Montgomery Mother's Stand On Sex-Ed Begins at Home

Michelle Turner, picking up daughter Madeline, 10, from school in Wheaton, organized a group that helped derail revised sex-education curriculum.
Michelle Turner, picking up daughter Madeline, 10, from school in Wheaton, organized a group that helped derail revised sex-education curriculum. (By Sarah L. Voisin -- The Washington Post)

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By Paul Duggan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 19, 2005

Michelle Turner, mother of four public school students in Montgomery County, said it is her job, her responsibility, her life's purpose to shield her sons and daughters from corrupting influences. And the world, in her view, is teeming with them.

Which was why she decided long ago to be a stay-at-home mom; preserving "strong, traditional family values" and raising her children "to be good people" is a full-time undertaking, she said. It demands tireless vigilance.

There are lots of rules for the Turner siblings living in Wheaton, ages 10 to 17 -- rules about TV, movies, books, magazines, music, language, clothing, friends, religion. "This is how my husband and I have chosen to do it," she said, sitting in her kitchen one recent afternoon.

"You don't pop out a baby and expect it to raise itself," she said. "I made the commitment to be their mom, and to be here to teach them things that my husband and I wanted them to learn, to teach them about the church, about God." And to teach them this: "God has given us the ability to procreate, to bring children into a family. . . . And as far as the homosexual issue goes, our bodies are not meant or created to be used in that way."

The Turners' devout beliefs used to hold sway only around the dinner table, where the family gathers nightly for meals. Then Turner, 50, helped organize, and became president of, Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum, one of two groups that recently succeeded in derailing, at least temporarily, the Montgomery school board's plan to revise sex education in eighth and 10th grades.

The board wants to foster discussions of homosexuality, portraying same-sex attraction as natural and involuntary for gay people, as something that is common and acceptable. But Turner and other opponents said science has not proved that homosexuality is genetic, that more likely it's a choice. They said that the curriculum ought to present their beliefs, as well, and that students should be taught that it is possible to avoid, or to get out of, the gay lifestyle.

How the revised curriculum deals with sexual identities, abstinence, condom use and other issues appears headed for months of debate by the two sides, including in court, where the sex-ed plan is the subject of a lawsuit by Turner's group and the Virginia-based Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays, which has chapters nationwide. While the dispute continues, officials said, the curriculum will stay shelved at least through December.

As for Turner, she said she will not give in. The curriculum's "unbalanced, one-sided" view of homosexuality, she said, is just another "objectionable" influence she will have to fend off in a parenthood dedicated to keeping her children wholesome -- shielding them from what she and her husband, members of the Mormon church, see as cultural pollution in myriad forms.

And no matter what some liberal parents in Montgomery think of her beliefs, her stamina is not in doubt.

In her kitchen the other day, as she held forth on her parenting philosophy and the hard work involved in sticking with it, Turner chuckled. "Oh, my golly! Yeah, this is brutal. Between the music, and the trash on TV, in the movies. . ."

For example, she said, she and her husband, Grant T. Turner Jr., 46, a real estate consultant, prescreen movies for their children and check Web sites that warn about potentially objectionable scenes and language in films.

"We have always had the rule that we do not watch R-rated movies," she said. "And to see a PG-13 movie, you have to be 13 years old. And if my husband or I thought there was a problem with language or anything else that would be offensive, then you wouldn't see it."


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