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Back to July Ed Reporter

Education Reporter
NUMBER 234 THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS JULY 2005

Sex-Ed Skirmishes
Sex Survey Shocks Dad; Another
Jailed Over Kindergarten Materials
David Parker
David Parker in handcuffs in court after night in jail
In-your-face sex education continues to infuriate parents around the country, as shown by the following recent conflicts between families and public schools:

A Shrewsbury, MA school passed out a sex survey to 11- and 12-year-olds in May, asking them, among other things, how many oral sex partners they have had. Officials defended the questionnaire as a vital way to stay informed of health risks. Parent Mark Fisher was not amused.

"This is not something for the schools," he complained. "It seems like parents are purposely kept in the dark about this." He did not allow his daughter to take the survey and asked the school to adopt a policy to have parents opt in rather than opt out of the survey.

Parents were allowed to view the survey ahead of time, but not to take a copy home to review before their children answered it. (bostonherald.com, 5-26-05)

According to the American Family Association, the survey also solicits answers to such questions as "How old were you when you had sexual intercourse for the first time?" and "The last time you had sexual intercourse, did you or your partner use a condom?" A similar sex survey being administered to 8th-graders asks students to identify themselves as heterosexual, gay or lesbian, or bisexual.

CDC survey involved 
The Shrewsbury questionnaire reportedly was administered as part of the national Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System established by the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in 1990. The CDC version includes seven questions about sex, covering such topics as age of first intercourse and condom usage.

However, participating schools are able to add or subtract questions, and that may be what happened in the case of the Shrewsbury questions about oral sex and sexual preference. The Shewsbury school has refused to release its version of the questionnaire for public viewing. (foxnews.com, 6-23-05)

Condoms handed out 
Middle school students in Wausau, WI were handed condoms by an AIDS education group at a health fair in May. Organizers and teachers stopped the handouts once they realized what was happening, and the AIDS education center apologized. (local20.com, 5-11-05)

A Lexington, MA father spent a night in jail in April to protest school materials and discussions about gay-headed households in his son's kindergarten class. After repeated written requests for advance notice and "opt-out" accommodation, David Parker said he was "flat-out denied" any accommodation by school officials.

During a meeting to discuss his requests, he "insisted that such accommodation be made and refused to leave the meeting room." School officials called police, who arrested him for "trespassing." He declined to bail himself out of jail.

The dispute began when Parker's 5-year-old son brought home a bag of books promoting diversity, including Who's In a Family by Robert Skutch, which depicts different kinds of families including same-sex couples raising children.

Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, an opponent of same-sex marriage, noted that "Schools under our parental-notification law are required to inform parents . . . of matters relating to human sexuality that may be taught in the classroom and to allow that child to be out of the classroom for that period of the education." He did not comment specifically on Parker's case. (Boston Globe, 4-29-05)

"We don't view telling a child that there is a family out there with two mommies as teaching about homosexuality, heterosexuality, or any kind of sexuality," countered Thomas B. Griffiths, Lexington School Committee chairman. "We are teaching about the realities of where different children come from."

Superintendent William J. Hurley warned Parker in an April 27 letter to stay off his son's school's property or he would be subject to arrest again.

"This is an unbelievable outrage," said Brian Camenker, a friend of Parker and a Newton, MA parent. "It's where last year's same-sex 'marriage' ruling has brought us." Camenker is a leader of Article 8 Alliance, a group seeking to remove the four Massachusetts supreme court judges who voted to impose same-sex marriage on Bay State citizens.

Propaganda in Santa Cruz 
Numerous parents of high school students in Santa Cruz County, CA have complained to school officials about open advocacy of homosexuality by lesbian teachers there. Some teachers hang pro-homosexual posters in their classrooms, discuss their lesbian lifestyle in class, and refer students to gay, lesbian and bisexual organizations, while not allowing posters celebrating traditional families, according to the Pacific Justice Institute website (2-2-05).

After the Texas Board of Education required the McGraw-Hill textbook publisher to alter health books to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, professors at Penn State University started a petition drive to boycott the textbooks or to register disagreement with the text changes. (See Education Reporter, Dec. 2004 for details on the Texas decision.)

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Abstinence program successes 
In more good news for abstinence education, a study of the Best Friends program found that girls in the District of Columbia public schools who participated in the abstinence program were only about one-seventh as likely to have sex compared with their peers, half as likely to drink or smoke, and one-eighth as likely to use illegal drugs.

Researcher Robert Lerner's peer-reviewed study, based on data from 3,000 middle school students, was published in April in the journal Adolescent and Family Health. (See also www.bestfriendsfoundation.org.)

The study also found extraordinary results among the high school participants in Best Friends, called Diamond Girls. The Diamond Girls were nearly 120 times less likely to engage in premarital sex than high school girls not in the program, the author told the Washington Times (4-28-05). Diamond Girls were also 26 times less likely to use drugs, nearly nine times less likely to smoke, and three times as likely to abstain from alcohol. Some 800 girls were involved in this comparison.

The Best Friends program serves 24 cities in 15 states and recently won a three-year federal abstinence grant. It does not teach girls about contraception. Now in its 18th year, it uses school-based curricula, fitness classes, mentoring, role models and community service to help girls make healthy choices during adolescence. A companion program for boys, called Best Men, began in 2000.

Heritage studies 
Abstinence programs are more effective at reducing early sexual activity than programs that discuss the use of contraception, according to a February study by the Heritage Foundation. The foundation also disputes a recent Yale-Columbia analysis concluding that teenagers who pledge to abstain from sex before marriage contract venereal diseases at rates similar to those of nonpledgers.

In June, Heritage released a study reanalyzing the same federal data examined by the Yale-Columbia analysis and concluding that virginity pledgers were 25% less likely to have sexually transmitted diseases as young adults than nonpledgers from similar socioeconomic backgrounds.

In a March 5 letter to the Washington Times, Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary Wade F. Horn wrote, "At least 10 published studies — four in scientific peer-reviewed journals — have shown that [abstinence] education helps youth delay the onset of sexual activity."

Montana maneuvering 
Notwithstanding the demonstrated success of abstinence programs, Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer plans to terminate a statewide abstinence council credited with helping lower the state's high teen pregnancy rate, and is turning down federal funds to promote abstinence to Montana teens, the Family Research Council reports.

Another Montana elected official, U.S. Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), is reportedly preparing legislation that would result in the end of federal abstinence-education programs.


 
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