Alex Blaze

How school boards move to the right

Filed By Alex Blaze | November 01, 2010 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living

Maryland school board candidate Marta Schaerr had a column in the Washington Post martha_schaerr.jpgtoday arguing that she's not a homophobe. Even though I had never heard of her before today, paragraphs like these make me wonder:

The curriculum should leave students free to determine for themselves whether sexual orientation is a matter of heredity, environment, choice or some combination. Allowing students to make that decision for themselves is not "anti-gay." Nor is it "anti-gay" to seek to ensure that all students are given clear information about the health risks of any sexual practices discussed in the curriculum. American teens -- both gay and straight -- are acquiring sexually transmitted diseases in epidemic proportions. If we're going to talk about anal sex in a health class or a condom video, it's irresponsible not to warn students -- especially gay students -- about the medical evidence showing the heightened health risks of anal sex compared with vaginal sex, even with a condom.

No, that doesn't sound like anything a homophobe would say at all. And obviously every student should be free to "make a choice" about what causes various sexual orientations instead of learning the science behind the matter or just avoiding the topic, just as every should be free to choose what 2+2 equals. My kid says it's 7; how dare you deny him that choice.

A quick google found that Schaerr was involved in several right-wing organizations, the most relevant one to education being Maryland's Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum. They filed a lawsuit with PFOX and an endorsement from NARTH arguing that a county's safer sex curriculum violates their freedom of religion and that "the curriculum implies that homosexuality is a biological trait, not a lifestyle choice. It excludes the viewpoints of ex-gays and those who believe that 'same-sex attraction can be overcome.'"

Lots more came up on her, including her work with several other organizations of the "Organization/Board/Citizens for Family/Traditional/Responsible Families/Values/Culture" genre. It didn't take to long to figure out that she was a right-wing crazy who wants to impose her anti-sex views on her fellow citizens. While I'm sure her views on the budget and curriculum (issues she says she wants to focus on) aren't all that great, it seems her biggest interest is controlling high school genitalia.

Anyway, the fact that someone like that exists isn't that interesting. What is interesting is that these people get on school boards all the time and pass rules that make intervening in anti-gay bullying a fire-able offense for teachers, fire teachers for coming out of the closet, or, in other topics, pass a rule forcing schools to teach Creationism. Then the citizens of the town wonder why their schools are so crazy - how could decent teachers and administrators who had to have some sort of education get the idea that they had to take kids back to the Dark Ages? Oh, yeah, being on the school board usually doesn't require any sort of professional qualifications.

Only when schools boards fuck things up in a very public, very obvious manner do most people care about what they're doing, which is unfortunate. Amy Hunter posted earlier today about just that, how we don't give enough attention to smaller, local- and state-level offices until they do something completely inappropriate for their jobs.

If you're voting tomorrow, take a few minutes and look up who's running for school board in your town. Even if you don't have kids in public schools, you're still paying for those schools and they're there to help build a better society, not please the parents of the kids who are actually in the school (because kids just aren't the property of adults who have free reign to do whatever they want to them).

Before the 2006 election, an older friend and I were talking about how she just doesn't know how to vote in local elections so she just leaves them blank if she doesn't know anyone in that office. Since I voted in Washington state in 2004 with a mail-in ballot, it was easy for me to do a little homework and look up the names while I had them in front of me.

I took out my laptop and we looked up on her secretary of state's website who she could vote for and then looked at their campaign pages and it took only several seconds to see that there were huge ideological gulfs between many of the candidates. For example, for the state secretary of education, the Republican's site focused on tougher discipline, merit pay for teachers, and decreasing the amount of money schools use. The Democrat's frontpage mentioned increased foreign language education, early kindergarten in public schools, and smaller class sizes.

My friend is a teacher, and even though she's not well-informed when it comes to politics, it took her only several seconds to decide that the Democrat was better.

People reading this site regularly are probably already more informed than she was at that point. Take a few seconds and learn about these candidates because they're in charge of what the next generation will learn.

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>If we're going to talk about anal sex in a
>health class or a condom video

A homophobe would not even make this suggestion and would not want any mention of anal sex with a condom being taught to kids.

What would prefer be said?

Thanks Alex- I'm really glad you posted this about school boards etc.
Even a cursory investigation, like you've done in this case, often yields a tremendous amount of information. Don't rely on your local paper's endorsements either. While the Kalamazoo Gazette published an editorial which happened to agree with my opinion over the absentee ballot issue here-their endorsements were far off the mark from reality concerning many of the candidates on the ballot.
Project Vote Smart is an excellent source for looking-up a legislator's voting record. They accompany each lawmaker with a synopsis of their position on catagorized issues. Here's the link:


She lost the court battle to keep sex ed out of schools, so now she's trying to sound reasonable to get elected to the school board where she can directly influence the curriculum.

