Mar. 22, 2005




All we want is respect

Parents and taxpayers get no respect:

*When they complain about school decisions that excluded citizen input, they're accused of "bullying" their elected politicians.

*When they hear of developers having more pull with school officials than parents and taxpayers, they're told to ignore "urban legends."

*When they attempt to force schools to follow their own procedures, the schools eliminate the procedures entirely.

*When they try to hold onto school land to serve the thousands of housing units being built, they're told the schools need "latitude."

*When they want to testify before elected bodies to express their concerns, they're told the elected politicians don't want to waste time with public hearings.

Isn't it time our schools and elected officials gave parents and taxpayers the respect we are due?

Lilo Mitz, Potomac

It was an accident

Maria Pattakos of Kensington being hit by a vehicle while in a controlled crosswalk was an accident caused by sunlight blinding the driver ("Victim's husband pushes change," March 9 story).

This was an accident, an accident caused by sunlight -- bright, direct sunlight. I know this because I was one of three witnesses who watched the situation at Cedar Lane and Beach Drive in Bethesda unfold on Oct. 12 and remained at the scene for almost two hours answering questions from the detectives. Prior to impact, I saw the driver's grimaced expression and could tell that John Purcell of Bethesda was blinded by the sun and, to my horror, about to collide with Mrs. Pattakos.

I was surprised to learn from the article that Mr. Purcell received a traffic ticket. After all, this situation had no egregious violation. No aggressive driving, negligent driving, red-light running or speeding. In fact, the consensus among witnesses was it just as easily could have been one of us driving. Or for that matter, it could have been absolutely anyone.

With great sympathy and all due respect to Mr. and Mrs. Pattakos, an earlier change in the law would not have prevented this accident and changing it now will do nothing to prevent similar occurrences in the future. A terrible accident, even one that causes grievous trauma or death is still an accident and should not be further criminalized, despite chest thumping by opportunistic politicians.

Truly, this was an accident.

Christopher Ferrenz, Chevy Chase

Future of Crescent Trail lot hangs in balance

The Crescent Trail lot on the corner of Bethesda and Woodmont avenues in downtown Bethesda is owned by the county. This important parcel of land sits immediately next to the entrance of the Crescent Trail, a community and biker favorite; across the street from Barnes & Noble; at the junction of two popular and successful shopping and dining avenues; and adjacent to a lovely residential community.

It is now a county parking lot. It will not remain one for long. Last July, the Duncan administration put out a request for proposal to develop this lot. According to senior county officials, the county is now in the process of winnowing the dozen plus bidders down to a group of finalists who will be presented to the broader community in a public forum in early April.

The planned April forum should not be the end, but the beginning of the public conversation as to how we as a community believe the extraordinary potential of this parcel should be maximized. As the non-profit organization, Project for Public Spaces observes, "a community-oriented process to create or improve public places -- we call it 'Placemaking' -- can bring people together in new ways."

As one member of the larger community, I believe this particular place calls out for an urban park, a green space filled with trees, grass, flowers and a fountain, a nurturing place where people could gather together in community. A "Crescent Trail Park" would harmonize the needs of the neighborhood residents, trail users, and existing shop owners. Additional parking can be built underground, and much needed moderately priced residential units can and should be built on the county-owned parking lot directly across the street that has also been put out for bid.

This is not an anti-development screed. Development and developers have greatly benefited our community. Bethesda, Silver Spring and Strathmore are testimony to that fact. But all lots are not created equal, and publicly owned parcels are first and foremost a public resource. Indiscriminate development can threaten the soul of a community, leaving us walking through lifeless, commercial corridors.

Thanks to prudent planning, this portion of Bethesda is far from lifeless -- it is in fact extraordinarily vibrant. Crescent Trail Park would add to that vitality and, at the same time, nourish us at a deeper level. Crescent Trail Park would leave a legacy of livability.

Roger Berliner, Potomac

The writer is former host of "Search for Common Ground in Montgomery County" on Montgomery Community Television.

Puzzled over snow days decision

The school system must reassess its snow/weather school closing policy.

