The Roman Catholic sisters who head Notre Dame Prep, saying they were "delighted" with an "extremely positive" archdiocesan report on the curriculum, called yesterday for an end to the public dispute that began in March with complaints about the school's use of a sex video.
In letters to the parents of the 600 girls at the Towson preparatory school, Sister Helen Marie Duffy, headmistress, and Sister Christine Mulcahy, who chairs the board of trustees, said, "The time has come for this controversy to be put to rest. It is time for us to focus fully and without distraction on the important work which we are here to do -- educating your daughters."
Cardinal William H. Keeler, in a statement issued by his office, characterized the report by a team he appointed as "generally positive." He criticized the "tactics of gossip and slander" that he said were part of some of the parents' complaints about the school.
"In the course of the assessment," the cardinal said, "it became ++ clear that many statements were made based on inaccurate information, and, sadly, came in the form of innuendo and in some cases deliberate distortion."
As for the breakdown in communications between parents and school administrators that some parents had alleged, Cardinal Keeler told Sister Christine, "As all now look to the future, it is especially encouraging to hear that you and the school are committed to . . . ongoing dialogue with the parents."
Ronald J. Valenti, the archdiocesan superintendent of Catholic schools who chaired the assessment team, said a "random sampling" of parents who were interviewed "unanimously" supported Notre Dame Prep. He said the six-person team did not talk to any of the parents or alumnae who previously had been identified as critical of the school.
Paul K. Van Sant, speaking yesterday for a group of critics of the school, said, "We, the concerned parents and alumnae, had clearly made ourselves available to Notre Dame Prep as well as the archdiocesan investigative team to discuss this matter but were never contacted by either party."
Mr. Van Sant said the group still hopes for "a fair hearing of our complaints and allegations."
Acknowledging that the criticism is not likely to stop, Sister Helen Marie and Sister Christine encouraged parents "who are not happy with Notre Dame, who do not trust in the integrity of this administration and who refuse to engage in constructive dialogue, to re-examine their decision about which school will best serve their daughters' needs."
The six-week assessment by Cardinal Keeler's team was triggered by the publicity over the school's use of "Not A Love Story," described as a documentary video about pornography. Cardinal Keeler called the film, which had been shown for 10 years in a Notre Dame seminar on sexual violence, "appalling" and "inappropriate," and announced it would no longer be used. His assessment team agreed to this ban, but said "legitimate differences of opinion about using the video in an education setting were aired."
Among the recommendations were that Notre Dame Prep continue to teach about "women and violence." However, the team said the school's human sexuality education program should be described clearly in a brochure, updated annually, which should be distributed to both parents and students.
Parents should be allowed to "view all materials and media resources used in the human sexuality education program prior to their use in the curriculum," the report said.
The team called for "greater communication between the school community and the parishes from where Catholic members of the student body are drawn."
The school was advised to "offer adult religious education opportunities to parents to keep them informed about the
issues" addressed in the classroom.
Dr. Valenti met privately Tuesday with the staff and faculty at Notre Dame Prep to discuss the findings.