Rachel Hart,
Reproductive Freedom Project
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August 31, 2005

Dirigo. Off the top of your head, do you know what this word means? If you’re not proficient in Latin or a Mainer I’m guessing you don’t. Dirigo means “I lead” and it also happens to be the state motto of Maine.

But what, you might ask, does Maine’s state motto have to do with abstinence-only-until-marriage education? For starters, dirigo is a good description of Maine’s attitude when it comes to sex education. Maine is taking the lead.

Last week the Maine Department of Education sent out a letter to school superintendents letting them know that the program Heritage of Maine did not meet state standards for comprehensive sexuality education.

That’s right, Maine has standards for sex education. Not only that, but Maine’s standards are some of the most comprehensive in the country. (You should keep in mind that many states do not even require schools to teach sexuality education or STD/HIV education.)

Maine’s legislative standards define sex ed as “education on family planning and sexually transmitted diseases, that is medically accurate and age appropriate; that respects community values and encourages parental communication … that promotes responsible sexual behavior with an emphasis on abstinence; that addresses the use of contraception; that promotes individual responsibility and involvement regarding sexuality; and that teaches skills for responsible decision making regarding sexuality.” Sounds pretty good to me.

The letter from the Department of Education made clear that just because Heritage of Maine is a federally funded program, it does not mean that its curriculum meets the standards the state has put in place for its students. In fact, if you visit the Heritage of Maine website and look at a sample outline it is clear that there is no information on preventing pregnancy or STD transmission in the program.

Perhaps it is time for the rest of the country to follow Maine’s lead (or should I say motto).

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