I was going to write this based solely on the experience of Feb. 25, angry as I was then. But now as I sit here on the afternoon of Feb. 28, with the schools closed for the third day in a row, and with the closing decision made before any snowflakes even began to fall, I am doubly angry.

The school district does all of us a gross disservice by closing on the threat of a snowfall that did not materialize in any significant way until the time the children would be coming home from school. The initial forecast was for 8 to 10 inches, then fell back to 3 to 6 inches, "probably less" closer into the city, they said, even before 7 a.m. How this school district (and others, I might add) can decide to shut the schools based on that is completely beyond my comprehension.

I hate it when people say, "When I was a child..." But really, in my 12 years of elementary, middle and high school in Reno, Nev., we had a snow day once, and only then because the drifts were 4 feet high.

Mary O'Driscoll, Silver Spring

Is anyone besides me puzzled and frustrated by the county's decisions to cancel school on Feb. 24, 25 and 28?

I know the county's general rationale for making these closing decisions. I can't help but wonder if the county government has just become too cautious for its (and our) own good. I'm all for the safety of our kids. My understanding is that school buses are among the safest vehicles on the road, in terms of injuries/fatalities per mile driven. How many school bus accidents caused by snow there have been in the county in the last 10 years? How many injuries? How many fatalities?

It feels as if the decision to close is being made by people who have almost zero tolerance for risk. Maybe Superintendent Jerry Weast needs to be reminded that he's running a huge suburban school system, not the space shuttle program.

Greg Pearson, Silver Spring

 

Big, blue monster hiding in bushes

Recently, the county issued recycle containers in many neighborhoods surrounding ours in Silver Spring. These are full-sized trash containers that are very blue in color and are to be used exclusively for paper and cardboard waste.

My first reaction was "who has this much paper and cardboard to throw out every week?" Those smaller blue recycle containers have been working just fine for many years. However, I figured that if this will help the county do a more effective job of collecting, then I would make room in my garage for this new behemoth receptacle.

To my dismay, many neighbors have chosen to store these blue containers outside giving a new meaning to the term "curb appeal." Driving through the various neighborhoods routinely, I see them behind a bush, next to the garage, on the front porch, and generally all in plain view.

The instructions that accompanied the new containers indicated that if you felt you didn't need them, or couldn't find a place for them, they could easily be returned by making a phone call and having them picked up.

I urge people who can't find a place in their garage, or behind the house, or somewhere where everyone else can't see them, to please take the county up on its offer and return them.

Joel Altman, Silver Spring

I initially was pleased when I found that recycle barrels on wheels would be issued to senior citizens to replace the bins that had been used before.

However when I saw the humongous size and the poor degree of handling of the new recycle bins, now available to all, my initial approval disappeared. What household could possibly generate this amount of recyclable paper goods, mainly newspapers and magazines, in one week?

The new barrels are almost impossible to push or drag over snow and are awkward to handle. What genius decided on the size and design of these monstrosities at the taxpayers' expense?

Nelson Marans, Silver Spring

Let's do something about trash-strewn roads

When we moved to the area in 1975, Greencastle Road was out in the country, with a pony farm, golf course and undeveloped parkland that gave it the perfect rural setting.

There was relatively little traffic, and there were pick-them-yourself strawberries up on the east side of U.S. 29. Briggs Chaney Shopping Center didn't exist yet.

Then came 1,500 new dwelling units between our property on the county line and U.S. 29, a new school on Robey Road, and new playground and ballfields in the park. The accidents that happened every other week on the sharp turn and steep drop to the bridge have been eliminated by the smooth, gently graded curve provided by cooperation between Montgomery and Prince George's counties, and we have much to be thankful for.

However, volunteers in the adopt-a-road programs in both counties recently resigned, and the accumulation of trash on Greencastle, especially from Robey Road to the county line and now in the straight stretch from there to Old Gunpowder Road, raises questions about the efficacy of our educational process in home and school.

