Blog of Rights

Valentine's Day News Round-Up: California, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin

By Rachel Hart, Reproductive Freedom Project at 3:19pm
Happy Valentine's Day -- or as The Liberty Council calls it "The Fourth Annual Day of Purity." Ever wondered what sorts of demonstrations take place in abstinence-only-until-marriage programs? Here's a sampling from recent news articles: In Montgomery, Maryland high school students were encouraged to participate in the "gum game" in which they share a piece of gum with classmates to demonstrate the consequences of premarital sex. Students were also told they could sample squares of chocolate, one of which, according to the instructor, was actually a laxative in order to illustrate the uncertainty of knowing whether an STD was contracted after a sexual encounter. In York County, Pennsylvania, an instructor sticks tape to students' arms. Once removed, the instructor notes how the tape is no longer clear as bits of hair, skin and soap have stuck to it, and how the tape no longer sticks well to other items, apparently in an attempt to teach students that, "[a]ny time you have sex with someone, you leave a piece of yourself with them." I'm pretty sure none of these tactics address what teens really need -- information on how to protect themselves from unintended pregnancy and STDs. And now for the news round-up: California: Teens from four area high schools in Oakland have put together a 15 minute movie to educate their peers about contraceptives. The article notes that two years ago Oakland's schools approved making contraception available on high school campuses, as long as it was provided by school-based health clinics or community organizations. There can't be many other high schools in the nation that have this policy. Colorado: An op-ed in the Daily Athenaeum says the move by schools in Fort Collins, Colorado, to teach students about contraception is a step in the right direction. Florida: St. Lucie County public schools are getting closer to implementing comprehensive sex education. Local health instructors are scheduled to meet with the district's top science staff member to review potential curricula. Efforts to improve the curriculum couldn't have come at a better time: 2005 State Health Department statistics show that St. Lucie County had the highest proportion of blacks living with HIV among Florida's 67 counties-1 in 35. Louisiana: Joe Cook, the Executive Director of the ACLU of Louisiana, is quoted in an article about purity balls. He notes that the ACLU favors "abstinence-plus" programs where abstinence is stressed but teens are still able to learn how to protect themselves from unintended pregnancy and STDs. Michigan: Cedar Springs schools are set to approve a new policy regarding sex education. The proposed policy would require that sex education address: benefits of abstinence; possible emotional, economic and legal consequences of sex; legal responsibility of parenthood; how to refuse sexual advances; self-control and respect for others; healthy dating relationships and how to set limits; and adoption services and safe delivery of newborns. Of course, nowhere is contraception even mentioned. Nevada: Abstinence-only-until-marriage speaker Pam Stenzel is visiting schools throughout northern Nevada. Stenzel's speaking engagements are funded using a $35,000 federal grant received by the Crisis Pregnancy Center in Reno. Virginia: Local parents and religious leaders are voicing their concerns over presentations by the abstinence-only-until-marriage comedian, Keith Deltano, at local high schools. A mother who watched Deltano's presentation in October says she is disturbed to hear that he has been invited back to Loudoun County High School, and a local minister urges administrators at Dominion High School not to follow suit. Washington: Good News! Legislation that would require comprehensive sex education in schools is likely to pass the state legislature this year. Wisconsin: The Ashland School District is reinstating its annual sex education talk for fifth graders after an increase in the number of young students who have sought pregnancy testing. The Ashland County Human Services Department Children and Families Unit reports that it has had "four 12-year-olds and an 11-year-old girl inquiring about pregnancy tests" just this year. The annual talk was suspended last year after parents complained about its content.
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