Blog of Rights

State Round-Up: Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, New Mexico, South Dakota, Washington, West Virginia, and more...

By Rachel Hart, Reproductive Freedom Project at 5:38pm
Colorado: The Board of Education in Mesa County Valley School District 51 is considering whether or not to change the high school sex education curriculum. The proposed curriculum would require lessons on abstinence, STDs, and birth control. Some parents have expressed concern that these lessons are too little too late and that such curriculum should be offered in middle schools. Students interviewed for this article repeatedly voice the need to teach teens how to be safe and protect themselves from pregnancy and STDs. Georgia: This weekend Lowndes County will host an abstinence-only-until-marriage conference called Pure Love at the Mathis City Auditorium. The conference will feature Keith Deltano, who back in October, was part of a local controversy in Virginia (a parent who attended the high school assembly at which Deltano spoke said he "cherry-picked facts" and gave "inaccurate and incomplete information" including misrepresenting the effectiveness of condoms). I'm interested to hear if anyone attends. Indiana: Last week I mentioned a letter-to-the-editor in The Exponent, an independent college newspaper out of Purdue University. The letter noted the disconnect between the federal government's promotion of abstinence-only-until-marriage and a recent study showing that for almost all Americans premarital sex is the norm, and has been for decades. Well the debate on this topic continues. An opposing letter says that "the suicide rate for sexually active girls aged 12-16 is six times higher than the rate for virgins the same age" and goes on to mention that "non-virgins are 60 percent more likely to get a divorce than those who wait for marriage." (No mention of where these dubious statistics come from.) The writer of that letter concludes that "[o]ne night of raging hormones and passion taken too far means you cut your chances literally in half for a successful marriage." In response, another student points out that "a simple statistical relationship... doesn't mean that there is a direct causal relationship between the two situations." New Mexico: The Las Cruces school board is struggling with its high teen pregnancy rate and new state-mandated sex education guidelines. At last week's meeting a board member raised concerns over plans to teach about contraceptives and said that such instruction did not "reflect community values" while other members argued that something needed to be done to address the problem of teen pregnancy (Las Cruces is part of Dona Ana County. The county has teen birth rates well above the New Mexico average). Some board members were also upset about the opt-out policy for sex education classes and are looking to change the policy to an opt-in requirement. The school board is now seeking public input through the district's Web site, and has plans to review the policy at its January 30th meeting. South Dakota: This is the first time I have heard about a mother-son abstinence-only-until-marriage event (the majority of these sorts of events are father-daughter). But the Dakota Voice reports that last weekend Spearfish held its first-ever mother-son Integrity Ball (modeled after the father-daughter Purity Ball). Washington: The Healthy Youth Alliance, a coalition in Washington state working to reduce pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases among teens, surveyed school districts and found that nearly a third of them do not allow teachers to discuss condoms or any other form of contraception except for abstinence in their sex education classes (200 of the state's 296 school districts responded to the survey). Other topics are also banned from sex education classrooms -- 28 percent of teachers are banned from discussing abortion and 23 percent are not allowed to talk about homosexuality. A state representative introduced a bill this past week that would make medically accurate sex education mandatory in schools that choose to teach sex education. West Virginia: The Silver Ring Thing came to Oak Hill High School over the weekend. You can watch a video clip of the event here. And in national news, a student paper out of the University of South California has an opinion piece calling for sex education to "get real" and criticizing the Bush Administration for its focus on abstinence-until-marriage. An article in the American Prospect links abstinence-only-until-marriage programs to the epidemic of date-rape on college campuses (an interesting take that I've never heard before):
The lack of public, comprehensive, and complex sex education in this country contributes to this toxic sexual culture on most college campuses. The abstinence-only sex education that most young men and women receive does not teach them how to articulate their own sexual needs and respect those articulated by their partners. Teens who are merely told "Just don't do it" are lacking more than an anatomy lesson or information on contraceptive choices. They also missing out on essential communication skills and life-saving knowledge about sex and power. Which is bad news for teenagers in our paradoxically hyper-sexual and hyper-conservative contemporary America who are in desperate need of wise mentorship.
The newspaper CounterPunch criticizes Democrats for failing to take on the "grander failures of the Bush administration" including abstinence-only-until-marriage programs during the first one hundred hours of the new 110th Congress, and the Chicago Sun Times examines secondary-virgins in the adult population.
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