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Detroit Atheist Social Hub Message Board › New to the group

New to the group

acacia
kievalina
Farmington, MI
Post #: 1
I just got this in my e-mail and I am blown away:

"Farmington Public Schools is forming a Health/Sex Education Advisory Board

Farmington Public Schools is in the process of assembling the Health/Sex Education Advisory Board, as prescribed by Michigan State Law. The Board of Education will appoint a combination of parents, students, clergy members, medical professionals and educators from the Farmington community. At least half of the members of the sex education advisory board shall be parents who have a child attending a school operated by the District. A majority of these parent members shall be individuals who are not employed by the District. The Advisory Board must also include students of the school district, educators, local clergy, and community health professionals. The Advisory Board will do the following:

Establish program goals and objectives
Review the materials and methods of instruction used and make recommendations to the Board of Education for implementation
At least once every two years, evaluate, measure, and report the attainment of program goals and objectives
Host two public hearings per year for the community to review suggested materials
(if applicable)

Community members interested in becoming a part of the Health/Sex Advisory Board can complete the survey found at http://www.surveymonk...­ and submit it no later than Friday, November 2, 2012.

Advisory Board meeting dates will be determined once the Board is formed. Evening meetings are planned with specific times to be determined. For questions regarding the Health/Sex Education Advisory Board, please contact Tera Shamey at 248.785.2030"

Does anyone know if the clergy involvement is "prescribed by state law"? It's unclear to me whether it's simply an advisory board that's prescribed or if the makeup of the advisory board is also prescribed.

Either way, I am really, really upset. As a non-religious parent, I trust the public schools to be as religiously neutral as possible (and, yes, I realize they are a far cry from what I would consider "neutral"). I already put up with the pledge of allegiance, etc., which isn't really okay, but this is beyond tolerable for me.

What's going on here?!
A former member
Post #: 317
Your best bet is probably to contact your school board and the state department of education to see if they agree, and forward the results to the FFRF.

I would not be surprised if the state required such involvement, and if they do, this is something that shouldn't be allowed. If a local clergy wants a say, they should run their own 'school' and stay out of the publicly funded schools.
Craig R.
user 17143021
Detroit, MI
Post #: 5
Here's what's going on, courtesy your elected legislature representing the will of the people:
Sex Education Advisory Boards
Commonly Asked Questions

What is the legal requirement for a sex education advisory board in Michigan school districts?

Mandate for an advisory board. A school district shall not offer this [sex education] instruction unless a sex education advisory board is established by the board of the school district. §380.1507(5)

Composition of advisory board. The board of a school district shall determine terms of service for the sex education advisory board, the number of members to serve on the advisory board, and a membership selection process that reasonably reflects the school district population, and shall appoint 2 co-chairs for the advisory board, at least 1 of whom is a parent of a child attending a school operated by the school district. At least 1/2 of the members of the sex education advisory board shall be parents who have a child attending a school operated by the school district, and a majority of these parent members shall be individuals who are not employed by a school district. The board of a school district shall include pupils of the school district, educators, local clergy, and community health professionals on the sex education advisory board. §380.1507(5)

This appears to be a legislated modification to existing law, which appears to have its origins sometime around 1969:

(3) The choice of curricula to be used for human immunodeficiency virus infection and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome education required to be taught under subsection (1) shall be approved by the appropriate school board and implemented in the school setting not later than October 1, 1990. Before adopting any revisions to the curriculum implemented under this section, including, but not limited to, revisions to provide for the teaching of abstinence from sex as a responsible method for restriction and prevention of disease, a school board shall hold at least 2 public hearings on the proposed revisions. The hearings shall be held at least 1 week apart and public notice of the hearings shall be given in the manner required under section 1201 for board meetings. A public hearing pursuant to this section may be held in conjunction with a public hearing held pursuant to section 1507.

1507: (1) The board of a school district may engage qualified instructors and provide facilities and equipment for instruction in sex education, including family planning, human sexuality, and the emotional, physical, psychological, hygienic, economic, and social aspects of family life. Instruction may also include the subjects of reproductive health and the recognition, prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted disease. Subject to subsection (6), the instruction described in this subsection shall include the teaching of abstinence from sex as a responsible method of preventing unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease and as a positive lifestyle for unmarried young people.

