Tuesday, February 24, 2009

New Report Sharply Criticizes Sex Education In Texas Schools

According to a report (PDF Full/Summary) released Wednesday by the Texas Freedom Network a majority of Texas schools use scare tactics and teach false information in their sex education classes. TFN's two-year study of education materials from 990 Texas school districts showed that about 94 percent of public schools use abstinence-only programs that usually pass moral judgments while giving inaccurate information on contraception and health screenings or ignoring the subjects altogether.

The report, written by David Wiley, professor of health education at Texas State University, and Kelly Wilson, assistant professor of health education at Texas State, concludes that school administrators' fear of controversy and retaliation from religious groups is a primary factor behind their reluctance to program accurate and more comprehensive sex education curricula. Wiley and Wilson analyzed curricula and district policies obtained from most of Texas’ 1,031 public school districts through requests under the Texas Public Information Act. Their report finds that most Texas students receive no instruction about human sexuality apart from the promotion of shaming and fear-based sexual abstinence instruction that often includes inaccurate or no information about contraception methods that prevent disease transmission and pregnancy.

Wiley and Wilson also found that many Texas public schools mix religious instruction and Bible study into sex education programs. "Hardly a page can be found that does not include multiple references to Bible verses, invocation of Christian principles, even attempts to proselytize students with the Christian plan of salvation," the report states about one program called "Wonderful Days" used by three districts in the Fort Worth area.

Kathy Miller's news conference
announcing the report
Kathy Miller, president of the Freedom Network’s Education Fund, said in a news conference announcing the report that "we must stop burying our heads in the sand about high teen birth and STD rates and make sure young people get the medically accurate information they need to protect their health. . ." Texas continues to have one of the nation's highest teen pregnancy rates despite receiving more federal abstinence funding than any other state. (Watch TFN's "Sex Ed...Texas Style" videos)

According to the Texas Department of State Health Services (TDSHS) a Texas teen gets pregnant every 10 minutes. Texas Medicaid paid for 173,226 deliveries in Texas last year, at an estimated total cost of $420 million. Approximately 10% of these deliveries were to teen mothers aged-13-17, at a cost of $41 million. To lower unplanned teen pregnancy rates, older children must be told more about sex than "just say no." It is a documented fact that comprehensive sex education and family planning programs do lower unplanned pregnancy rates among all age groups.

Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, has called the federally funded abstinence-only program "an utter failure that has wasted more than $1.5 billion" over the past decade. Abstinence-only sex-education programs receive about $176 million each year in federal funding. "The United States is facing a teen-pregnancy health-care crisis, and the national policy of abstinence-only programs just isn't working. It is time for everyone who cares about teenagers to start focusing on the common-sense solutions that will help solve this problem," says Richards.

After falling steadily for more than a decade, the birth rate for American teenagers again started to increase in a sharp reversal as the Bush Administration and Republican controlled congresses increased federal funding and focused emphasis on abstinence-only sex education programs.

The teen birth rate rose by 3 percent between 2005 and 2006 among 15-to-19-year-old girls, after plummeting 34 percent between 1991 and 2005, according to National Center for Health Statistics. After the teen birth rate rose sharply between 1986 and 1991, hitting an all-time high of 61.8 births per 1,000 girls, a massive comprehensive sex education campaign countered that trend and teen pregnancies plummeted between the 1990s and 2005.

Like other critics, Cecile Richards notes that several major studies find no evidence that abstinence-only programs successfully deter teen sex and pregnancies. The most recent study, a large federal 2008 survey, again confirms previous studies in its finding that, "taking a pledge doesn't seem to make any difference at all in any sexual behavior, but it does seem to make a difference in condom use and other forms of birth control that is quite striking," according to Janet E. Rosenbaum of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Ms. Rosenbaum's report, that appears in the January issue of the journal Pediatrics, highlights that:
Teenagers who receive abstinence-only sex education and pledge to remain virgins until marriage are just as likely to have premarital sex as those who do not promise abstinence and are significantly less likely to use condoms and other forms of birth control when they do, according to a large federal survey released last month.

More than half of youths became sexually active before marriage regardless of whether they had taken a "virginity pledge," but the percentage who practice precautions against pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases was 10 points lower for those receiving abstinence-only education and making abstinence pledges.
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