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A controversial decade: 10 years of tracking debates around sexuality education.

In 1992 the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) began the Community Advocacy Project in an effort to help communities respond to an increase in controversies surrounding sexuality education. The goals of the project were two-fold: first, to provide technical assistance to communities experiencing controversy and second, to track controversies around the country in order to gain perspective on trends.

In that time, SIECUS has seen numerous communities struggle with controversies over sexuality education. The majority of controversies involve attempts to restrict what students learn by adopting strict abstinence-only-untilmarriage programs, censoring books or materials, limiting discussions, or instituting administrative roadblocks.

After a decade of tracking controversy, SIECUS has amassed a great deal of information that can help advocates understand the landscape of sexuality education, gain historical perspective, and learn important lessons that can advance comprehensive sexuality education now and in the future.


Clearly, the most dramatic trend we have seen in this last decade is the rise of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. When SIECUS began the Community Advocacy Project in 1992, the federal government spent a very small amount of money each year on these experimental programs, a few home-grown organizations distributed fear- and shame-based curricula, a handful of communities across the country had adopted such programs, and chastity rallies were still the exclusive province of faith-based communities.

Today, the federal government spends over $100 million dollars each year on these programs, abstinence only-until-marriage organizations represent a multi-million dollar business worldwide, and students in numerous communities are exposed to fear-and shame-based curricula, abstinence-only assemblies and presentations, and chastity rallies on school grounds.

As a result of this dramatic shift in the last 10 years, SIECUS has tracked numerous debates focused on whether students should receive an abstinence-only-until-marriage message.

Classic Controversies

The classic controversy usually begins when a small but vocal minority of parents approaches the school board asking them to adopt a strict, abstinence-only-until-marriage program. In some cases this program is meant to replace a comprehensive sexuality education curriculum that is already in place, while in other communities no sexuality program exists at the time.

Abstinence Finds Its Way into Communities. In 1993, the Vista, CA school board voted to replace Values and Choices, a comprehensive sexuality education curriculum, with the fear- and shame-based, abstinence-only-until-marriage curriculum Sex" Respect. (1) A similar decision was made during the 1997-98 school year in Hendersonville, NC when the school board voted to replace the local curriculum with Teen Aid, also a fear-based, abstinence-only-until-marriage program. The board did allow teachers to use additional lessons from the old curriculum but said that they could only teach about the use of contraception within the context of marriage. (2)

In i999, Taunton, MA became divided on how to approach sexuality education with their students. The Health Curriculum Advisory Board approved revisions to the curriculum that would change the focus of health classes from pregnancy and disease prevention to abstinence-only-until-marriage. At a heated community forum, a physician from the National Consortium of State Physician's Resource Councils, a national opponent of comprehensive sexuality education, told parents "HIV is an adult fear not a child fear. When you teach it to ninth graders, you are impinging on their latency period." The community voted on a curriculum that would put a priority on teaching abstinence while also clearly communicating the risks associated with both sexual activity and the use of contraceptives 3

Parents and educators in Pinnoconning, MI have debated sexuality education many times over the last decade. In 1999 the school board voted to adopt Safer Choices, an abstinence-based curriculum. Some parents objected saying that references to vaginal, anal, and oral intercourse as well as condom use made the curriculum too explicit. One parent said that it "read like a how-to manual on how to be perverse." (4) In response the board reexamined the issue. The following year they chose No Apologies--The Truth about Life, Love, and Sex, a fearbased, abstinence-only-until-marriage curriculum published by Focus oil the Family. When parents criticized this choice for being too restrictive, the president of the board said simply that if parents disagree they can take their children out of class. (5)

States Mandate Abstinence. As abstinence-only-until-marriage programs gamed popularity, a number of states began to weigh in on how schools should teach about sexuality. Virginia, Ohio, Missouri, and New Jersey, for example, passed laws requiring schools to stress abstinence. Missouri's law states that sexuality education in public school must present abstinence as the preferred choice of sexual behavior for unmarried students, discuss the consequences of adolescent sexual activity', and inform students of the advantages of adoption/' Ohio's law adds that curricula must cover state laws on the financial responsibilities of parents and the restriction for people over the age of 17 from having sexual contact with those under age 17.7

A statewide controversy in Nebraska began, not with legislation, but with a new rule passed by" the board of education in 1997.The policy stated that any program receiving state funds must teach abstinence from sexual activity as the only appropriate option for students. (8) Initially, however, there was an understanding that the statewide HIV-prevention education program supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was exempt from this rule. Educators and health professionals agreed that it would be impossible to provide effective HIV-prevention education without mentioning prevention methods other than abstinence, such as condoms.

When this exemption was brought to the attention of some board of education members in 2000, they asked the coordinator of the program to draft and defend a policy officially exempting her program from the abstinence-only approach. Despite testimony from numerous experts, parents, and people living with HIV/AIDS, the board rejected the proposal and demanded that the program follow a strict abstinence-only-until-marriage approach. In response to this ruling, the Department of Education declared that they could not find any secular materials that followed the abstinence-only-until-marriage dictate without discussing condoms or other birth control options. The commissioner, therefore, decided that the department would make no attempt to renew the CDC grant when it expired. This decision meant that the department would no longer offer the H|V-prevention trainings and programs for teachers and school districts sponsored by the grant. (9)

Some Communities Abstain

Despite the clear rise in the popularity of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, not all states and communities have given in to the pressure to support this kind of message. As early as 1994, communities were resisting. That year a speaker from the Medical Institute for Sexual Health, a national abstinence-only-until-marriage organization, tried to persuade parents and school board members in Colchester, VT to adopt an abstinence-only until-marriage program. A number of parents in the community, however, joined together to build support for comprehensive sexuality education and won with a 4-1 vote. (10) In 1997, parents in Pembroke, NH became upset about a classroom discussion on safer sex and asked the school board to replace the existing program with the Responsible Sexual Values Program, a fear-based, abstinence-only-until-marriage curriculum. The board rejected this proposal on the grounds that it would violate New Hampshire law, which requires schools to teach about contraception. (11) That same year, a unanimous vote in Middletown, WI rejected the proposal of parents who had asked for a stricter program because they felt that abstinence was not receiving enough attention. (12)