(6) Before adopting any revisions in the materials or methods used in instruction under this section, including, but not limited to, revisions to provide for the teaching of abstinence from sex as a method of preventing unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease, the board of a school district shall hold at least 2 public hearings on the proposed revisions. The hearings shall be held at least 1 week apart and public notice of the hearings shall be given in the manner required under section 1201 for board meetings. A public hearing held pursuant to this section may be held in conjunction with a public hearing held pursuant to section 1169.

The stipulated composition of the board appears to have been legislated as an amendment to MCL 380.1507 in 2004 by approved bills 165 and 166, signed into law by Gov. Granholm.
acacia
kievalina
Farmington, MI
Post #: 2
Thanks for the info.

Any thoughts on what might be done? I'm thinking anything from LTEs to lawsuits, the latter of which seems like kind of a big undertaking.
Craig R.
user 17143021
Detroit, MI
Post #: 6
As a concerned parent, one option is to try to get on the board. With "community standards" being what they are, one rational, fact-oriented person may or may not have some degree of impact. As for the the stipulations that come out of any of these boards, State law also says that parents can require that their student children opt out of the classes themselves. Here's the whole deal as it applies in Farmington - note the pages on "Rights of Parents" (also note that you can't take notes if you attend class as an observer - ?) <http://www.farmington...­

From a summary regarding parental rights for public schools in Michigan:
Instruction in Reproductive Health and Sex Education -
Following a written request of a parent or legal guardian, a school district
must excuse a student, without penalty or loss of academic credit, from
enrolling in reproductive health or sex education [MCL 380.1506, 380.1507
and 380.1507a]. If you have questions about reproductive health or sex
education courses, please call (517) 373-7247 for more information.

Glad I had parents but equally glad I am not a parent - good luck.
Christopher M.
ccmclaugh
Group Organizer
Bloomfield Hills, MI
Post #: 1,283
I just got off the phone with Tera Shamey, who is the coordinator of the Farmington advisory board. She was very kind and obliging in answering my questions. As I see it, there are two options (that are not necessarily mutually exclusive): we can contact FFRF or another civil rights entity who will challenge the State's mandated clergy requirement in a court of law, or we could offer to participate. The former option is a clear-cut court victory. The latter would require the effort of members of our school districts to become ordained ministers. There are several easy ways to do this. I recommend the First Church of Atheism (http://firstchurchofa...­) where you can be ordained at no cost. You must then fill out the survey that is linked in the announcement, and then you will contact Tera Shamey to make a formal request to be put on the advisory board. Ms. Shamey tells me that there is a dearth of clergy volunteering for this, so you should have little trouble being accepted. You will of course be expected to participate in all advisory board activities.

What do you think?
A former member
Post #: 596
I think option one is best, simply because it's illegal. Like you said, it's open and shut.

Although I guess being a part of it does have its advantages too.
Craig R.
user 17143021
Detroit, MI
Post #: 7
I'm with Scary Guy - a lawsuit, if won, would settle the matter for the entire state.
Laura
atheistwoman
Richmond, MI
Post #: 108
If it were me, I would not hesitate to contact FFrF immediately. Please consider this as at least one of your actions. Good luck to you.
Christopher M.
ccmclaugh
Group Organizer
Bloomfield Hills, MI
Post #: 1,285
I sent this Email Monday morning to Patrick Elliot of the FFRF legal staff, but I have yet to receive a reply:

Patrick:

I don't expect you to remember me, but we've been in contact before. You have helped me and other members of my organization with various church/state matters. Here I am again with a disturbing bit of information. I've come to find out that the State of Michigan requires each local school board to implement a Health/Sex Education Advisory Board to advise each local school board on the school district's health/sex education curriculum. Required by the state law is that each of these advisory boards contain at least one clergy member.

"The board of a school district shall include pupils of the school district, educators, local clergy, and community health professionals on the sex education advisory board. §380.1507(5)"

My understanding of the United States Constitution's statement in Article VI, paragraph 3, that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States" leads me to conclude that this Michigan law is a clear violation of our national law.

Please help me with this situation by letting me know what we need to do to overturn this unconstitutional law.

Sincerely,
Chris McLaughlin
Organizer
Detroit Grassroots Atheism Project
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