Where Did the Sex (Ed) Go?

Parents upset abstinence-only education taught in 4J schools

Abstinence-only education has been proven not to work. Study after study reveals that abstinence-only education as a state policy is ineffective in preventing teenage pregnancy and may actually be contributing to the high teenage pregnancy rates in the U.S.

So some parents at Roosevelt Middle School in the Eugene School District 4J were livid when they found out that an abstinence-only crisis pregnancy center, Dove Medical, had been teaching sexual education to their kids.

Roosevelt parent Nadine Batya says sex ed has not been taught for four years at Roosevelt, and she adds, of the current controversy, “faith-based abstinence lectures are unacceptable.”

She says her son was told in a lecture to “pass up all amusement parks until he gets to Disneyland” because “if you wait you will get the better ride.”

Batya was one of the parents who contacted Roosevelt Principal Eric Anderson about Dove Medical, and she says this is the latest issue after sexual education has been lacking at the school.

Batya says that 4J adopted the Our Whole Lives (OWL) curriculum for sex ed two years ago, and wants to know why it is not being followed at Roosevelt.

According to Planned Parenthood, OWL is “comprehensive lifespan sex education that equips participants with knowledge and skills to make decisions about their sexual health and behaviors.” And though it was developed “by two religious organizations, Our Whole Lives contains no religious references or doctrine.”

A petition from the Young Democrats of Lane County is now circulating via Google Doc that says, “Between February 23 and March 5, Dove Medical has taught abstinence-only education to students at Roosevelt Middle School, Churchill High School, North Eugene High School, and South Eugene High School.” The petition “demand[s] that 4J follow state law, and cancel any future presentations scheduled by DOVE Medical, and instead invite provide a health education curriculum that informs students on evidence-based practices.”

As of 6 pm March 7, more than 600 people had signed the petition.

Roosevelt parent Diana Wells writes in an email to Anderson that she is “deeply disturbed that a conservative, faith-based group was asked to ‘teach’ our kids the important topic of sex education. Why were they asked to present at a progressive, non-religious public school? Who made this decision to invite them?”

Wells writes that her daughter said that her class talked about “abstinence and the need for the ‘right’ kind of friends to help you make the ‘right decisions.’” And her daughter told that “being independent can sometimes be ‘dangerous,’” which, she says, completely confused her daughter.

Eugene 4J spokesperson Kerry Delf says in a statement that it is a misapprehension that students were being taught abstinence-only education.  She says, ”In no case do 4J schools provide abstinence-only sex education.”

Delf says  Dove was among several guest speakers supplementing student learning.

She concludes, “While parents normally receive prior notice about curriculum and guest speakers related to human sexuality, and have the opportunity to have their child excused from that portion of the class, unfortunately in this case parents were not notified in advance of the specific speakers addressing topics noted in the health course syllabus. The school will work to ensure better advance communication in the future.”

The entire statement from 4J is below.

In a statement sent to parents Thursday night, Anderson said he also heard concern from some parents about Planned Parenthood giving a talk. He also said he sat in on the second day of Dove’s presentation and “What I observed in the presentation were age-appropriate, standards-aligned conversations about the importance of thinking when making decisions, how to avoid pressuring others or being pressured into doing something you are not ready to do, allowing students to share their thoughts about what they think independence means, and affirming that the right choice to make is the one that feels right to each individual.”

Dirk Weishaar of Dove Medical’s outreach team said he had not yet seen the petition and clarified the group prefers the description “sexual risk avoidance education.” He says “Dove Medical, an accredited medical clinic specializing in pregnancy diagnosis, concurs with the statement released by the Eugene 4J School District.”

Weishaar posted a video of students discussing a recent presentation at Roosevelt on his Twitter feed.

State Rep. Marty Wilde gave a remonstrance before the Oregon House after he says his daughter was taught abstinence-only by Dove Medical this week. The education is “directly contrary to the intent of Oregon law,” he said, and added that such education exists to limit choice.

Batya says when it comes to sex ed, “I want to think there is a formal program beyond what’s happening in the locker room, on social media and what I’m discussing at my dinner table or what someone is discussing at theirs.”

She says the goal is not to target a particular individual but rather to address what she says as a systematic problem. Batya says Planned Parenthood came in to talk about sexually transmitted infections but the school is not doing enough.

“I don’t know what it’s going to take,” she asks, “a syphilis outbreak or pregnancy?”

It is not acceptable, Batya says, to send students to 9th grade after three years in middle school with little to no sex ed to be among older sexually active teenagers. “I went my child to learn one thing in middle school,” Batya says, “the power of consent.”

Here is the full statement from 4J.

The school and district also have received a number of emails and phone calls about this misapprehension in the past 24 hours.

Schools in Eugene School District 4J provide age-appropriate, accurate, comprehensive human sexuality education, aligned with Oregon state standards. Our Whole Lives (OWL) is the district’s adopted sexuality education curriculum for middle and high school.

In no case do 4J schools provide abstinence-only sex education. Oregon state standards recognize abstinence as the safest way to prevent STIs and unintended pregnancy, but also provide for teaching students the knowledge and skills necessary to equip them to make healthy and safe decisions and engage in responsible sexual behavior.

Schools regularly supplement learning opportunities with guest speakers on relevant content areas. In health classes at Roosevelt Middle School this term, supplementing the sexuality curriculum taught by the health teacher, representatives from Planned Parenthood, HIV Alliance and Dove Medical Center have been scheduled to speak with students about specific aspects of health aligned with the curriculum.

Visiting community speakers are not presenting an abstinence-only message, as some have been concerned. Planned Parenthood presented information about consent, the use of contraception and making healthy decisions. HIV Alliance presented information about sexually transmitted infections and healthy decisions. Dove Medical Center spoke with students about healthy decision making skills, peer pressure and healthy boundaries.

While parents normally receive prior notice about curriculum and guest speakers related to human sexuality, and have the opportunity to have their child excused from that portion of the class, unfortunately in this case parents were not notified in advance of the specific speakers addressing topics noted in the health course syllabus. The school will work to ensure better advance communication in the future.