests an extension of the temporary restraining order that he issued against the course last week.
Judith S. Bresler, attorney for the school system, said yesterday she had not decided on a course of action.
Meanwhile, the state Attorney General’s Office yesterday said the county school board may discuss the lawsuit with Mr. Weast in a closed session this morning but must discuss any policy decisions in an open meeting.
Mr. Weast suspended the course Thursday after Judge Williams ruled that it likely violated students’ free-speech rights by including only moral and religious viewpoints that approve of homosexuality and condemn other perspectives.
School board member Gabe Romero, Gaithersburg Democrat, said Friday that some board members did not understand why Mr. Weast suspended the course and that they intended to discuss it with him in closed session today.
Rosanne Hurwitz, who heads one of the county’s six PTA areas, asked the Attorney General’s Office to investigate whether such a discussion would violate open-meeting laws.
Assistant Attorney General William R. Varga yesterday spoke with George Margolies, the board’s staff director.
Mr. Margolies told Mr. Varga that the board would discuss “the status of the litigation” with Mr. Weast and “the impact of the superintendent’s decision in connection with the litigation,” according to a letter from Mr. Varga to the open-meetings compliance board.
“However, Mr. Margolies assured me that discussion will be limited to issues in the context of the litigation,” Mr. Varga wrote. “The board is aware that policy decisions in connection with the curriculum must be handled in an open session.”
The lawsuit was filed by Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum (CRC) and Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX), who said they filed last week only after the school board refused to meet with them, despite numerous requests.
Mr. Stanley said the judge’s temporary restraining order could expire if the lawsuit is dropped, and the school system could then implement the curriculum.
CRC and PFOX have said they will not be content if the school system scraps teachers’ resource pamphlets that Judge Williams found fault with and implements the rest of the new curriculum.
David Fishback, chairman of the citizens advisory committee that approved the curriculum materials, said all “the materials cited [in Judge Williams’ decision] were in background teacher-resource materials, which are not part of the curriculum.”
Mr. Stanley, however, said another problem with the curriculum is that it teaches that “homosexuality is innate.”
“You cannot pick a side and say … that is fact because that is scientifically not true. We have gone after that, and we will go after that,” he said.
CRC spokesman Steve Fisher said: “Our position all along has been to scrap the whole thing and start over from scratch.”
CRC and PFOX are pushing for inclusion in the revision process.