Encouragement from afar as the Helena School Board makes its decision

Monday evening, October 11, 2010 Dr. Bruce Messinger, Superintendent Helena Public Schools Helena, Montana

Dear Dr. Messinger,

My friend and colleague, Marilyn Bennett has kept me up-to-date with the discussions that you are having in Helana concerning the health education curriculum. She has shared with me your sensitivityand courage as you attempt to provide leadership.

I have been surprised that in Helena and in Montana, there has been some resistance to the passage of the health education curriculum. My view of the West has been that you stand on the shoulders of the pioneers who with great resistance from the terrain and from nay sayers, dared to explore and settle in the unexplored and unsettled. I have thought of you in the West as being without fear, and immune to those who engage in fear mongering.

I, as an activist in the Civil Rights Movement, see so many similarities between our struggles in the past and the struggles that you are having in Montana. In the south where I was born and "grew up" so many persons did not know those of us who are black and therefore they fell prey to those who in a process of fear mongering, distorted the truth about those of us who are black. The same seems to be true about the responses some have to persons who are Gay men or Lesbian. It is easy to be influenced by those who are prejudiced when one has no direct contact with those who are the victims of prejudice. It is obvious that society is more and more accepting of the reality of persons who are Gay and Lesbian who are in our families, our communities, the military, and in every aspect of American society. It would be unfortunate if the students in Helena would be deprived of an opportunity to prepare themselves for adulthood. I am saddened that there are some persons who resist the proposed curriculum, just as there were some persons in the past who resisted having curriculum that informed and enriched students, on matters of race. I know so many persons in my native south who now admit that their resistance to race education curriculum in the public schools in the past, is something they have lived to regret.

A Health Education Curriculum for the students of Helena would seem to be in the best interest of the students, their parents and the quality of education in Helena. It is my understanding that those parents who do not want their children exposed to the curriculum can exercise the option of not having their children attend the sex education component. Why then penalize others, when they want for their children, that the opponents do not want for their children?

I am a retired United Methodist Minister after 54 years of active ministry. I have lived long enough to observe that persons who once used the Bible to support the segregation of those of who are black as well as prohibit women from being ordained to the ministry, have come to realize how wrong they were, and how they misinterpreted the meaning of Scripture. We will continue our discussions in the Church about Biblical interpretation, but as we do that, as Americans, we know that our public life, even in public education, is based on the equality provisions of the Constitution, and not on Biblical interpretation.

Well meaning Church folk, must not allow their religious feelings, to limit the education of the students of Helena. I know that as they prayerfully reflect, they will not stand in the way of the rights of young people to experience the kind of education that we did not have when we were young.


Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell Truth in Progress Asbury Park, New Jersey

Tuesday, October 12, 2010 5:07 AM

Reverend Caldwell

Thank you for sending a message supporting our effort to implement the proposed Health Education curriculum. I appreciate your perspective on how this effort relates to previous efforts to provide opportunity to others who were denied access, opportunity and a safe environment to live and learn. I will share your message with the Board of Trustees.

Bruce Bruce K. Messinger, Ph.D. Superintendent Helena Public Schools