The president's wife at the University of Chicago, I'm told, inspired poetic signs on the lawn like, "The grass, alas!" What can we do, as a community, to restore the pride of ownership to this part of "Keep Maryland Beautiful?"

I pick up daily on the curve by the county line, but would feel so much better if neighboring property owners would do the same and, if as a community, we could educate our families to prevent rather than cure.

Charles R. Taylor, Burtonsville

 

School bus assault:'Nothing has changed'

I just finished reading the accounts of school bus assault and my blood is boiling ("Parents outline incidents on buses," March 9 story).

My daughter was assaulted on a Roberto Clemente Middle School bus when she was in eighth grade. She is about to graduate from college so that would have been nine years ago. A boy wanted her seat on the bus so he pushed her out of it. When she confronted him, he grabbed her chest.

My daughter and the bus driver reported the incident to the school office. The principal called me and said that she would take care of it.

A few days later, my daughter came home crying hysterically. First, the boy and his friends had "circled" her in the school hallway and intimidated her. Then, she was called to the assistant principal's office and told that because she had pushed the boy away, she was violating school policy and was recommended for a three-day suspension. None of this was my daughter's fault and I went to the school to see the administration.

I was rudely treated and told that I should understand that the boy was from a "bad home" and that I needed to tell my daughter that she could not defend herself. I told the assistant principal that I didn't care if the boy was green, purple or homeless -- he was not going to touch my daughter. Also, police said nothing could be done.

My daughter's bus driver took it upon herself to seat the boy directly behind her for the rest of the school year.

After reading The Gazette, I can see that nothing has changed and in fact it is getting worse.

Kris Rogers, Germantown

 

Developer disputes assessment of town plans

In the March 9 story on the Clarksburg Town Center development ("Clarksburg center plans improving, residents say"), Bozzuto Homes Inc. is said to have "... built condominiums that exceed that height and builders propose building more condominiums and townhouses in excess of the height restriction."

This is incorrect. What is correct, is that Bozzuto has received site plan approval from the Park and Planning Commission, received building permits from the county, received final inspection and approval for occupancy, and received a finding from the planning commission staff that we are not in violation of the height restriction, which is four stories, not specifically "45 feet in height."

We are not only dismayed by the Clarksburg Town Center Advisory Committee's contention that we are in violation, but we do not find it appropriate that this issue is being used as leverage, according to one CTCAC member. "We want them to issue a violation .... We hope to use that, a fine or something, and put that back into the community," (committee co-chair Carol) Smith said.

Also, we do not find there is any merit to the idea that these buildings are too tall or exceed what is typical for a traditional neighborhood development (TND) such as Clarksburg Town Center. Our long experience in the Kentlands and King Farm communities are excellent examples of the success our buildings have achieved in those neighborhoods. Both have an abundance of four-story buildings. TNDs in fact are based on traditional urban planning principles emanating from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when town center building heights were limited to four and five stories as a practicality of that period. It is unfortunate that these facts also seem to be ignored in the CTCAC comments.

We at Bozzuto have pride in our corporate values including having concern for the community in which we build, and we find it disturbing that some Clarksburg Town Center residents are unhappy with the homes we have built. We stand by the high quality of our homes on the grounds of good design, customer satisfaction, and our full compliance with zoning law.

Clark Wagner, Greenbelt

The writer is vice president/director of development services at Bozzuto Homes Inc.

Parents should decide rules for teen drivers

The impetus to further restrict parental judgment and teen driving follows the usual pattern; use a serious issue to back a specious law and then impugn the opposition as a bunch of irresponsible brats ("Teen driving limits advance in Senate," Feb. 23 story).

Does state Sen. Roy P. Dyson (D-Dist. 29) of Great Mills take into account how many accidents may have been prevented because other teenagers were in the car telling the driver to slow down or be careful? Back in my younger days, that was frequently the case.

Does the law consider that many teenagers are responsible and don't deserve the imputation or the restriction? It is easier to tar a group with the same brush and punish everyone. It is reprehensible for legislators to be lazy and glory-grabbing at others expense.

