Tuesday, May 31, 2011

From a Concerned Citizen

Jerry D. Weast, Ed.D. Superintendent of Schools

Members of the Board of Education

Montgomery County Public Schools
Carver Educational Services Center
850 Hungerford Drive, Room 123
Rockville, Maryland 20850


May 13, 2011


Dear Superintendent Weast and members of the Montgomery County Board of Education:


As a citizen of Montgomery County I ask the Montgomery County Board of Education to REJECT the proposal from the Citizens Advisory Committee on Family Life and Human Development to include the five statements about homosexuality be added in the lessons on sexual orientation, "Respect for Differences in Human Sexuality",  for the 10th grade.


  • These statements were previously rejected by the Board of Education attorneys and the Board itself for valued reasons. The reasons these statements were rejected in 2007 were sound then and remain sound today.


  • Stating that sexual orientation is not a choice is not respectful or sensitive toward former homosexuals or bisexuals. The Curriculum title is "Respect for Differences in Human Sexuality" and states therein: "It is particularly important to maintain an environment of respect and sensitivity toward all perspectives and individuals at all times." Will this "choice" statement support the Curriculum directive? Even the MCPS Regulation IFA-RA[1][1] states all topics taught are to have a sensitive presentation and respectful inclusion of multiple perspectives, particularly in the case of topics of controversy.

  • As you know, the present curriculum is a scripted curriculum that was tested for content and an allotted time frame for teaching. To be consistent, the curriculum would have to be modified to include the proposed additional statements and would require scrutiny from not only the teachers but the school attorneys. Time, money and effort would be required, Even if the teachers have time to include the statements, how can you expect teachers to present these confusing, insensitive and misleading statements without allowing any time for discussion from the students in the classroom?


  • Each of the five proposed statements is not clearly supported by competent, technical resources.  None of these statements are direct quotes. It is not good enough to include a list of resources without targeting the individual resource for each of the five statements.


·         However well credentialed those statements may appear, their recommendations must none the less be capable of withstanding honest scrutiny. One outdated resource, (3) 2004, Sexual Orientation and Adolescents, [Clinical Report] supplied and heavily relied on to justify many of the statements, contains the following footnote:  
"The guidance in this report does not indicate an exclusive course of treatment or serve as a standard of medical care. Variations, taking into account individual circumstances, may be appropriate."

So why is it appropriate in the curriculum?


At the end of this clinical report the following is stated:


"All clinical reports from the American Academy of Pediatrics automatically expire 5 years after publication unless reaffirmed, revised, or retired at or before that time."

In other words the report is outdated so why would MCPS use this information from an outdated resource?



The proposed statements along with commentary are:


1.       Homosexuality is not a disease or a mental illness.

This statement is already included in the current curriculum as a response teachers can only give to student's questions.  This statement may well be confusing to 10th graders. There is no direct resource for this statement. There is no opportunity to discuss. Does this mean heterosexuality and bisexuality are a disease or a mental illness?


2.       Sexual orientation is not a choice and the American Medical Association opposes "therapies" that seek to change sexual orientation that are premised on the assumption that people should (emphasis added) change their sexual orientation.


·         The first part of this statement dealing with "choice" is insensitive, misleading and confusing, especially for children. What is meant by "choice"? The definition of "sexual orientation" includes feelings and sexual behavior. Choice about feelings or behavior or both? Initial choice?  "Choice" later in life? A person may not have an initial choice of homosexual feelings but does have free choice of behavior and free choice to do something about their feelings. Scientific research has concluded that sexual orientation is more fluid than fixed and can change. There are many people who have chosen to change their sexual orientation, both from heterosexual to homosexual and from homosexual to heterosexual. The medical professional's Code of Ethics endorses self-determination, which includes choice.

·         What about bisexuals? Bisexuals change their sexual orientation all the time.

How can these bisexuals ever get married if they can't choose a specific sexual orientation? Is the statement implying that bisexuals have no choice or no free will? Is the school now advocating polygamy?


·         The second part of the proposed statement dealing with information from the American Medical Association misstates and misconstrues a policy statement from the American Medical Association. The CAC has chosen to quote only the last part of this AMA statement with modification which changes the meaning.


·         By changing the original wording of the critically relied upon statement from the AMA, the meaning and substance of the AMA statement are falsely presented.

This second part of the CAC recommended statement is drawn from the following reference:


[AMA] [H-160.991 Health Care Needs of the Homosexual Population: "…opposes, the use of "reparative" or "conversion" therapy that is based upon the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or based upon the a priori assumption that the patient should change his/her homosexual orientation…"]



·         The first part of the AMA statement is important because it is limited and clarifies that the AMA addresses only "reparative" or "conversion" therapy without addressing the many other forms of therapy, such as emotional hurt, sexual addiction, cognitive-behavioral and gender- affirmative therapy. The CAC substitutes "therapies" making it sound as if the AMA's statement applies to all therapies, which it doesn't.


·         The AMA statement only criticizes "reparative or conversion" therapy if it is based on an assumption that the person's sexual orientation is a mental disorder and the therapy is compelled.  The AMA has not addressed therapy directed to individuals who are not considered mentally disordered and nevertheless seek assistance in changing their sexual feelings.


·         The AMA also doesn't address people who change their homosexual orientation on their own free will without any therapy or compulsion.


·         The AMA, like most medical organizations, supports freedom of choice to change, free of coercion. The AMA state in their DECLARATION OF PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY; "respect human life and the dignity of every individual"


3.       Children raised by same-sex couples do just as well as those raised by heterosexuals, and are no more likely to be homosexual.


This statement is confusing by not identifying the meaning of the phrase, "do just a well". 10th grade students have no frame of reference for this statement. There is no specific reference for supporting this statement which appears to be only someone's opinion. As far as "are no more likely to be homosexual" is a debatable issue as well and cannot be stated as a fact. This makes it sound as if there is something negative about being homosexual. Where is the scientific support for this statement? What about bisexual's couple ability to raise children?


4.       Children who have fleeting same-sex attractions may assume incorrectly that they are gay or lesbian. Mere fleeting attraction does not prove orientation.


This statement is confusing to a 10th grader. What is meant by "fleeting same-sex attractions"? Does this include experiences?  Different people have different meanings on what is included in "fleeting same-sex attractions". This statement is not specifically referenced.


5.       Homosexuals can live happy, successful lives; they can be successful parents.


This statement is a conclusion without a specific reference. Heterosexual and bisexuals can also live happy, successful lives and be successful parents too. So what? All sexual orientations can also experience miserable lives or, more frequently, both. There are no certainties or guarantees in life.


What is meant by "happy"? Isn't being happy in the eye of the beholder?  What is meant by "successful lives"? What is meant by "successful parents"? 10th grade students often don't appreciate the meaning of what "successful parents" represent. They have no frame of reference. For that matter, many adults have a confused notion of what "success" means in any context.


What about bisexuals? Doesn't the topic in this curriculum address all sexual orientations, not just homosexuals? The propose statement excludes bisexuals.


I hope you will consider the information I have presented and not approve these additional statements be added to the Health curriculum on sexual orientation. Thank you.



[1][1] MCPS Regulation IFA-RA states: "All topics taught in courses or subjects shall be relevant to curriculum as outlined in MCPS documents and as required in state and MCPS regulations to ensure a balanced and sensitive presentation and respectful, appropriate inclusion of multiple perspectives, particularly in the case of topics of controversy"


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