Montgomery County sex-ed dispute resolved

June 29, 2005, midnight | By Christopher Consolino | 18 years, 11 months ago

Revised curriculum to exclude religious references

The Montgomery County Board of Education (BOE) approved an out-of-court settlement for the federal lawsuit concerning revisions to the MCPS health education curriculum, on the evening of June 27, according to an MCPS press release. According to the settlement, references to specific religious denominations with regard to sexual orientation cannot be noted, among other amendments to be made to the new curriculum.

The agreement, which was approved by a BOE vote of seven to zero (Board member Stephen Abrams was absent from the meeting), requires that the Board prohibit discussions of religious beliefs in upcoming heath curriculum revisions and include the plaintiff parties - Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum (CRC) and Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX) - in the development of the new curriculum, according to the settlement. Both CRC and PFOX were also awarded $36,000 in reimbursement by MCPS for attorneys' fees.

The previous curriculum, which was set to make its way into classrooms during the 2005-2006 school year, allowed health teachers to discuss homosexuality with eighth-grade students and included a video demonstration of how to put on a condom for tenth-grade students. The agreement does not, however, guarantee that the "ex-gay" point of view or the "health risks" of homosexual sex will be represented, according to The Washington Post article "Montgomery Sex-Ed Deal is Reached."

Additionally, the agreement provides for both a CRC and a PFOX representative on the newly-constituted Citizens Advisory Committee on Family Life and Human Development (CAC). Representatives from both organizations must be Montgomery County residents selected by the BOE. CRC and PFOX are required to make their nominations for the positions by July 1, 2005, according to the settlement agreement. The BOE will also continue to include parents in discussions when planning any further revisions to the health curriculum.

The dispute regarding the curriculum began when the plaintiffs CRC and PFOX filed a Complaint for Declaratory Judgment challenging the revisions of the Comprehensive Health Education curriculum on May 3, 2005. The plaintiffs, according to the final agreement, argued that the new curriculum violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Shortly thereafter, U.S. District Court Judge Alex Williams issued a 10-day hold on the curriculum pilot program set to begin on May 5 and then extended the hold, according to the agreement.

Even with the settlement and reimbursement, CRC has stated that the settlement agreement does not fully cover the changes they sought to make to the sex-education curriculum. According to the CRC website, the "BOE refuses to include including any health risks associated with oral and anal sex in the settlement agreement." The website also poses the question "Why is the BOE purposely and deliberately denying this serious health information to children?"

Both CRC and PFOX agreed, in the settlement, to sign a notice of dismissal with prejudice, thereby drawing a close to the lawsuit and any impending litigation with regard to the terms of the settlement agreement. The plaintiffs were represented by the Liberty Counsel, a not-for-profit legal and education group based in Florida which argued on behalf of the two bodies.

More information to come.

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Christopher Consolino. Christopher Consolino is a senior in Communication Arts Program. If Chris had free time, he would spend it practicing piano and taking pictures with his 15 year-old Minolta. He would also like to stress how much better wet process photography is than digital. Most of … More »

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