In 1998, the Idaho Springs, CO school board rejected WAIT (Why Am I Tempted) Training, a fear- and shame-based curriculum. At a board meeting, a teacher demonstrated an exercise from the program in which a goldfish is removed from its bowl and left gasping for air on the table until a student steps forward to return it to water. The exercise is meant to show that just as fish belong in water, sex belongs in marriage. The teacher explained that the program also discusses male/female anatomy, birth control methods, and STDs, and shows pictures of aborted fetuses. The school board president was outraged by this program which she called "sexist, racist, and very judgmental." She pointed to inaccurate statistics and explained that abstinence-only-until-marriage programs ignored gay students. (13) In 2003, the school board in Santa Ana, CA made a similar decision when they voted to reject A.C. Green's Game Plan, a fearbased curriculum produced by Project Reality, because it did not meet state requirements. (14)

Although abstinence-only-until-marriage programs continue to enter many communities without debate, it is heartening to find that when communities are forced to take a close look, many choose not to expose students to fear- and shame-based messages or deny youth the vital information found in comprehensive sexuality education curricula.

Dual-Track as a Compromise

Communities that are considering whether to provide a comprehensive sexuality education curricula or an abstinence-only-until-marriage program often entertain proposals to create a dual track system. Under such a system, a school district provides at least two options for sexuality education--typically one option is abstinence-based and provides information on contraception and disease-prevention while the other is a strict abstinence-only-until-marriage program. Parents then choose the course in which to enroll their child.

As early as the 1993-94 school year, SIECUS began to see debates about dual track systems. These systems can be viewed as a compromise solution when a sharply divided community cannot agree on its approach to sexuality education, or as a last ditch attempt to bring abstinence-only-until-marriage programs to schools or students. Parents ill Little Falls, MN began offering Sex Respect, a fear-based, abstinence-only-until-marriage program, privately in the evenings after an unsuccessful attempt to bring it to the schools in 1994. (15) During the 2000-01 school year this private program was being advertised in the local paper and made available during school hours for those seventh grade students who had "opted-out" of the school-based sexuality education program. (16) A similar system emerged in Fenton, MI during the 1996 97 school year. A group of parents were unsuccessful ill their efforts to challenge the district's comprehensive sexuality education curriculum. Ill response they set up an alternative abstinence-only-until marriage program in a nearby church. Children were transported to the church during school hours for the program. (17)

A small group of parents in Osseo, MN worked for two years to replace the existing sexuality education curriculum with a strict abstinence-only-until-marriage program. When these attempts failed, they began to push the idea of a dual track system.

After the school board agreed to try this approach in 1998, many local and national organizations took an interest ill the success of the abstinence-only-until-marriage track. Three area churches held Parents' Nights designed to support the new program. The events featured presentations by national abstinence-only-until-marriage speaker Pare Stenzel and Focus on the Family employee Amy Stephens. Focus on the Family, a national organization that opposes comprehensive sexuality education, also provided materials. In addition, a Minnesota state representative sent a letter to all parents in his district highly recommending the abstinence-only-until-marriage program even though it had not yet been developed. IS

In response to the situation in Osseo, Peter Brandt, then-director of the National Coalition for Abstinence Education said: "This has national significance.., having two tracks is a really exciting new idea. It's unique and we think it's magnificent." (19)

At the time, SIECUS observed that proponents of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs seemed heavily vested ill the success of Osseo's program. We suggested that they might see this as a new approach and reasoned that we might see more attempts for dual track programs in the future. However, this has not happened. During the last few school years we have seen few debates over dual track systems and very few communities actually adopt them.

There are several explanations for this stagnation. Some communities have had problems with dual track systems over the years. During the 1994-95 school year, Riverton, WY, for example, noted that most students took the comprehensive sexuality education course and that more students enrolled in neither course than the abstinence-only-until-marriage program. (20) In addition, lack of resources and administrative issues make dual track systems more difficult to maintain.

Unfortunately, the real reason for the decline in dual track systems may be that proponents of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs have found simpler ways to bring their message to students such as school assemblies and chastity rallies. In many communities, these events don't require school board approval and receive little publicity-therefore, they" rarely lead to controversy.

Nonetheless, dual track systems remain an issue in sexuality education. This year, legislative language was introduced ill Minnesota that would have required all school districts to offer dual tracks for sexuality education, one of which would have had to be limited to abstinence. The language was part of a larger omnibus bill and was later removed when it became clear that it would not pass in the Senate. (21)

Funding Controversies

Given the amount of money that is available for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs each year, it is not surprising that many debates around this topic focus, at least in part, on the funding. In 1996, the federal government substantially increased its investment in abstinence-only-until-marriage programs by establishing an entitlement program under Welfare Reform. When this money first became available, SIECUS saw a number of state- and community-based controversies about the funds. These controversies have died down in recent years and for the most part the money is distributed without issue.