To go into all the reasons the proposed law is bad would take a letter of considerable length. Driving is a skill that can be taught up to a point. The skill and good judgment of driving well can only be acquired through experience. As teens are delayed in acquiring these skills and judgment, the accidents are only being pushed off into the future -- like restructuring debt.

Rules for teen driving are a parental responsibility, not the state's. It is up to the parents to decide the maturity of their children and under what conditions a teen can drive.

Steve Kerr, Montgomery Village

 

Valid decision

I was glad to read that Mary L. Linklater won her legal case against her employer for emotional distress ("Woman awarded $1.3 million in church dispute," March 9 story). Any employer is capable of causing emotional distress. In this case, the employer was a church.

The lawyer for the Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Gaithersburg will have a tough appeal. He claims that "... the First Amendment forbids a civil jury from reviewing what are essentially routine personnel matters of a church..." Any person who has read the First Amendment will not find this claim.

This case shows that simply being religious, and claiming adamantly because of that belief to be on the side of morality, does not make one a good person.

Marvin Lindroth, Montgomery Village

 

ICC, railroad have a lot in common

As editorial cartoonist Chris Curtis noted in the March 9 edition, there are similarities between the building of the transcontinental railroad and the building of the Intercounty Connector.

The developers of the 1860s spread a great deal of cash among political figures in order to get approval for the building of the railroad on their terms. Present-day developers have done the same for the ICC.

The railroad was financed by flawed means involving a race to secure public land for compensation, which in turn led to a heavy loss of life and shoddy construction that required an almost complete rebuilding of the line within a short period. The ICC likewise is to be financed by flawed means including robbing funds from other transportation projects for the next decade and a toll system designed to discourage use of the ICC if it draws too many people from other roads.

The railroad caused immense environmental damage and the disruption of the neighborhoods (Indian) through which it passed. The ICC will do the same.

There are other differences as well.

There were no feasible alternative ways to achieve the goals of the transcontinental railway so it could be argued that the sacrifice was worth it. There are feasible alternative ways to achieve the goals of the ICC, at least the announced ones. And the cartoon showed objections being raised to the railway at its completion -- after the damage was done. With the ICC, there is still time to avoid the adverse consequences.

Roger Burkhart, Gaithersburg

Where's handicap parking at Strathmore?

I think that building the new Music Center at Strathmore in North Bethesda will be a great asset to our county. However, after using millions of taxpayer revenues, I wonder why no one thought of having handicap parking spaces there?

My daughter and two of her friends, who we carpool to rehearsals with, are musicians with the Maryland Classics Youth Orchestras. One of these girls recently underwent major surgery on her foot and my daughter is being treated for an injury to her knee. We have a handicap parking permit for our car.

On March 9, when my husband drove the girls to rehearsal and attempted to park in a handicap spot in front of Strathmore, a security guard told my husband that those handicap spaces are only for parking at the mansion.

Any disabled person who wants to attend Strathmore, apparently needs to use the handicap spaces in the nearby Metro parking lot and walk a couple hundred yards to the performing arts center, and then, of course, pay Metro $4 for parking.

As a taxpayer in this county, I feel facilities like Strathmore should be enjoyed by anyone, even those who are handicapped. As a musician myself, I think the performing arts need all the patrons they can get.

Anita C. Chernovitz, Olney

 

Shame on thief

Open letter to the person who stole my daughter's purse:

I am writing this letter to the person who stole my daughter's purse on Friday, Feb. 25. This happened about midnight at The Black Cat nightclub on 18th Street in the U Street corridor of Washington, D.C.

While you may have thought it was fun to steal her purse, it has not been fun for her.

She has been greatly upset by this and has had to lose time from work to replace all her documents that were in the purse.

I am mad that what took only a minute or two for you, has caused her weeks of pain of suffering.

All I can say is, "Shame on you."

Linda Langs, Olney

Future of Crescent Trail lot hangs in balance

The Crescent Trail lot on the corner of Bethesda and Woodmont avenues in downtown Bethesda is owned by the county. This important parcel of land sits immediately next to the entrance of the Crescent Trail, a community and biker favorite; across the street from Barnes & Noble; at the junction of two popular and successful shopping and dining avenues; and adjacent to a lovely residential community.

