The Board of Education of Montgomery County tonight approved a settlement agreement that resolves a federal lawsuit over revisions to the health education curriculum and achieved the Board's goal of ending the dispute on mutually agreeable terms without further costly litigation and without compromising its authority over curriculum content.
The Board took the action this evening after plaintiffs agreed to the settlement following settlement discussions involving legal counsel that had been under way for the past several weeks.
In summary, the Board agreed to prohibit discussion of specific religious beliefs in the upcoming revisions to the health education courses, continue its prior practices regarding parent notification and the availability of specific information about the curriculum revisions, continue its prior practice of including two representatives of the plaintiffs on a reconstituted citizens advisory committee in connection with its consultation on the revisions, and reimburse plaintiffs $36,000 for attorneys fees incurred in connection with the Court's restraining order.
“This agreement ends what could have been a long and much more costly legal fight,” said Mrs. Patricia B. O'Neill, president of the Board of Education. “Now we can move on with our goal of revising the health education curriculum and making sure that our teachers have the very best curriculum to provide our students about health education, including important information that promotes tolerance and understanding towards all people regardless of sexual orientation.”
The settlement follows action on May 23 when the Board set aside earlier curricular revisions concerning sexual variations in the health education program for Grade 8 and Grade 10, as well as the “Protect Yourself” video, and asked that new changes be developed by the superintendent of schools for review during the upcoming school year. The Board also approved the reconstitution of the Citizens Advisory Committee on Family Life and Human Development.
The actions followed suspension of the revisions and video tape by the superintendent when a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order.
"We were prepared for a good fight in court, if necessary, but it would have been costly in terms of both time and resources," said Dr. Jerry D. Weast, superintendent of schools. "Reasonable leadership of this school system requires that we find a way of settling this dispute without compromising the Board of Education’s sole authority over the curriculum of our school system."
The new revisions to the curriculum on sexual variations will be developed. The Board requested that the new revisions be prepared during the 2005-2006 school year and use school system staff to complete the task. The reconstituted advisory committee will be involved for review and consultation.
Attorneys for the Board of Education entered into settlement discussions with representatives of the plaintiffs after both sides agreed to an extension of the temporary restraining order issued by a federal district court judge in early May.