What’s Up With Sex Ed?

Parents upset abstinence-only education taught in 4J schools

Telling kids not to have sex has been proven not to work. Study after study reveals that abstinence-only sex education is ineffective in preventing teenage pregnancy and may contribute to higher 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 sex ed to their kids.

The furor kicked off when state Rep. Marty Wilde gave a remonstrance on the House floor March 5, objecting to the abstinence-only education he says his daughter received, calling it “directly contrary to the intent of Oregon law.”

Eugene 4J board candidate Martina Shabram, who is also an educator with Planned Parenthood, brought up the Dove Medical issue the next day at a school board meeting. She said in her statement to the board that Dove Medical’s “Stop and Think” program about making “the right choice”  offers information only on the choice to abstain.

Parent Nadine Batya contacted Roosevelt Principal Eric Anderson about Dove Medical. She tells Eugene Weekly that “faith-based abstinence lectures are unacceptable.”

Batya says Dove told her son’s class to “pass up all amusement parks until he gets to Disneyland” because “if you wait you will get the better ride.”

Batya says 4J adopted the Our Whole Lives (OWL) curriculum for sex ed, and she wants to know why it is not being followed at Roosevelt. OWL describes itself as “comprehensive, lifespan sexuality education curricula for use in both secular settings and faith communities.”

Jane Brinkley, leader of the South Eugene High School feminist union, wrote a petition against Dove Medical teaching sex ed in 4J schools for the Young Democrats of Lane County. The petition is circulating via Google Doc and had 1,600 signatures in less than a week.

The petition “demand[s] that 4J follow state law, and cancel any future presentations scheduled by DOVE Medical, and instead provide a health education curriculum that informs students on evidence-based practices.”

Eugene 4J spokesperson Kerry Delf says in a statement that it is a misapprehension that students were being taught abstinence-only education. Delf says Dove was among several guest speakers supplementing student learning.

The 4J statement 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 statement says that the school will work to “ensure better advance communication in the future.”

In a similar statement sent to parents the night of March 7, Anderson said some parents were also “distressed” about Planned Parenthood giving a talk, but doesn’t explain why. He said he sat in on the second day of Dove’s presentations and it was “age-appropriate, standards-aligned conversations” about thinking about decisions, peer pressure and choices.

Dirk Weishaar of Dove Medical’s outreach team said the group prefers the description “sexual risk avoidance education” and that “Dove Medical, an accredited medical clinic specializing in pregnancy diagnosis, concurs with the statement released by the Eugene 4J School District.”

Batya says the school needs to address what she says is a systematic problem when it comes to sex ed. “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 want my child to learn one thing in middle school,” Batya says. “The power of consent.”

A longer version of this story with the full statement from Eugene 4J is here.