It is now a county parking lot. It will not remain one for long. Last July, the Duncan administration put out a request for proposal to develop this lot. According to senior county officials, the county is now in the process of winnowing the dozen plus bidders down to a group of finalists who will be presented to the broader community in a public forum in early April.

The planned April forum should not be the end, but the beginning of the public conversation as to how we as a community believe the extraordinary potential of this parcel should be maximized. As the non-profit organization, Project for Public Spaces observes, "a community-oriented process to create or improve public places -- we call it 'Placemaking' -- can bring people together in new ways."

As one member of the larger community, I believe this particular place calls out for an urban park, a green space filled with trees, grass, flowers and a fountain, a nurturing place where people could gather together in community. A "Crescent Trail Park" would harmonize the needs of the neighborhood residents, trail users, and existing shop owners. Additional parking can be built underground, and much needed moderately priced residential units can and should be built on the county-owned parking lot directly across the street that has also been put out for bid.

This is not an anti-development screed. Development and developers have greatly benefited our community. Bethesda, Silver Spring and Strathmore are testimony to that fact. But all lots are not created equal, and publicly owned parcels are first and foremost a public resource. Indiscriminate development can threaten the soul of a community, leaving us walking through lifeless, commercial corridors.

Thanks to prudent planning, this portion of Bethesda is far from lifeless -- it is in fact extraordinarily vibrant. Crescent Trail Park would add to that vitality and, at the same time, nourish us at a deeper level. Crescent Trail Park would leave a legacy of livability.

Roger Berliner, Potomac

The writer is former host of "Search for Common Ground in Montgomery County" on Montgomery Community Television.

 

Criminals 'coddled'

I was dismayed by the end result of another misguided judge's attempts to show compassion for criminals. This time it is Circuit Court Judge Durke G. Thompson ("Child molester gets more time in jail," March 2).

Why do judges in this county continue to coddle convicted criminals at the expense of the public? In this case, Sidney Richardson, a convicted sex offender, was found guilty of abusing his teenage stepdaughter. After serving 18 months of a 10-year sentence in 2000, Thompson allowed him to return home on a trial basis.

I think most people know what happened next. The raping continued and a baby was conceived. My children could see that one coming, and the judge couldn't?

So now, Richardson is going back to prison, as a result of his latest rapes.

This time the sentence was handed down by a different judge. Hopefully this judge is different and more compassionate for the law-abiding citizen and not the criminal.

John Rosati, Rockville

 

Tolerance sought

In the Feb. 16 article, "Billboard removed; contract ran out," Rockville animal store operator Ruth Hanessian states that she is "pleased that we're back to being an inclusive city again" now that the ex-gay billboard is no longer up.

No, Rockville is not an inclusive city if we exclude ex-gays. My ex-gay friends deserve the same tolerance gays receive. Former homosexuals and lesbians are also worthy of respect.

Jackie Rice, Rockvillethis amount of recyclable paper goods, mainly newspapers and magazines, in one week?

The new barrels are almost impossible to push or drag over snow and are awkward to handle. What genius decided on the size and design of these monstrosities at the taxpayers' expense?

Nelson Marans, Silver Spring

SmarTrip card: Love it, hate it

I couldn't agree more with Ed Docal's commentary ("Dear Metro management: Your 'smart pass' system stinks," March 9).

There was a time when we used Metro rail frequently. Even though it was more expensive and could take up to twice as long as driving, it was less of a hassle than driving and parking downtown.

One of the conveniences offered by Metro was the ready access and ease of use of the parking garages. However, the introduction of the SmarTrip card changed all that. The "smart pass" machines are virtually impossible to use.

Although her experience was nowhere near as bad as Mr. Docal's, my wife had similar difficulties in attempting to purchase a card. After numerous attempts and loss of several dollars, she sought help from an attendant. He also had trouble using the machine, but finally was able to help her. The upshot was that she lost a lot of time and money.

