By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
Parents of middle and high school students who’ve been hustling about to buy what they need to head back to school may want to hustle in another direction to find out exactly what they’ll be learning there, especially since lawmakers passed the Healthy Youth Act to expand sex education.
“The slogan used to be ‘It’s 11 p.m., do you know where your children are?’ But this fall, it should be ‘It’s time for sex-ed, do you know what your kids are being taught?'” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “We can’t stress enough how important it is for Christian Moms and Dads to preview whatever curriculum their school system has chosen and then, if it doesn’t line up with their beliefs, to take steps to opt their kids out.”
After heated debate and much political wrangling, lawmakers passed a version of the Healthy Youth Act in June 2009 which changes “Abstinence-Until-Marriage Education” to “Reproductive Health and Safety Education” and mandates that schools include information on sexually transmitted diseases and all FDA-approved contraceptive methods, including the morning-after pill.
“The good news is that the Abstinence Until Marriage aspects of the 1995 sex-ed law remain intact, so whatever curriculum is used, students should still be taught that ‘abstinence from sexual activity outside of marriage is the expected standard for all school-age children,'” said the Rev. Creech, who was most instrumental in retaining the AUM standard. “The bad news is that schools may choose a curriculum that not only discusses various birth control options and their effectiveness or failure rates, but promotes them more than abstinence.”
There are also provisions in the law that call for materials to be “accepted by professionals and credentialed experts in the field of sexual health education,” a portion that may cause some to question who is a “professional” or a “credentialed expert” and may have some school officials believing they have to throw open their doors to organizations such as Planned Parenthood or NARAL Pro-Choice America, which promote and/or profit from abortion, or homosexual groups who have been at the forefront of the Comprehensive Sex Education (CSE) movement.
That simply isn’t the case, according to the Christian Life and Public Affairs Committee of the Baptist State Convention (BSC) of North Carolina, who has been networking with school officials across the state to help them determine how best to meet the criteria of the new law.
“Depending on what you have been using in your schools, your current curriculum could meet all or most of the requirements in the amended law,” pointed out Traci Griggs, with the BSC, in a letter to principals and superintendents last spring. “Good abstinence curricula have always used medically accurate information and statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and other credible sources. Good abstinence curricula have always taught about sexually transmitted diseases, sexual assault awareness and birth control failure rates.”
She said some systems may need to supplement with more detailed birth control information to meet the mandate to teach about “all FDA-approved contraceptive methods,” but warned against CSE curricula that often give “‘a wink and a nod’ to abstinence, after which, much of the time is spent on how to experiment with sex safely.”
The BSC recommended that school systems start their search with one of two curricula — Relationships Under Construction and TeenAid — both multi-grade, medically accurate programs that teach strategies and facts that encourage abstinence until marriage. The committee also suggested that school systems think long and hard about who will teach sex ed.
“Abortion providers, those who are financially linked to abortion providers and some ‘family planning’ clinics may benefit from teaching a philosophy that encourages sexual activity,” Griggs’ letter warned. “Our middle school and high school students need to hear the abstinence message and they need to hear it from people who sincerely believe it and can give concrete and practical ways to attain this standard.”
Now that school systems already have sex-ed plans in place, it’s up to parents to determine what the Healthy Youth Act will mean for their children.
Parents have two specific rights in regards to the new law — the right to view the curriculum before it is taught during a 60-day viewing period and the right to withhold consent for their child to attend the sex-ed classes.
Alicia Jones, with the Baptist State Convention, said parents have a variety of opinions about what sex-ed classes should teach.
According to Heritage Foundation’s article on “What Parents Want Taught in Sex Education Programs,” some 44 percent believe that teaching about abstinence is more important than teaching about contraception; another 41 percent say abstinence and contraception should be given equal emphasis. Only 8 percent believe teaching about contraception is more important than teaching about abstinence.
“You as a parent must decide what is best for your child’s education and take action to make it happen,” Jones wrote in a letter to parents across the state this month. “Stay informed!”
The Rev. Creech echoed Jones’ advice and gave these specific suggestions for parents who are previewing curricula.
1) For a look at the overall school system requirements for Reproductive Health and Safety Education, go to www.ncpublicschools.org and click on K-12 Curricula. Under Curriculum Area, click on Healthful Living and then the link under 2006 Standard Course of Study. Scroll down to the 45th page of the document (numbered page 41). Notice after the 12 requirements, the caveat that “Each local school board may expand on the subject areas to be included in the program and on the instructional objectives to be met.” This is why it’s important to find out exactly what will be taught at your child’s school.
2) Contact your child’s school for details on the 60-day curriculum viewing period, which the school may or may not publicize. When you preview curriculum at the school level, don’t just skim over objectives, ask to see actual classroom materials, which unfortunately may include passages that endorse adolescent sexual activity and present homosexuality as normal. For example, the CSE curriculum Focus on Kids, tells instructors: “When discussing ‘Don’t have sex,’ be sure to help youth identify … different ways to please a partner without sex (e.g., kissing, rubbing, mutual masturbation).” Reducing the Risk, a curriculum that has been used in Chapel Hill, presents scenarios involving same-sex partners for students to act out.
3) Ask school officials who will be presenting their sex-ed curriculum. Will they bring in organizations such as Planned Parenthood, NARAL or GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) to present portions? If so, you can bet that abstinence until marriage will not be the focus. Run, don’t walk, to opt your child out.
4) Take advantage of this time as classes get under way to consider what you are teaching your children at home about the intimacy of a sexual relationship and how it fits into the larger context of God’s plan for marriage.
“Conversations on this topic with your children may start out uncomfortable, but they can be invaluable in a young person’s development,” Creech said. “As Christians, we are charged to teach our children the ways of the Lord in every aspect of life and bowing out of this important area or simply assuming that we can rely on the public schools to teach sex-ed appropriately without even examining curriculum is not an option.”
To find out more about the Healthy Youth Act and all its implications, see the North Carolina Family Policy Council’s analysis at http://www.ncfamily.org/FNC/0910SF.html. Another helpful Web site on the topic can be found at http://blog.ncbaptist.org/healthyyouthact/.