An Ohio parent is upset that their child was given inaccurate information about sexual health and unwanted pregnancy by the Pregnancy Care Center of Wayne County — a conservative faith-based organization — in their eighth grade family and consumer science class.
According to the parent, who wishes to remain anonymous, the Wooster High School student was told that marriage protects people from sexual transmitted infections, people shouldn’t have children until they are married, and that if someone is a survivor of incest or rape, they must either keep the child or give the child up for adoption.
The center also never acknowledged the existence of LGBT students during the presentation, which upset some of the LGBT students the eighth grader is friends with. It was the first time the student had been given any sexual health information in school.
“I am outraged, offended by what was presented to my [child],” the parent, who ended up contacting the American Atheists Legal Center for help pushing back against the pregnancy center, told ThinkProgress.
The parent complained to an associate principal, Andrew Bratcher, that there should have been notice that the center would speak to the class. Bratcher said it was an annual event. When the parent reached out to another associate principal, Nolan Wickard, to suggest that a representative from the Wooster Health Care Center — a Planned Parenthood clinic — should be brought in to present accurate medical information and offer more options for students facing unwanted pregnancies, he reportedly denied that request.
Principal Tyler Keener told ThinkProgress that the parent has been “very disgruntled with our city school district for quite some time,” and said the three statements in question were “taken out of context,” though he did acknowledge that the presentation didn’t cover issues related to the LGBT community.
Keener added that although the pregnancy care center presented the information, the center took the curriculum from the Alliance for Healthy Youth, which identifies as nonpartisan on its website. Looking through a sample of some of the seventh and eighth grade curricula, such as the “Responsible Social Values Program,” it’s clear that the group focuses on abstinence from sexual activity. Suggested materials for eight grade classes include an “abstinence is freedom” poster, and the website also lists objectives like “Create peer culture conducive to abstinence until marriage” and “Increase understanding of the benefits of marriage.”
It is not at all unusual for inaccurate information on sexual health and family planning to be presented to students by religious organizations.
In April, Congress allocated $25 million in funding for the Title V program, which gives matching grants to states that use abstinence-only programs. It was tucked into a bipartisan health policy bill and received little attention as a result. Crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), which provide misinformation and shame students about their sexual activity, have benefited from this funding. CPCs can apply to receive Title V grants if states don’t use the money — and even if schools do take the funding for abstinence-only classes, these centers are often allowed to speak in schools to further their message, so either way, the funding is a win-win.
It’s important to note that abstinence-only education doesn’t accomplish its aim. Research throughout the years shows that abstinence-only education doesn’t result in more students delaying sex. The programs also further antiquated notions about gender roles, suggesting the responsibility of stopping sexual activity is on women, not men, which feeds into the idea that women are responsible for their own rapes if they engage in foreplay or wear certain items of clothing. These programs also generally ignore LGBT students completely. Studies show that the acknowledgement and support of LGBT students in schools goes a long way toward mitigating problems such as depression and low self-esteem that LGBT students often face.
Just like what’s happening in Wooster, Ohio, some parents are fighting back. One Michigan parent, Alice Dreger, a well-known author, took to social media earlier this year to live-tweet her son’s sex education class — which had an abstinence-only bent, provided misinformation, and shamed girls who said “yes” to any sexual activity. The group hired to present the information, Sexually Mature Aware Responsible Teens, had ties to right wing crisis pregnancy centers. After her tweets, and the subsequent media attention, the East Lansing School board said it would stop the group from presenting to students again, according to the Detroit Free Press.