States Battle Over Money. In 1999, lawmakers in Oregon cut $151,000 from STARS (Students Today Are Not Ready for Sex), a program that uses peer educators to teach the benefits of abstinence to younger teenagers. Some decisionmakers in the state felt that the program did not place enough emphasis on marriage because it tells students to abstain from sexual activity until they are ready but does not "define what ready means and doesn't equate it to being married.(22)

Louisiana's abstinence-only-until-marriage program has been controversial since it began in 1997. Almost immediately the governor took the responsibility away from the health department and set the program up in his own office.23 The program then became the subject of a successful lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in which the court found it was wrongfully spending government money to promote religious messages.24 (See "Abstinence-Only Education in the Court," oil page 26)

South Carolina's program has also been controversial from the beginning, when in 1997, Governor David Beasley awarded all of the state's 1.3 million dollars in abstinence funding to Heritage Community Services, a crisis pregnancy center.2s This organization was also the subject of a local controversy in Greenville, SC when the County Council awarded it an abstinence-only-until-marriage grant without a competitive bidding process. After public outcry the grant was postponed, a competitive bidding process was conducted, and Heritage Community Services was once again awarded the grant. (26)

Despite Funds, Communities Reject Programs. In Charleston, SC the district's Academic Policies and Instruction Committee rejected the program offered by Heritage Community Services in 1998.They felt that students should also learn about birth control and disease prevention. 27 That same year, the Colorado Council of Black Nurses returned $16,000 of an abstinence-only-until-marriage grant they had received because they felt the message was not working in their community. The president of the organization explained, "It was just too restrictive. It did not teach students responsible sexual behavior." (28)

A heated battle occurred in McClennan County, TX during the 1997-98 school year. The McClennan County Coalition for Abstinence Programs (MCCAP) was specifically formed to bring a fear-based abstinence-only-until-marriage curriculum produced by Teen Aid to the 17 independent school districts in the area. While 16 districts accepted the program, the Waco Independent School District, the largest in the area, refused. The health advisory committee instead chose a curriculum that focused on abstinence hut included other information about sexuality, such as contraception. MCCAP tried to persuade the committee to change its mind but they held firm with a vote of 13-1. MCCAP then went to the assistant superintendent, the superintendent, and the school board and in the words of one parent "dangled a fully-funded curriculum in front of them like a carrot)' The district's ultimate decision to reject the program threatened to limit the funding of MCCAP who, without Waco students, could not reach the numbers of students promised in their grant. (29)

Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage in Practice

Decisions to adopt a full-scale abstinence-only-until-marriage curriculum, regardless of funding, are just one of the ways that these programs make their way into schools and communities across the country. Proponents of abstinence-only-until-marriage have found that, while curricula decisions often prompt community-wide debate, few people question abstinence speakers, onetime assemblies, and chastity rallies.

The Speaking Circuit. As early as 1994, SIECUS noted the emergence of a national circuit of abstinence-only-until-marriage speakers, including Pare Stenzel, Molly Kelly, Mike Long, and Marilyn Morris. These speakers address auditoriums full of middle and high school students across the country. During the 19992000 school year Pam Stenzel presented "The Price Tag of Sex" to students in Sarasota, FL, Cary, IL, Geneva, IL, Butler Township, OH, Rochester, MN, Paulsbo, WA, and others. (30) She told students in Whittier, CA: "I did not come here today to make decisions for you. 1 don't have time... I came here to tell you that if you have sex outside of a monogamous--and by monogamous I don't mean one at a time--relationship you will pay the price." (31) In Russellville, AR, Marilyn Morris, President of Aim for Success, discussed the "freedom" that comes with sexual abstinence. She and other Aim for Success speakers explained to students "your dog can have sex. It takes a strong person with self-control, self-discipline, and self-respect to say no." (32)

Chastity Rallies. Events during which young people pledge to remain abstinent until marriage were once the exclusive province of faith communities. In recent years, however, schools and other secular organizations have begun to sponsor such rallies.

In 1998, 8,000 students attended a chastity rally in Chicago, IL held during the school day and sponsored by Project Reality, an abstinence-only-until-marriage organization. Students carried signs with slogans such as "Save Sex" and "Teen Sex Leads to Death."(33) True Love Waits (TLW), a national organization run by LifeWay Christian Resources, which is owned and operated by the Southern Baptist Convention, sponsors rallies all over the country. In 1998, then-Governor George W. Bush attended a TLW rally on the steps of the Texas Capitol and commended the young people in attendance for their leadership.3a In 2000, more than 600 people attended a weekend TLW rally at Schuyler (NE) Central High School. Miss America 1997, Kate Shindle, spoke to the crowd and outlined four steps that young people ("especially girls") need to follow to remain abstinent until Biblical marriage. (35)

Communities Reject Programs. One-time presentations and chastity rallies are rarely controversial most likely because they do not require school board approval and often occur without much publicity. Some parents, however, become upset once they learn the content of these presentations. This was the case in Bradenton, FL when a mother learned of a presentation by Pare Stenzel at her daughter's school that she felt featured inaccurate statistics about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), exaggerated estimates of condom failure rates, and exhibited biases against abortion. The mother approached the school board and pointed to a Florida statute that requires all health education, including guest speakers, to be medically accurate. The board agreed not to invite the speaker again. (36) Ms. Stenzel was also at the center of a controversy in 2003 when the school board in Allentown, PA cancelled her presentation after members viewed her promotional video and found it to be too harsh and offensive. (37)

Advocates for comprehensive sexuality education need to pay close attention to speakers, assemblies, and rallies. Not only are they slipping quietly into schools across the country, but some communities view these one-time events as fulfilling their students' sexuality education needs.


The rise of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs is just one way that communities have restricted sexuality education in the last decade. While those controversies most often focus on the scope of the entire curricula, many communities spend time examining specific information and materials. These debates can center on the age of students; books and videos; controversial topics such as masturbation, abortion, oral sex, condoms, and sexual orientation; or classroom discussions and teachers.

Although the focus varies widely, they share the over-all goal of restricting what students are allowed to learn about sexuality.

Elementary Education

When SIECUS began tracking controversy in the early 1990s, we saw a number of debates that centered on sexuality education in elementary school. Many misconceptions exist about what such courses teach young children and many parents fear that elementary-aged students are too young to learn about sexuality.