In between, she and her Christianist friends fought the Montgomery County Human Rights ordinance change which expanded it to cover gender. Tried, and failed, to get a referendum on the ballot in Montgomery County.

Their rallying cry: Not in my shower! And their goal: to protect the privacy and safety of women and girls, who were allegedly in danger from "men in dresses."

Maryland Citizens for a Responsible Government still has a website (

Alex is making the case that her quote from the Wash Post column is homophobic. Maybe she is homophobic otherwise. But what in her quote on anal sex being discussed with a condom is homophobic?

I do not see homophobia in her allowing kids to be "free to determine for themselves whether sexual orientation is a matter of heredity, environment, choice or some combination."
It is not necessary for this component to be introduced for an education on sexually transmitted disease or even tolerance.

I wondered that too. The woman can be homophobic and still be correct. Anal sex does have more risks than vaginal sex - even with a condom. That's actual useful information for all teens - gay or straight.

But kids choosing whether or not sexual orientation is a choice? That's when you break out this handy subject called science. It deals with facts.

About the first part, it's homophobic because we don't get to choose the origins of sexual orientation. We can choose our opinions and behavior, but we can't just choose the facts. Even if we're arguing that sexual orientation is a choice (feel free), no one argues that we're free to choose whether it's a choice or not. No one except ex-gays. She's worked previously with the ex-gay org PFOX. Their argument is that they get to choose the cause of sexual orientation, and they get to choose one that's in line with the conservative Christian doctrine. It's silly, but it allows them to say that they can tell kids to choose that sexuality is a choice and then they can all become straight.

About anal sex having more risks than vaginal sex, she's talking about teaching/scaring kids to not be gay anymore. "Even with a condom" is a specific reference to falsified and misused information the religious right likes to propagate, especially in schools, that argues that condoms have holes in them that let HIV through and that it's better to just not use them.

I was referring mostly to the first part of that paragraph, because she did hide her real thoughts decently in the second part.

Thats who this woman is...

The failure to add GIE in Montgomery County was a cautionary tale we heeded with regard to our messaging in Kalamazoo.

Thats who this woman is...

The failure to add GIE in Montgomery County was a cautionary tale we heeded with regard to our messaging in Kalamazoo.

Brian Murphy | November 1, 2010 4:46 PM

To test how reasonable a set of statements or their framing are, its often worthwhile to transpose them to another topic:

"The curriculum should leave students free to determine for themselves whether religion and a belief in a god is a matter of indoctrination, heredity, environment, mental illness, choice or some combination.

Allowing students to make that decision for themselves is not "anti-religion." Nor is it "anti-religion" to seek to ensure that all students are given accurate information about the history of religious discrimination through the centuries, the pogroms, crusades, and the use of religion in modern politics to oppress various peoples within the curriculum.

American teens -- both atheist and religious -- are acquiring nonsensical ideas about the world in epidemic proportions. If we're going to talk about religion or god at all, it's irresponsible not to warn students -- especially religious students -- about the scientific evidence that shows their beliefs are irrational, illogical and entirely refuted by the scientific record, and the heightened mental health risks they face believing in a supernatural god, compared with documented history and provable, repeatable science."

Doesn't sound so moderate a frame to me.

The extreme right will not be content until such time as it is legal for them to go back to the warm and cheery days like that of the Spanish Inquisition when even the suggestion that someone ran afoul from Church Law could give them a free hand to force repentance from someone by whatever means they seen fit to use. Some of the thinking on the part of these people is truly scary. I know many take it as fact that Homosexuals are created by Pedophiles, that Transsexuals are just extreme Homosexuals, and that all these things are not only learned by suggestions by perverse people teaching them, but can be unlearned if a firm hand is used to deprogram someone from their sinful ways. Funny how they view any sin that has anything to do with something other than Heterosexual Sex as a greater sin than anything else someone could do, like lie, cheat, or steal.

She's trying her damnedest to sound reasonable -- and yes, anal sex comes with its own risks -- but she's hoping that voters have a short memory. So if she doesn't sound unreasonable, and even says some things that you can agree with, IT'S WORKING!

One more mealy-mouthed homophobe trying to sneak into a position of power and influence under the radar.