- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 7, 2007

The Maryland State Board of Education ruled yesterday that a sex-education curriculum in Montgomery County public schools that includes discussions on homosexuality and condom use can continue, denying a request by resident groups to stop the classes.

Though the board denied the appeal from a coalition led by the Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum (CRC), members said they would hear the appeal this summer.

“The state is saying they think there is equal evidence on both sides of this issue and that either side could win,” said John Garza, CRC’s president. “And we like our odds. We believe there has been a lot of duplicity by the county [school] board on this. Their position has changed on a week-by-week basis and we are looking forward to getting this to trial.”

State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick, a Democrat, wrote in the ruling that the group’s arguments “are equally matched by the [school] board’s response to these arguments.”

Classes started Tuesday at Argyle Middle School in Silver Spring and will be taught as part of a pilot program for eighth- and 10th-graders in six schools. Students must have parental permission to take the classes and “parents with objection to the content of the lesson can protect their children from harm,” Mrs. Grasmick said in her ruling.

One student has so far chosen not to attend some of the classes, said Brian Edwards, a county school spokesman.

Mrs. Grasmick also wrote that to grant a stay “would be detrimental to the students, teachers and parents of the Montgomery County public school system.” She encouraged the state board members to “expedite” the appeal so that a decision could be made by their meeting in July. If board members do not rule in favor of the group, it can appeal to a state circuit court, Mr Garza said. He could not say whether the group would take such a course of action.

“We’re very pleased that Dr. Grasmick has made it clear that she believes the lessons are valuable and should be tested in the classroom,” Mr. Edwards said. “She just wasn’t persuaded that students would be harmed by the lessons.”

The group opposed an earlier form of the curriculum in 2005 and got a federal judge to issue a temporary injunction. The county redesigned the curriculum in part with feedback from an advisory committee. The county school board approved the new curriculum in January.

Jim Kennedy, president of teachthefacts.org, a local group that supports the curriculum, said getting the pilot program started is an important milestone. “It’s going to be hard for [the resident groups] to prove what they have been asserting in a court,” he said.

The pilot program is expected to finish by the end of this month, at which point the school system will evaluate it and make adjustments based on feedback from students, teachers and parents, Mr. Edwards said.

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