Proposed updates and revisions to the elementary school curriculum in Westfield, NJ were rejected during the 1995-96 school year because community members feared that teaching fourth graders about HIV/AIDS would open the door for explicit discussions. (38) That same year, Schenectady, NY decided to wait until fifth grade to teach lessons on reproduction and puberty that had been previously taught in the third and fourth grade. (39) The following year, Sheboygan, WY voted to eliminate its K-3 sexuality education program against the advice of the Human Growth and Development Advisory Committee. The school board wanted proof that this type of education would prevent unplanned pregnancy and STDs later in life. (40)

Questions about how to teach sexuality in elementary school were at the heart of a statewide controversy which unfolded in Connecticut during the 1997-98 school year. That year, the Connecticut Department of Public Health revised its guidelines for teaching sexuality education in order to make them outcome-based. These curricula framework are brief outlines developed by the Department of Public Health and distributed to schools which are free to modify them.

Some parents and lawmakers became upset because the first draft of the guidelines suggested that second graders should understand animal reproduction and fourth graders should understand a simple definition of intercourse. Under political pressure, the guidelines were revised. The second draft upset health educators because all mention of HIV/AIDS had been removed and puberty education did not appear until eighth grade.

Health educators across the state formed a coalition and worked to build widespread support for a more comprehensive version of the guidelines. The final draft which was eventually adopted was widely considered by health educators to be even better than the first. It suggested that students learn about puberty in fourth grade and HIV/AIDS in fifth grade. In addition, the guidelines suggested that elementary school students receive lessons about biases based on sexual orientation. (41)

In recent years, however, we have seen far fewer controversies revolving around elementary school education. It is hard to say why this has occurred, but it seems that as opponents of comprehensive sexuality education focused less on removing courses from school and more on changing the focus to abstinence-until-marriage, they are spending most of their time working in middle schools and high schools. However, the focus on abstinence may soon trickle down to elementary schools as well. In 2002, the school board in Rochester, MI eliminated reproductive health and HIV/AIDS instruction from kindergarten through third grade and added "modesty" and "respect" as key concepts. In addition, they removed family planning and STD benchmarks (learning objectives) from the sixth grade curriculum and added abstinence. (42)

Classroom Material

Regardless of the students' age, communities take a great deal of time and care picking the materials that will be used in sexuality education classes. Nonetheless, materials that have made it into classrooms and libraries often become the subject of controversy.

Communities Ban Books. Over the years, a number of communities have grappled with issues of censorship around textbooks, children's books, and young adult novels. In Franklin County, NC parent volunteers removed three chapters of a text book in 1997 before distributing it to students. The chapters discussed HIV/AIDS, STDs, marriage, parenting, sexual behavior, and contraception. The school board feared that this information violated North Carolina law, which mandates that schools teach abstinence-until-marriage unless the local school board holds public hearings and the community agrees to a more comprehensive approach. Not everyone agreed that physically removing the chapters was the right decision, the principal referred to the action as "Shades of 1936 Germany" and the health coordinator said "We believe knowledge is empowerment. It's ignorance that's a problem. (43) A similar decision was made in Green County/Carmichaels, PA in 1998 when school officials ripped pages out of a newly approved textbook because they felt the subject was inappropriate. (44)

In 2000, parents in Anchorage, AK became upset about It's Perfectly Normal, an illustrated children's book by Robie Harris available in elementary and middle school libraries. One parent explained, "We do not believe a book with pictures of people having sex, naked bodies, people masturbating, people putting on condoms, a student having an erection in front of" a school class, or gay people hugging is necessary at the [elementary] school level." The school board voted 6-1 to restrict access in elementary schools by requiring parental consent before a student could check out the book. A request for a similar rule in middle school was denied. (45)

In fact, in recent years many requests to ban books have been denied. In 1999, a life science textbook in St. Johnsbury, VT was said to be explicit because two chapters dealt with body changes and reproduction. The principal suggested removing the problematic pages and binding them separately for older students. Although the board initially agreed, ultimately they voted not to remove the chapter for fear of setting a precedent for censorship. (46)

In 2003, in Riverside, CA, the board voted to approve the young adult novel Too Soon For left. This decision was opposed by, two members who felt the book did not reflect the high failure rate of condoms because the main character, a teen father himself, tells his own son to use condoms if he becomes sexually active. (47) In a similar vote, the school board in Fairfax, VA decided that the young adult novel Witch Baby, which deals with homosexuality, was indeed suitable for elementary and middle school students. (48) Finally, It's Perfectly Normal and It's So Amazing, two illustrated books by Robie Harris, were put back on the library shelf in Montgomery County, TX. After the Library Review Committee voted to remove the book, a coalition called Mainstream Montgomery County formed to fight such bans. The coalition felt that the library should provide a wide variety of books and parents should determine what is appropriate for their children to read. (49)

Although attempts to restrict access to books about sexuality are likely to continue, the decisions against censorship made in recent years are very encouraging.

Videos Deemed Not Fit for Viewing. Audiovisual materials used in sexuality education courses are often as controversial as books. Over the years, many communities have voted to restrict the videos shown to students.

In 1993, controversy erupted in the Lake Washington (WA) School District over a video called Considering Condoms. The Concerned Parents Coalition felt the film was not focused on abstinence, sanctioned teen sex, and minimized condom failure.The group threatened litigation but the school board voted to keep the video. (50) The opposite decision was made in Caribou, ME during the 1994-95 school year when the school board voted to eliminate two films about puberty, because they were "too graphic and made parents appear dumb and unaware of the changing times. (51)

Videos have been an issue a number of times in Fairfax, VA over the last few years. In 1997 parents objected to a puberty video that included animated segments depicting wet dreams, menstruation, and tampon insertion. The video was aired on local access cable to give the community a chance to form educated opinions. Based on community reaction, the board edited the video for viewing in gender-separated classes where children only see animation about their own gender. (52) During the 1999-2000 school year, Fairfax voted to alter a second video be' removing a segment that portrayed a father explaining nocturnal emissions to his son. Although the Family Life Education Curricula Advisory Committee felt the scene showed a positive example of parent/child communication and approved the video in its entirety, the superintendent suggested editing the video in order to be consistent with the earlier decision. (53)

As technology becomes more advanced and schools are able to use more audiovisual material in classrooms including DVDs and CD-ROMs, it is likely that we will see more communities debate the appropriateness of such resources.

