Thursday, January 16, 2003

A California woman has asked public school officials to end an abstinence-only program because the abortion information is too graphic, while Texas parents fight administrators to include more sexual-behavior information in their local school’s eighth-grade curriculum.
Lately, school officials are facing a wide range of challenges involving the long-standing debate on how sex education should be taught. Both school and health officials say they have seen a surge in parents filing complaints.
Officials with the New York-based Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States attributed the rise to an increase in parental involvement.
“Parents are suddenly seeing what their kids are learning, and they’re realizing that the content is so much different from what they had anticipated,” said Adrienne Verrilli, a spokeswoman for SIECUS. “It’s mostly a delayed reaction.”
Most complaints say comprehensive sex-ed programs are too “graphic.”
“Sex education is not what it used to be 10, 20 or 30 years ago,” said Brad Dacus, a lawyer and president of the California-based Pacific Justice Institute, a nonprofit legal-defense organization that represents parents’ rights in public education. “Before, sex ed was very biological in nature. Today, sex ed is taught with the presumption and implied approval of pre-marital sex by minors.”
But complaints come from both sides of the debate. Parents who support a comprehensive sex-ed curriculum are upset because topics, such as abortion, are “too graphic” and other information is misleading or inaccurate.
The case in Concord, Calif. involves a mother of a middle school student who is calling for an end to the school’s “CryBabies” program. She said the program is run by an organization that operates pregnancy counseling centers with a reputation for being anti-abortion. The materials used in the class, the mother said, are biased.
Parents who support abstinence-only programs are concerned that children who attend comprehensive sex-ed classes are being taught a curriculum condoning sex outside of marriage.
Cathie Adams of the Texas Eagle Forum said sex ed has become a channel for the homosexual community to promote its lifestyle. Miss Adams, president of the Dallas-based pro-family group, said parents must get involved to stop the teaching of “perverse and unnatural practices.”
“Children only need to hear the absolute standard of truth, based upon God’s truth,” Miss Adams said. “This is an example of the aggressive nature of the homosexual community’s agenda.”
Miss Adams’ group is following a case near Austin, Texas, where parents are fighting Leander Independent School District officials who want to add discussions about anal and oral sex into the eighth-grade sex-ed curriculum. A school-district spokesman said those topics need to be addressed in the curriculum “because they are health issues.”
Still, Mr. Dacus argues the increase in complaints could be a signal that parents are getting tired of schools trampling on what they consider their rights.
A family in Oregon recently considered suing a high school district in Roseburg because the parents could not review the sex-ed curriculum before it was taught in class. Parents have the right to review course material to make sure it doesn’t offend their beliefs, Mr. Dacus said.
Mr. Dacus said his organization has seen a 220 percent increase in complaints filed against public school systems, mostly on the West Coast, since 2001.
“One of public education’s elitist philosophies is that the schools are the experts and that parents should be kept out of the way,” he said.
About 95 percent of public high schools offer courses on sexuality or HIV. A third of those schools teach an “abstinence-only” program, according to the California-based Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit national health-care group.
National surveys show 81 percent of Americans want schools to teach abstinence and give teenagers enough information to help prevent unplanned pregnancies and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, according to a survey conducted last March for the Kaiser Foundation.

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