We haven't used Metro since that incident.

Robert Hauptman, Silver Spring

As a regular and very satisfied Metro customer, I must respond to Ed Docal's statement that regular Metro patrons have become accustomed to poor service, late trains and inconvenient automation.

In fact, I receive courteous and professional service from Metro employees; the trains are rarely late; and the automation, including the SmarTrip cards, is very convenient for those of us who ride Metro daily.

Based upon one experience with Metro, Mr. Docal took it upon himself to speak for the thousands of people who ride Metro daily. I suppose if I drove home today and found no delays on the Beltway, I could write a commentary for The Gazette offering my opinion that there is no traffic in Washington.

Roxane Panarella, Silver Spring

I have some issues with Metro parking:

*The gate is dropped at 9 a.m. at the Glenmont parking lot. 10 a.m. would be better. The lot is usually full by 8 a.m. so by dropping the gates at 9 a.m. pretty much guarantees any entry between 9 and 9:50 a.m. will be charged for entering and exiting without a parking spot. Also, someone entering at 10 a.m. might find an unused reserved spot that becomes available at that time.

*Forgetting a SmarTrip card costs the customer $5. If someone is really forgetful, they could accumulate a number of cards at a cost of $5 each. It could add quite a bit to already costly commute.

I have two suggestions: First, implement a card refund policy. If someone stocks up on five extra cards due to forgetfulness, they'll be able to get their $25 back.

Second, use the already existing pedestrian gate technology on the parking gates. The pedestrian gates accept SmarTrip cards and paper fare cards. For a paper fare card you are only charged for the fare, not for the card.

Steve Weiss, Olney

 

Facts, not misrepresentations, needed in curriculum discussion

In the last several months, the group Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum (formerly known as Recall Montgomery School Board) made a number of false or misleading statements about the Board of Education's decision to pilot curriculum revisions, including basic facts on sexual orientation, in its Family Life and Human Sexuality unit of eighth- and 10th-grade health education classes, a unit that students may take only if parents give their permission.

I think it appropriate to respond to two of those statements reported by The Gazette ("Sex ed lessons to debut at six schools," March 9 story).

First, the group's organizer, Michelle Turner -- who serves with me on the board's Citizens Advisory Committee on Family Life and Human Development (CAC), which reviewed and recommended the proposed revisions -- states that the curriculum violates state law because state law confines teaching such matters to high schools.

Section 13A.04.18.03 B(3) of the Code of Maryland Regulations governs these matters. As a CAC member, Ms. Turner was given a copy of that section of the code. That section explicitly states that material on "sexual variations" may be offered "at the middle school or high school level or both." People can read it for themselves at http://www.mcps. k12. md.us/curriculum/health/ intro.htm (Item No. 8).

Second, Ms. Turner asserts that CAC "rejected scientific, peer-reviewed material that ran contrary to their 'politically correct' mindset." In fact, most of the materials to which she refers dealt with sexually transmitted diseases, not sexual orientation, and were not recommended for inclusion as teacher resource materials in the Family Life and Human Sexuality unit of the curriculum because similar materials were already included as teacher resources for the curriculum's sexually transmitted infections unit. It would have been redundant. Notably, those rejected materials dealt only with same-sex tran

Commentary's point on sex ed disputed

In his commentary, "When moral values, sex education collide" (Feb. 16), Charles Gershenson equates homosexuality with other topics that the schools have begun to teach children (smoking, alcohol, drugs, violence, racial diversity and sex) since "too many parents fail part of their responsibility."

In defending the schools' responsibility to instruct kids about this issue, he says that "knowledge of homosexuality will not alter their family's teaching."

This implies that parents want to deny that homosexuality exists. In reality, the root of parents' discontent is not knowledge of homosexuality, but what is being taught about homosexuality. The new curriculum fails to tell kids the whole truth about this lifestyle choice, leaving out the medical risks associated with gay sex.