Words and Topics

Sometimes debates over the appropriateness of sexuality education focus not on materials, but on very specific words or topics. In Oshkosh, WI elementary school teachers approached the school board during the 1994-95 school year because they didn't want to name certain body parts in front of students. A compromise was reached in which the words anus, penis, genitals, urethra, and vagina were removed from lessons. (54) In Odessa TX, parents became upset ill 1998 because the new fifth-grade sexuality curriculum included definitions of vulva, clitoris, testes, penis, erection, orgasm, and ejaculation. Although the parents felt it was "sexually explicit" no changes were made. (55)

A long-standing rule in Queens, NY has banned the words abortion, masturbation, birth control, and homosexuality all classrooms since 1987. Attempts to lift the ban over the years have failed. In 1998 a school board member attempted to make the ban stricter by applying it to all of school property rather than just classrooms. This failed as well, (56) Legislators in Virginia attempted to impose a similar ban through a bill that would have prohibited any family life education from discussing topics considered crimes against nature in Virginia including oral and anal sex. The legislation failed. (57)

Oral sex was also at issue in Belton, MO where a teacher was placed on involuntary leave in 1997 after she answered a question that a student had placed in an anonymous question box. (58) Parents felt she should have avoided the topic. Parents in Bryant, AR were upset when questions about oral sex and genitalia were answered by a former health teacher during a presentation in 1998. (59) The school board apologized and agreed to better screening for speakers. Finally; an anonymous question box was at the heart of another controversy in Beech Grove, IN where parents felt misled when a question paved the way for classroom discussion on masturbation during the 1997-98 school year. (60)

In fact, some states and communities have restricted how teachers can answer questions. In 1994 the school board in Merrimack, NH voted to eliminate the anonymous question box after parents complained about students asking inappropriate questions. (61) In 1997 Franklin County, NC teachers were specifically told that if students ask questions about birth control they can only be told about the failure rates of contraception and referred to their parents or guardians for more information. (62) Finally, lawmakers ill Utah attempted to legislate how teachers answer questions. A bill was passed in 2000 stating that when teachers are asked questions that "skirt the state approved curriculum," such as questions about homosexuality, they must pull students aside to answer the question or refer students to a school counselor. The author of the legislation felt by allowing teachers to answer every question "the class would be driving the curriculum. (63)

Debates over student questions prove that anything, from controversial issues such as abortion to seemingly innocuous topics like puberty can lead to trouble. However, over the years, two topics--condoms/contraception and sexual orientation--have emerged as the most common subject of such controversies

Condoms and Contraception

When SIECUS first began tracking controversies in the early 1990s there were few controversies around teaching about condoms and contraception. The AIDS epidemic was still at the forefront of people's minds and many parents assumed that sexuality education would cover prevention methods. As the abstinence-only-until-marriage movement gained momentum however, opponents of comprehensive sexuality education began to frame the issue of sexuality education as "either/or." Either your community decided to teach students to remain abstinent or to teach them about condoms. They suggested that teaching about condoms was tantamount to condoning teen sexual behavior and began to foster misinformation about condom efficacy. These tactics have been very successful; in recent years condoms have been at the center of numerous community controversies.

Teaching About Protection Methods. In 1997 the school board in Hemet, CA drafted a request to include contraceptive information in the ninth grade curriculum. (64) In 1999, the Fremont, CA school board voted to cut a condora demonstration from a play that had been performed in the district for 14 years. (65) And in 2003, a teacher in Naples, FL was fired after he had students in his class demonstrate how to put a condom on a banana. The school board said the decision to fire the teacher was not necessarily based on his teaching practices but that they simply did not need his services anymore. (66)

Making Methods Available. Perhaps more controversial than decisions about whether to let students learn about condoms or contraception are decisions about whether to make these birth control methods available to students on school grounds. A motion to make condoms available was defeated 9-4 in Dalton, MA during the 1997-98 school year. (67) The following year, the U.S. Third District Court of Appeals ruled that Philadelphia could continue to make condoms available to students, ending a five-year debate. The condom availability program there began in 1991 and became the subject of litigation when a group of parents argued that it violated their rights. The Court held that since parents had the option of not allowing their children to participate, the program did not violate their rights. (68)

That same year, the school board in St. Paul, MN agreed to allow Health Start to begin distributing contraceptives, including condoms, on campus. Health Start runs school-based clinics in St. Paul. Prior to this ruling they handed out vouchers for condoms and prescriptions for birth control methods. Health Start petitioned the school board to change this policy when they realized that many students were never filling their prescriptions or picking up the condoms. (69) A similar decision was made in Hartford, CT in 2000 when the school board voted that contraceptives could be made available in school clinics. Ten years earlier, a similar proposal had failed after causing a great deal of controversy. This time advocates worked to build widespread community support and there was virtually no opposition. (70)

Students Advocate for Condom Availability. Many attempts to bring condoms into schools have been spearheaded by students themselves. In Holliston, MA a 1999 survey conducted by students revealed that only 13% of sexually active students used condoms the last time they had intercourse. Alarmed by this statistic, the student researchers proposed condom vending machines on campus. The board agreed to look into the issue. (71) In 1999, the board in Piedmont, CA also agreed to discuss the issue of condoms further after a group of students in business class proposed selling condoms on campus as a class project and donating the profits to a local AIDS organization. The board did not want the students to act on their own but agreed to give the issue further consideration. (72)

Student activists also caused administrators in Eugene, OR to reconsider the condom availability policy after they staged a Valentine's Day protest in 2001. The policy in place allowed school health personnel to distribute contraceptives only to those students who already had an STD. (73) Finally in 2001, teen activists in Woodside, CA, alarmed by high rates of pregnancy and STDs, asked the board to make condoms available in school and to extend sexuality education beyond the ninth and 10th grade to 11th and 12th grade as well. The board approved these changes. (74) (See "Advocating for A Condom Availability Program," on page 25).

