Lambda Legal Applauds Montgomery County Court Decision Affirming School District's Plan for Inclusive Health Education
Schools have a right to create an accurate curriculum not a curriculum guided by individual beliefs.'
(New York, February 4, 2008) — Late Friday, the Montgomery County Circuit Court released its ruling affirming the right of the Montgomery County School Board to include medically accurate information about sexual orientation in the health education curriculum for 8th and 10th graders.
"We're pleased that the court refused to allow fringe groups to derail the high-quality, medically accurate curriculum the school system devised to educate Montgomery County students ," said Hayley Gorenberg, Deputy Legal Director at Lambda Legal. "Schools have a right to create an accurate and educationally appropriate curriculum — not a curriculum guided by individual beliefs."
During the summer of 2007, the Montgomery County School Board voted to implement the curriculum for the upcoming school year. The lessons had been field tested in several schools and received the recommendation of the Citizens Advisory Committee on Family Life and Development. However, opposing groups Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum, Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays, and Family Leader Network challenged the curriculum at the local level and, when they lost, appealed the decision to implement it to the Maryland State Board of Education, which also ruled against them. The opposition groups appealed that decision to the Circuit Court for Montgomery County. Lambda Legal represents Metro DC PFLAG in support of the school board.
Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge William J. Rowan, III ruled on January 31st that the decision of the Maryland State Board of Education shall stand. The opinion stated that, "The lessons in the health curriculum were prepared by a committee including medical professionals, namely four medical consultants affiliated with the Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., who are citizens of Montgomery County, Maryland. Additionally, this issue has been reviewed by the local Montgomery County School Board and the State Board of Education. The Board of Education's Opinion stated that the lessons regarding the origins of sexual orientation are not open to an evidentiary hearing and are within the legal purview of the school to include or not include in the lessons. Therefore, this Court finds that there is nothing to demonstrate that the Board of Education's Opinion is arbitrary, unreasonable or illegal."
"As a lawyer in this case, I'm very happy that the court accepted our arguments and recognized the inappropriateness of allowing a handful of parents to prevent any student in the county from hearing the factual material contained in the curriculum," said Jonathan Frankel, Lambda Legal's co-counsel and partner at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, LLP. "But as a parent in Montgomery County, I am even happier that our local school board can follow through on its strong commitment to treat all students with respect and build a culture of tolerance."
Hayley Gorenberg, Deputy Legal Director at Lambda Legal, is handling this case along with Jonathan Frankel, Daniel Matheson, Ryan Phair, Brian Simmonds, Daniel Squire, and Kenny Wright of Wilmer, Cutler, Pickering Hale and Dorr, LLP.
The case is : Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum et al v. Montgomery County Public Schools et al
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