The day after the Montgomery County school board appointed a new advisory panel to consult with educators on revisions to the school system's sex education curriculum, it appears that board members could be facing a new legal challenge.
Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum said it is considering legal action against the school board for violating terms of an agreement that granted it and another group one seat each on the 15-member advisory panel.
Board members last night declined to appoint to the panel a representative from Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum, but they did name one from Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays despite a dispute with the two groups over the nomination process.
Board members had been slated to make appointments to the Citizens Advisory Committee on Family Life and Human Development on Oct. 11, but they delayed action to allow the groups more time to meet conditions laid out by the board.
Under the guidelines, community groups seeking a seat on the panel were required to submit three names to the board. The applicants had to be Montgomery residents who had not previously served on the committee.
Last night, Board of Education President Patricia O'Neill (Bethesda-Chevy Chase) said the board had reconsidered that requirement and approved the Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays representative. However, she said members would not fill the other group's seat.
The group's nominee, Henrietta Brown, is not considered eligible by the board because she has already served on the committee.
Michelle Turner, president of Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum, said the group will not submit another name.
"CRC intends to stand by the settlement, and that settlement said we could choose who we wanted to serve," Turner said.
Members of the group said that according to the settlement agreement reached in June, they, not the board, should determine who would represent them on the panel.
It is unclear what impact a lawsuit could have on efforts to rewrite the curriculum.
According to a timeline released by the school system advisory panel, members are slated to review the revised curriculum in February, and formal board approval is slated for April. The approved materials would be used in a pilot program in a small number of classrooms in fall 2006.
More than 180 Montgomery residents applied for a seat on the committee. Although the process involved public citizens applying for seat on a public board, the school system would not release any details about the applicants, including their reasons for wanting to serve, citing privacy concerns.
The previous curriculum, approved by board members almost a year ago, was abandoned in May after the two parents' groups sued the school system to prevent the curriculum from being taught at six pilot middle and high school campuses.
The groups were concerned about changes to the curriculum that allowed teachers to initiate discussions about homosexuality at the eighth-grade level and included a video demonstration at the 10th-grade level on how to use a condom.
Many health educators and parents had pushed for the changes, saying that students need to be able to discuss issues such as homosexuality more openly and that teenagers also need to know more about how to prevent pregnancy.
In response to the suit, a federal judge, concerned that some of the teacher resource materials that were part of the new curriculum seemed to favor certain religious viewpoints, issued a temporary injunction preventing the materials from being taught.
Shortly afterward, Superintendent Jerry D. Weast threw out the program and said the school system would rethink its approach to teaching sex education.