Although condoms remain a "hot button" issue and a great deal of misinformation about this topic still exists, recent decisions regarding condom availability programs have been promising.

Sexual Orientation

Sexual orientation remains perhaps the most controversial topic in sexuality education today. Controversies focusing on classroom information about homosexuality, anti-discrimination policies, student clubs, and even gay teachers have been common since SIECUS began our tracking efforts. While many other topics seem to be becoming less controversial as the years go on, sexual orientation remains a divisive issue.

Learning About Sexual Orientation. In 1995, school administrators in Solon, IA cancelled a presentation about sexual orientation when members of the community, including the director of the American Family Association in Iowa, voiced opposition. The presentation had been conducted in school the previous year and had resulted in students sending letters apologizing for having harassed a gay couple who lived across the street. (75) In 1997, teachers in Franklin County, NC were told that if students asked about HIV/AIDS they were to explain that it is a "virus transmitted primarily by contaminated needles and by a homosexual act that is illegal in North Carolina. (76)

That same year, the school board in Clayton County, GA chose videos about AIDS and teen pregnancy with the understanding that they could not "represent homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle" Although this made fulfilling the state mandate for HIV/AIDS education difficult, community members feared reviving a controversy that had occurred years earlier. (77)

"Promoting" Homosexuality. The idea of condoning or "promoting" homosexuality is at the center of many debates. In 1995 the Merrimack, NH school board passed "Prohibition of Alternative Lifestyle Instruction," a highly restrictive policy that prevented teachers from providing any instruction to support "homosexuality as a positive lifestyle." The policy went far beyond sexuality education. For example, it forced a teacher to stop showing a film about Walt Whitman because it mentioned that the poet was gay. Community outrage over this decision resulted in the election of a new school board that rescinded the policy and replaced it with language saying the school would have "no program or activity which is intended to promote sexual activity or any sexual orientation. (78)

A similar situation occurred the following year in Elizabethtown, PA when the school board adopted a "pro-family resolution" stating that the "traditional family is under relentless attack by those who want to redefine family to include homosexual and lesbian couples and to indoctrinate children to pro-homosexual propaganda against their parents' wishes." The school board modified the policy after hearing objections from hundreds of community members. (79)

Many states have struggled with debates about "pro-rooting" homosexuality as well. In 2000, a measure on the ballot in Oregon would have prohibited public instruction from "encouraging, promoting, or sanctioning homosexual or bisexual behavior." The measure failed 53 percent-43 percent. (80) That same year, proposed legislation in California prohibiting the promotion of homosexuality was withdrawn by its author, (81) Similar language was introduced this year in amendments to omnibus bills in Minnesota. The Senate amendment failed and the language was withdrawn in the House. (82)

Teachers Revealing Their Sexual Orientation. Over the decade that SIECUS has been tracking controversy, society has become more open about homosexuality. Television shows like Ellen, Will & Grace, and the new Queer Eye for the Straight Guy have made openly gay characters and personalities more common place. Most recently, gay rights were in the spotlight when the Supreme Court reversed earlier decisions and declared anti-sodomy laws unconstitutional. Nonetheless, throughout the years of tracking controversies we have seen individual teachers come under fire for revealing their own sexual orientation to students.

During the 1998-99 school year, 15 students in the Rio Bravo-Greerly Union School District (CA) were transferred out of an eighth-grade science class when parents complained about the teacher's perceived homosexuality. The teacher brought a discrimination suit against the school and won a ruling from the state industrial relations director who said the school had "wrongfully fostered different treatment" and ordered the students returned to class. (83)

A similar controversy began in 1997 when a teacher in Spanish Fork, UT revealed that she was gay. Parents called for her termination because they feared she would tell students about her sexual practices. Although the school did not fire her, they removed her from her position as volleyball coach and instructed her not to discuss her sexuality with anyone in the school community including students, parents, and teachers. (84) She filed a federal lawsuit charging the school with violating her first amendment rights, and won.

The controversy did not end there, however. A group calling themselves Citizens of the Nebo School District for Moral and Legal Values filed a lawsuit to have her teaching credential revoked. They argued that Utah law requires teachers to be good role models and that her private activity conflicted with state laws that prohibited sodomy. The court dismissed the case ruling that the group lacked a legally protected interest in the case. (85)

Not all incidents result in widespread controversy. During the 1999-2000 school year, a first-grade teacher in Newton, MA upset some parents when he told his class he was gay as part of a lesson on families. Although some parents felt that he overstepped his bounds, most were supportive. The superintendent said no action would be taken against him for exercising his "basic human rights. (86)

Anti-Discrimination Policies. Perhaps in response to the discrimination faced by some teachers, many school districts have attempted to change their anti-discrimination policy to include sexual orientation. Montgomery County, MD took up this issue in 1995 after a survey showed that high school students felt gay and lesbian students faced the most discrimination in school. The anti-discrimination policy was eventually approved after stipulating that the school system does not "advocate, encourage, promote, or endorse any particular sexual orientation. (87) In 2000, the school board in Heuvelton, IVY unanimously voted to add sexual orientation to their discrimination policies, including complaints and grievances for students and employees. (88) A similar vote occurred this year in Palm Beach, FL where a proposal to add sexual orientation to their anti-harassment policies has been brought to the school board three times in the past 12 years. Although opponents started a letter writing campaign that warned that adding sexual orientation would "promote the idea that homosexual and other bizarre sexual behaviors are acceptable, respectable, and healthy," the policy passed in a vote of 5-2. (89)

Gay Straight Alliances. In the past few years, we have seen a number of controversies involving Gay Straight Alliances (GSAs), after-school clubs that offer students a safe place to discuss issues of sexual orientation. Unfortunately, many school districts have taken measures to prevent these clubs from forming on campus. During the 1999-2000 school year students at El Modena High School in Orange, CA filed suit against their school when administrators prevented the GSA from meeting as a club. The students, with help from the ACLU, argued that the school was discriminating against them on the basis of perceived sexual orientation. After initial court decisions favored the students, an out-of-court settlement allowed the club to meet and keep its name. The school board also promised not to single out the club for any special regulations. (90) Since that time numerous GSA's throughout the country have won similar victories after filing suit or threatening to do so.


