The Republican candidate for House District 82 has dropped her lawsuit against the Helena School District and the Office of Public Instruction over the controversial proposed health enhancement curriculum.
Kristi Allen-Gailushas said Monday she received no support from the community and the cost of pursuing the legal challenge on her own was too much. In the suit, she claimed the curriculum would do “irreparable harm” to her children and that “the tyranny cannot continue.”
Her complaint called into question the content of the curriculum and the process used to develop it. The complaint alleged the draft curriculum is in violation of the Montana Constitution because it was developed in private. OPI should have stepped in and prevented it from happening, she contended.
The announcement, released Sunday at 10 p.m. via e-mail, came less than two days before the Helena School Board of Trustees votes on the document. Allen-Gailushas said the timing has little to do with the vote, which is set for 6 p.m. tonight at the Capital High School auditorium.
“The timing is just how it worked out,” Allen-Gailushas told the Independent Record. “It was hard for me to decide to dismiss.”
Allen-Gailushas, who is running against incumbent Democrat Mike Menahan, said she drew the conclusion that she had no other option than to abandon her legal pursuit, citing lack of community support, the unwillingness of an attorney to take her case and struggling financially to fund her mission. She also said it was causing an emotional burden on her family.
“My family comes first,” she said.
But Democrats say her lawsuit, and the timing of the announcement, is a political move.
“Her actions represent the erratic behavior coming from the Republican ticket this year,” says Martin Kidston, spokesperson for the Montana Democratic Party. “She realized she was in the minority. Most people are willing to let the school board do what it was elected to do, and let the process play out as it was intended to. The people of Helena are smart and level-headed, and they didn’t buy into her fear tactics and lies.”
School officials say the proposed draft is comprehensive and covers an array of topics such as nutrition, functions of the body, risk assessment, injury prevention, environmental health and human sexuality. The portions of the draft curriculum dealing with sex education generated a tidal wave of response both in support and against. The original document would have introduced body part language in kindergarten, told first-graders that human beings can love people of the same gender, and fifth-graders that sexual intercourse includes but is not limited to vaginal, oral or anal penetration.
After two lengthy public hearings, thousands of letters, e-mails and phone calls, Superintendent Bruce Messinger eliminated them all through his editing.
Allen-Gailushas says she hopes the board rejects the proposed draft, but it’s because of more than the sex education portions. She also doesn’t agree with the nutrition section, which includes teaching children healthy eating habits and whether they should eat at the dinner table, or the environmental health portions.
“That stuff would be taught at home, and (schools) should stick to math, English and science,” she said. “It should all be thrown out.”
In August, she filed the lawsuit against the Helena School District and OPI in District Court. OPI, however, says they have little to do with the matter since school curriculums are left up to local school boards to determine.
State Superintendent Denise Juneau said the way it works in Montana is the Board of Public Education sets the content standards for learning areas in schools, including health.
“We help schools with professional development or finding best practices, but as far as what’s learned day to day or textbooks that are bought, (those) are definitely local issues,” Juneau said. “It’s really the local schools and schools boards, per the (Montana) Constitution, that set curriculum for each of the schools.”
Reporter Alana Listoe: 447-4081 or firstname.lastname@example.org