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February 05, 2010

Responding to "ex-gay" falsehoods distributed by Montgomery County schools

WaPo reports:

Some Montgomery County high schools passed out fliers this week from an organization that contends gays can become heterosexual through therapy, and the schools say they cannot prevent the use of their distribution system by such groups.

The fliers, from the group Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays [PFOX], were distributed Thursday alongside report cards by teachers at Winston Churchill High School in Potomac. The group says it delivered them to about half the county's high schools this week and plans to do the same at the remaining high schools at the end of the school year.

The schools are required to distribute literature that isn't deemed hate speech from any registered nonprofit organization four times a year, the result of a 2006 lawsuit, said Dana Tofig, a spokesman for the Montgomery County Public Schools [MCPS].

School officials said that while they aren't always happy with everything that goes home with students, their hands are tied by the results of the litigation.

I know from my own run-ins with PFOX director Regina Griggs (who is quoted in the article) how useless it is trying to reason with her. Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out is entirely right about "ex-gay" claims being a fraud. So let's get practical here, and set aside the discussion over where free speech stops and false advertising begins. Rightly or wrongly, MCPS is obliged by a court ruling to distribute PFOX flyers which the president of the county board of education is quoted saying "are probably counter to what is available in our health curriculum." How do we respond to the situation? Do we just complain?

Here's a radical suggestion: get a gay-affirming, science-respecting nonprofit, such as PFLAG, to prepare a better-informed flyer and request MCPS to distribute it. The science is with us; so let's ensure that students are getting better information — not just by way of school curricula, but by the existing nonprofit information distribution system.

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Organizations like TeachtheFacts.org would do well to worry less about blocking the message of PFOX [http://www.teachthefacts.org/2010/02/mcps-propagating-anti-gay-message-to.html] and worry more about arming their children with critical thinking skills.

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