While most debates over sexuality education revolve around the content of the curricula or something said in class, administrative issues regarding enrollment sometimes become controversial as well. These controversies focus on how students enroll in courses, whether courses are electives or requirements, and if males and females should learn together.

The Process of Enrollment

Almost all communities allow parents to remove their children from sexuality education classes if they do not wish for them to hear the information or messages that will be provided. These polices are referred to as "opt-out." Over the years, however, many parents have pushed for a stricter policy, known as "opt-in," in which students may not be enrolled in sexuality education courses until the school has received written permission from the parent. Opponents of comprehensive sexuality education seem to push for opt-in policies on the theory that making the process for enrollment harder will further limit the number of students receiving this education.

During the 1994 95 school year parents successfully lobbied the Conway, NH school board for a strict opt-in requirement for sexuality education. (91) In 1997, the school board in Sheboygan, WI agreed to an opt-in policy for students in fourth and fifth grades but not middle or high school. (92) In 2001, however, when parents in the Grossmont (CA) Union High School District suggested an opt-in program because they were concerned that students "would learn about homosexuality, bisexuality, or transgender issues....," their proposal was rejected. (93)

Changes to the rules regarding enrollment in sexuality education have been proposed at the state level as well. In Arkansas, a bill requiring written permission to teach sexuality education to students in elementary or middle school was introduced in 2000. (94) That same year, a bill was introduced in Tennessee allowing students to be released from sexuality education courses specifically to attend religious instruction. Both bills failed. (95)

In Utah, however, the rules were changed in 1999 to require schools to receive written consent before students could be taught any topic in human sexuality. Prior to that change, written permission was required only for lessons in contraception. (96) In response to the change in rules, the State Board of Education created a statewide parental consent form that included a checklist of topics that would be covered. In 2000, the Nebo, UT school district petitioned the state board to allow them to alter this form by removing contraception from the checklist. The board denied the request saying that while Nebo had the right to decide not to teach about contraception, parents had the right to know that the state feels this topic should be included. (97)

Although opt-out/opt-in policy changes rarely lead to the most heated community debates, over the years some unusual debates have fallen into this category. In 1994 controversy erupted when a student at Council Rock High School in Pennsylvania forged her mother's signature in order to take a course in sexuality. The school promised to take precautions to prevent this from happening again. (98) Controversy began in North Olmstead, OH when a parent, who had opted her own child out of sexuality education, asked to sit in on the class herself in 1997. The principal denied this request on the grounds that it might make other students uncomfortable. (99)

Finally, a lawsuit was filed against the Fairfield, CT school district by a parent who took his seventh-grade son out of the entire mandatory health course. The school had an opt-out policy for the sexuality education portion of the course but argued that students must attend the rest of the health course because it is mandated by the state. The court ruled in favor of the school. (100)

It is unclear what effect opt-in policies have when they are adopted. In theory, such policies present numerous administrative challenges and can prevent some young people from receiving sexuality education simply because a permission slip got left in the bottom of a backpack or lost on the way home. In practice, however, this might not be the case. In La Cygne, KS, for example, although they changed to an opt-in policy in 1995, the same number of students enrolled in the program as had in previous years. (101)

Regardless of their ultimate impact, it seems clear that opponents of comprehensive sexuality education will see it as a promising tactic and continue to recommend strict opt-in policies.

Making Sexuality An Elective

While some communities turn to a dual track system when they can't agree on the focus of sexuality education, others make different compromises. SIECUS has tracked numerous debates in Northville, MI over the last 10 years. During the 2000-01 school year, for example, the Northville board voted to make sexuality education an elective instead of a required course. (102) This decision was made after some parents argued that abstinence is the only protection against STDs. Rather than switch to an abstinence-only-until-marriage program or adopt a dual track system, the board diffused the controversy by allowing parents to choose if their children attended sexuality education at all.

Unfortunately, enrollment was so low the following year that the district dropped the course. Northville has placed some of the material in other classes and administrators say they will conduct periodic assessments of whether this approach is working. (103)

Debates over whether sexuality education should be a requirement or an elective have occurred sporadically throughout the last decade most often as part of larger curriculum decisions. Although this is not one of the more common tactics for restricting sexuality, education, it is possible that we will see more of it in the future. In 2003, for example, legislation was introduced in Massachusetts that would require all sexuality programs to be non-mandatory electives. In order for their children to participate, parents would have to give written permission, or permission by a method similar to those used for other elective courses. This bill is currently in committee. (104)

Separating the Sexes

Gender separation most often conies up because parents worry that their children will be uncomfortable learning about sexuality in a co-educational setting. However, these debates are sometimes an attempt to restrict what students learn. Although gender separation is rarely an issue in and of itself, communities in the process of choosing a curriculum or changing the focus of a sexuality education course will often entertain motions on this issue.

An example of a gender separation becoming an issue as part of a larger discussion occurred in Fairfield, OH during the 1995-96 school year. Controversy erupted over proposed revisions to the K-12 health curriculum. Those parents opposed to the curriculum began to push for a dual track system. This was unsuccessful; however, the school board did agree to separate boys and gifts for elementary school and middle school health courses. (105)

A proposal for gender separation in Oaklawn, IL failed in 2000. Parents asked the school to separate sixth, seventh, and eighth grade boys and gifts for the entire duration of their abstinence-based program out of fear that students would be uncomfortable. (Students were already separated for a portion of the program.) The board rejected the proposal and voted to allow students to submit anonymous questions in writing as a way to address possible discomfort they might feel in a mixed-gender setting. (106)

In Monterey, CA an unnamed puberty video that came complete with three versions--one for males, one for females, and one for both--caused controversy during the 1999-2000 school year when school officials decided to show the complete version in mixed gender settings. Parents complained that there was no reason for fifth-grade students to know that much about the "opposite sex." School officials postponed the viewing indefinitely until they could decide how to handle the situation. (107)

There is very little research on gender separation for sexuality education courses and it falls to individual communities to decide what is best for their students. Although these debates continue to occur, we have seen a dramatic drop in the number of communities discussing gender separation over the years. There have been tufty a handful of controversies of this kind since the 2000-01 school year.


