Montgomery Deal Aims to Resolve Sex-Ed Suit

By Lori Aratani
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 13, 2005

Montgomery County school officials and two community groups that had sued over changes in the school system's sex education curriculum reached an agreement yesterday that both sides hope will allow them to work out their differences.

Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum and Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays joined the school system in asking a federal judge to extend a 10-day temporary restraining order through the end of December to give both sides time to see whether they can reach a settlement in their dispute over the revised curriculum.

"This is a good sign," said Erik Stanley, the lawyer representing the two groups that had sought to block the sex-ed program. "This gives all parties time to see if this can possibly be resolved. It takes some of the pressure involved off."

Added Superintendent Jerry D. Weast: "The agreement reached today by our attorneys provides us with the time and opportunity to resolve this litigation, which we hope can be done in an amicable and productive manner while at the same time maintaining the school system's fundamental right to control its own curriculum."

Teachers were to begin teaching the new curriculum this month in grades eight and 10 at six schools. But a federal court judge issued a temporary restraining order last week, putting a hold on instruction for 10 days. Shortly after, Weast announced that he was suspending the program for the rest of the school year.

The dispute centers on changes that would allow teachers to initiate discussions about homosexuality in the eighth grade and show a video on how to put on a condom in the 10th grade.

The community groups charged that the program was biased toward gays and did not offer a balanced view of homosexuality.

In his order, U.S. District Judge Alexander Williams Jr. expressed concerns that information included in teacher resource materials seemed to single out certain religious denominations based on their views about homosexuality.

Weast said the resource materials were for teachers only.

"It is important to note that there are two components to the health education program: the curriculum that is presented to students and the teacher resource materials that are provided only to teachers," Weast said.

If the agreement is approved, the two sides will update the court on their progress in September. The agreement does not stop either party from pursing litigation if no deal is reached.

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