- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The Montgomery County School Board and two family groups lobbying for a less-explicit, more traditional values-based sex-education curriculum are at an impasse over who will represent the groups on an advisory committee.

The board yesterday delayed creating the committee until Oct. 24, because the two groups that have been invited to participate in the process, the Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum (CRC) and Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX), have not submitted nominees. Each group has been guaranteed one seat.

Michelle Turner, president of CRC, said the schools negotiated an agreement in June with the understanding that her group and an ex-gay group would designate one person each to sit on the committee.

Days after the June 27 agreement, however, the schools said each group would submit three names, and the schools would pick the representatives.

“We had a signed agreement with the schools in good faith, and as soon as we signed it, they designed a policy to undermine it,” Mrs. Turner said.

“I think it’s an underhanded little game to play,” she said.

The schools say, however, that the signed agreement stated that CRC and PFOX would submit “nominees.” This, combined with the normal board policy, they say, makes it clear that CRC and PFOX are legally bound to submit multiple names and let the board pick, regardless of what the groups’ understanding were at the time of the agreement.

“They want a seat on the committee. But the board retains the prerogative to appoint who sits on that committee,” said Brian Porter, chief of staff for the board, who will serve as the schools’ liaison to the committee.

School board President Patricia O’Neill said, “The settlement said nominees, not designees.”

But the attorney for CRC and PFOX said that she has documentation to prove that the intent of the agreement was to allow each group an appointment to the board.

The original agreement used the term “designees” instead of “nominees,” and CRC and PFOX changed it under pressure from the schools’ attorneys with Hogan and Hartson LLP, one of the District’s biggest law firms, Mrs. Turner said.

Rena Lindevaldsen, attorney for CRC and PFOX, and associated with the Christian law group Liberty Counsel, has also said that the board’s practice has always been to accept just one name from groups for committees.

“We’re banking on past practice,” Mrs. Turner said. “We’re not bound by anything written after the settlement agreement.” CRC has nominated Henrietta Brown, who was on the previous committee. Mrs. O’Neill established in her July proposal that no former committee member could serve on the new committee.

PFOX has nominated Peter Sprigg, vice president for policy at the Christian think tank and lobbying group Family Research Council (FRC). Mr. Sprigg, a Montgomery County resident and parent, is director of FRC’s Center for Marriage and Family Studies, and has authored two books on homosexuality.

More than 180 people applied for 15 seats, and the school board has tentatively selected four representatives from special-interest groups, along with two students and eight at-large seats.

CRC and PFOX are the two groups whose lawsuit caused last year’s curriculum to be discarded.

The groups agreed to drop a federal lawsuit in which a judge had issued a temporary restraining order against the school curriculum, in exchange for the seats.

Mrs. Turner said yesterday that another lawsuit might be filed over the matter.

“It’s possible that we would just stand our ground and not do anything,” said Mrs. Turner.

CRC and PFOX opposed last year’s sex-ed course because they said it promoted homosexuality, transgenderism, and sexual promiscuity, disparaged conservative religious viewpoints and did not accurately present health risks.

The schools said the curriculum was designed to promote tolerance and understanding of homosexual students and to protect students who are already sexually active.

Superintendent Jerry Weast has taken responsibility for the new course, and has indicated he will use the advisory committee in a more peripheral role than the previous body.

The previous committee played a central role in designing the course, but was disbanded along with the old course in May.

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