It discriminates against those who believe this behavior is wrong or unnatural, and denies the existence of those who have successfully changed their sexual orientation.

Most parents still believe that instructing their children in the area of sexual morality is part of their job. This willingness on the part of the schools to indoctrinate kids on matters of morality is nothing more than a thin veil for social advocacy, and has no place in our kids' classrooms.

Ellen Castellano, Montgomery Village

The writer is with Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum.

The sex ed curriculum that Charles Gershenson helped launch in 1965 is a far cry from the one being implemented by the county school board.

In 1965, health teachers taught the anatomy of males and females and discussed sexual activity within the context of marriage between a husband and a wife. The new curriculum's guidelines exclude talk about marriage; sex is clinically placed as taking place between "partners."

Nowhere in Dr. Gershenson's letter does he mention that he is familiar with the new curriculum or that he has read the 56-page document. Does he know that explicit how-to techniques will be taught; that abstinence will be taught as a birth control method; that new sexual categories will include bisexual, transgender, lesbian and homosexual and that each will merit its own detailed description of sex play; that the list of families will include "same sex partners."

Telling children to "wait until marriage" has been a powerful message and one that the overwhelming majority of parents want taught. But the underlying message of the new curriculum is unmistakable: teen sex is normal even for kids as young as 11, so let's just tell them how to do it in a safe manner.

According to Advocates for Youth, The U.S. has 13 times the teen birth rate of the Netherlands, 25 times the gonorrhea rate of Germany, three times the teen abortion rate of France and to top it off U.S. teens begin having sex earlier than European teens. I don't think this is a record that argues for an even more aggressive sex ed curriculum.

Alberta Bertuzzi, Rockville

 

More questions should be asked

The reporting on the March 9 article, "Sex ed lessons to debut at six schools," thankfully included comments from two opposing sides of the issue of the new sex education curriculum. However, I find it unsettling that certain research efforts were not made.

First, there was no verification or comment about Michelle Turner's assertion that the curriculum breaks the law, which, if researched, proves untrue.

Next, there is no acknowledgment that there is at least one group actively opposing the Citizens for Responsible Curriculum group called TeachTheFacts.org. A representative is easily available to make statements. I applaud Letitia Hall's statement, but with no official representative of the opposing group, how can you call this balanced reporting? Or perhaps this was an official representative and you failed to identify her that way?

And lastly, in regards to the statement that some parents oppose showing a video demonstrating how to put on and take off a condom using a cucumber, no effort appears to have been made to understand what this is replacing. It is replacing a video using computer animation of the same activity but with an animated representation of the male anatomy. The video is an update of an existing one in the approved curriculum that has been used for years.

Faye Newsham, Silver Springsmission of sexually transmitted infections, not heterosexual transmission, and it was clear to the majority of the committee that the materials had been offered solely for the purpose of stigmatizing gay people.

The other articles offered by Ms. Turner's allies as teacher resources from peer-reviewed publications were either irrelevant, excerpts taken out of context to suggest something the author did not intend, or contained epidemiological conclusions based on self-selected samples and without control groups -- defects that, according to a medical and epidemiological professional on the CAC, made the articles of dubious value.

In fact, the proposed revisions in the Family Life and Human Sexuality unit -- which do nothing more than present some basic definitions, a brief discussion of stereotyping, and a few myths and facts about sexual orientation -- are based upon the conclusions of every American mainstream medical and mental health professional association, namely, that homosexuality is not an illness, and that most experts do not believe it is a choice. This is something that Ms. Turner and her allies repeatedly ignore in their public attacks on the Board of Education and the majority of the CAC.

A public discussion of the proposed curriculum revisions is certainly appropriate. People may read it for themselves at http://www.mcps.k12. md.us/curriculum/health/intro.htm (Item No. 4). There may well be improvements that could be made in the proposed revisions. But a reasoned discussion, worthy of the traditions of Montgomery County, is made more difficult when a group like the CRC misstates or misrepresents the facts.

David Fishback, Olney

The writer is chairman of the Board of Education's Citizens Advisory Committee on Family Life and Human Development.