- How much should Montgomery County schools say about gays? (Photo: Associated Press)
How do schools decide what to teach kids about sex? For the better part of the last decade, the sex ed curriculum in Montgomery County Public Schools has been shaped in large part by political differences between two groups—those who wish to acknowledge gays in the curriculum, and those who do not.
On one side: Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum, a group which "believes parents have the authority to guide the moral direction of their children, not the public schools." On the other: Teach the Facts, a group "committed to promoting tolerance and fact-based education in our public schools."
A brief history of their fight over gay ed:
In 2004, MCPS approved a new curriculum [PDF] for county middle and high school students that would include information on—among other things—homosexuality. Opponents of the program, calling themselves Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum, took the school to court in 2005 to stop the gay talk from entering the classroom.
"The MCPS comprehensive health education curriculum, which presents a one-sided view on the scientifically-debated, socially controversial subject of 'sexual orientation,' forces parents who seek objective instruction to opt-out their students from the curriculum, thereby segregating the students from their peers and designating them as 'separate' from other students," the suit read.
With a suit, CRC secured a temporary restraining order against the curriculum's implementation—and some token bargaining power. In a settlement with the group, MCPS agreed to place two anti-gay-education advocates— the CRC's own Ruth Jacobs and Peter Sprigg, a representative of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX)—on the Citizens Advisory Committee for Family Life and Human Development, a body which makes recommendations to the school board on the county's sexual education curriculum.
But the two court-appointed plants failed to derail the county's march toward comprehensive sex ed. In 2007, MCPS instituted a curriculum which addressed gay issues in even greater depth—and included a video demonstrating condom use, another sticking point for CRC. CRC sued again; this time, its claims were dismissed.
Sprigg still sits on the committee, though, where he remains committed to keeping the gay stuff to a minimum. Last week, the Citizens Advisory Committee moved to sew up some loose ends in the current sex ed curriculum by adding the following statements to the program:
* "Homosexuality is not a disease or a mental illness"
* "Sexual orientation is not a choice and the American Medical Association opposes 'therapies' that seek to change sexual orienation that are premised on the assumption that people should change their sexual orientation"
* "Children raised by same-sex couples do just as well as those raised by heterosexuals, and are no more likely to be homosexual"
* "Children who have fleeting same-sex attractions may assume incorrectly that they are gay or lesbian. Mere fleeting attraction does not prove orientation."
* "Homosexuals can live happy, successful lives; they can be successful parents"
Currently, teachers can only address the first point—"homosexuality is not a disease or a mental illness"—in response to a student question.
The committee voted 9-to-3 to approve recommending those changes to the school board.
But Sprigg is still fighting the modifications. As a representative of PFOX, Sprigg is particularly perturbed by the statement implying that gays shouldn't try to turn straight. But as always, the campaign for "ex-gay" equality is a smokescreen for overt anti-gay sentiment. In a statement, PFOX called upon the school board to "reject a renewed proposal to attack ex-gays in the sex education curriculum," saying that the statements interfere with "the right of individuals with unwanted same-sex attractions to seek therapy to overcome those attraction." Also troubling for PFOX: that the statements "praise homosexuals as 'successful parents'" and "tell students that 'homosexuals can live happy, successful lives.'”