You might assume that high-school-aged kids in a sex education class would learn all about fundamentals like condoms, birth control pills and the treatments for STDs. Not so in the Clovis Unified School District in California. Parents, physicians, and the ACLU just sued the district. They allege their schools are teaching students harmful misinformation in order to push an abstinence-only curriculum, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
The agency contends that the sex ed textbook used in Clovis' schools does not include a single mention of condoms― even in chapters focusing on the prevention of HIV/AIDS, STDs and unwanted pregnancies. Instead, the book’s preventative advice includes respecting yourself, getting plenty of rest, going out in groups, and practicing abstinence.
It also allegedly compares a woman who is not a virgin to an "old dirty shoe," and warns that men are incapable of stopping themselves once they become sexually aroused.
According to the suit, the core lesson offered is that all people, even adults, should avoid all sexual activity until they’re married.
If these allegations are true, then according to the Los Angeles Times, Clovis sex ed classes violate California state laws. They mandate public schools' sex education programs must be comprehensive, medically accurate, bias-free and appropriate for students of all sexual orientations.
Beliefs about teenage morality aside, failing to provide accurate medical information to students puts their health at risk. As Aubree Smith, a mother to a 17-year-old girl at Clovis High School explained to the Los Angeles Times, "As a nurse and parent, it is heartbreaking to see young people's health compromised." She says she joined the lawsuit after two years of unanswered efforts to change the district's curriculum.
The Raw Story reports that though the U.S. is currently enjoying a steady decline in teen pregnancy rates, states that teach abstinence-only education are showing the highest numbers of underage pregnancies. Similarly, the ACLU reports that in California, though statewide rates are dropping, they’re soaring in four rural areas, one of them being the Clovis Unified School District.
A 2007 federal report showed that abstinence-only programs had “no impacts on rates of sexual abstinence,” according to an article on ThinkProgressHealth, while the Guttmacher Institute reports this type of curriculum seems to deter students not from having sex, but from using any contraception during sexual activity.
The district has not yet offered any specific commentary in response to these allegations.
Would you fight for or against abstinence-only education in your child’s school?