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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)

She said: "I feel so bad for my 13-year-old son, who waited so long to turn 13 so he could go see PG-13 movies like all his buddies at school. And now with PG-13 movies, you frequently hear the F-word in there. You're getting little flashes of nudity and innuendo." So a lot of PG-13 films are off-limits to him, too.

The couple's oldest son, Grant T. Turner III, a senior at Albert Einstein High School, is headed to Mormon-run Brigham Young University in the fall, to study music. Two older sisters already are at BYU. The Turners' 13-year-old son will start at Northwood High School in September, and their 15-year-old daughter will be an Einstein junior. The two siblings didn't want their names published. The youngest in the family, Madeline, is a fourth-grader.

None has a phone or TV in his or her bedroom. They watch suitable shows in the basement den on a set wired to an $80 device called the TV Guardian -- "a nifty little gizmo," Turner said. The small black box decodes hidden, closed-caption text, searching for any of 150 preprogrammed "offensive words and phrases," then mutes them, flashing substitute text on the screen. "Get the hell out of here," for instance, becomes, "Get out."

"You can set it to take out just the cuss words," she said, "or the cuss words and anything related to taking the Lord's name in vain."

Turner said her children, who occasionally chafe under the rules, are not allowed to visit friends' homes unless a parent is present, and she always calls ahead: "I ask what the plans are. Are you going to be watching videos or anything? . . . And if it's not one that's suitable or appropriate, I'll tell them I prefer that my child not watch that. . . . And I'll tell you, I've never had a negative response."

Rules and more rules. "No two-piece swimsuits on the girls," Turner said. "No bare bellies. . . . Skirts have to be knee-length or longer. My daughters, I really don't let them wear makeup until high school, and then it's minimal."

As for reading, she said: "Well, we don't get any of the teen magazines. Books? My kids are pretty good about selecting ones that are acceptable. Where we run into a problem sometimes is with the schools. . . . I know there were one or two occasions when we've asked a teacher to give them a book other than the one that was assigned."

Grant Turner III, the only sibling willing to be interviewed, is an aspiring song producer who plays piano and guitar. He said his parents' rules are "good tools for bringing up a good family," even though he gets frustrated now and then. CDs with parental advisory labels are forbidden, for example, and his mother has lyrics-approval over all other music he brings home.

"Sometimes I feel it's not fair, other kids getting to do things that seem fun to do, and I don't get to enjoy those things," he said. "But I tell myself it's not going to change, so just get over it. And I do."

He said that he shares his parents' religious belief, and that he didn't want to discuss homosexuality. And he said he has been too busy getting ready for college to focus on the sex-ed debate. In the current curriculum, homosexuality can be discussed only if a student asks a specific question, and the teacher's response must be perfunctory.

The debate "is her thing," he said of his mother's activism. "I haven't paid much attention."

A 1973 high school graduate, Turner was raised in the county by her divorced mother and by grandparents after her mother died.

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