We cannot deny that proponents of a strict abstinence-only-until-marriage approach have had a very good decade. There has been a dramatic rise in the amount of money that both federal and state governments spend on abstinence-only-until-marriage programs; the current administration is committed to increasing funding; the media has seized on the concept of the "new virginity;" and communities have welcomed abstinence-only speakers, fear-based curricula, and chastity rallies into their school with nary a second thought.

Opponents Have Called the Shots

These successes are not based on luck nor do they indicate that proponents of this approach have tapped into the will of the general public. In fact, when surveyed the majority of parents, educators, and voters repeatedly say they want a more comprehensive approach to sexuality education. (108)

Opponents have been successful because they have been calling the shots and framing the debate from the beginning. Conservative far right organizations targeted sexuality education as an arena in which they could successfully affect social change. While they initially called for sexuality education to be removed from school on the grounds that only parents should teach young people about sex, they gradually began to shift tactics. Chastity education was born ill the early 1980s and opponents of comprehensive sexuality education saw this as a way to change what young people learn. Instead of arguing for the removal of sexuality education, they began to argue for a shift in message--a tactic that was easier for many communities to accept.

The success of the abstinence-only-until-marriage movement is owed in large part to the ability of its proponents to shift tactics and try new messages. In fact, over the years they have responded to many of the criticisms against them. Early drafts of fear-based abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula were clearly religious in nature and made outrageous and dangerous suggestions like washing one's genitals with Lysol after sexual activity. (l09) In today's drafts, overt religious statements have been replaced with subtle references to spirituality and morality while blatantly false information has been replaced with mild exaggerations based on legitimate sources.

Today, their message is savvy and unified. School boards and lawmakers across the country are presented with the same requests and hear the same arguments: "Comprehensive sexuality education encourages promiscuity."; "Condoms don't work."; "Responsible adults know that teens should be abstinent."; and "The only morally acceptable approach is to tell teens to remain abstinent until they marry." These unified messages are backed by national organizations like Concerned Women for America and Focus on the Family, which continue to get involved in local debates.

These tactics have not only led to an increase in the number of communities accepting abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, they are, at least in part, responsible for the rise in federal funding supporting these programs. Such successes build on each other, the federal funding is now seen in many communities as a stamp of approval and additional schools are wilting to adopt such programs with little or no thought. In addition, as the economy falters and school systems suffer from a lack of resources, fully funded programs become even more appealing. Overall, this has meant that abstinence-only-until-marriage programs are reaching more students than ever before, with much less debate.

Turning Back the Tides

There is some good news, however. In recent years, when sexuality education has become an issue, many communities have made encouraging decisions. We have seen communities block attempts to censor books and videos, decide to make contraception available to students, add sexual orientation to anti-discrimination policies, protect teachers, and resist administrative roadblocks such as strict opt-in regulations.

In fact, by working to build community support, advocates for comprehensive sexuality education on the state and local level have made important strides toward improving the sexuality education our children our receiving.

Some have made efforts to fight back against biased programming in their schools. A parent in Mt. Diablo, CA, for example, is working hard to make sure that CryBabies, an abstinence-only-until-marriage program sponsored by a local crisis pregnancy center is removed from her local schools. She became involved in this issue after reading disturbing and highly biased information about abortion in her son's notebook. (110) (See "How Will We Teach Our Children," on page 17)

Parents and educators in Wake County, NC have worked very hard over the past few years to expand the sexuality education their students receive. As mentioned earlier, North Carolina law mandates that schools take an abstinence-only-until-marriage approach unless community members meet and agree to a more comprehensive curriculum. Advocates in Wake County created a comprehensive sexuality education program that will be used in their public schools. (111)

Many efforts to expand sexuality education come from students themselves. We have seen students in Ashland, KY work to form a GSA despite initial protests from the school (112); students in Woodside, CA persuade the school board to implement a condom availability program; and students in Lubbock, TX receive national attention for their efforts to get a comprehensive sexuality education program into their schools. (113) These future leaders, often motivated by high rates of STDs, teen pregnancy, and unprotected sexual activity among their peers, understand that young people need information about sexuality in order to make responsible decisions.

Advocates for comprehensive sexuality" education have made progress on the legislative level as well. Numerous

states, including Arizona and Washington, have introduced legislation that would require all sexuality education to be medically accurate. (114) Although these laws cannot ensure students receive comprehensive sexuality education, they can insure that students do not receive false or biased information in the classroom. It is telling that proponents of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs see these laws as a direct attack on their efforts.

On a national level, advocates helped to introduce the Family Life Education Act. This legislation, which was introduced in 2001, would have authorized $100 million for comprehensive sexuality education. It will be re-introduced this year in both the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Recently, the states of Maine and California (115) passed similar laws supporting comprehensive sexuality education and others have been introduced in Illinois, and Rhode Island. (116)

The Next Ten Years

These positive efforts provide hope and show what can be done when concerned parents, educators, and policymakers get involved and make their voices heard. Abstinence-only-until-marriage funding is unlikely to go away in the near future, and as such, many communities will be faced with difficult decisions regarding sexuality education.

In order to ensure that more students receive high-quality sexuality education, advocates will have to remain vigilant, create unified messages, and take proactive steps in states and communities. By initiating actions to support comprehensive sexuality education and responding strongly to attempts to restrict it, advocates can shape the issue, define the terms, tap into public support, and eventually declare victory.


(1.) L. Kantor, "Attacks on Public School Sexuality Education Programs: 1993-1994 School Year," SIECUS Report, 22, no. 6 (1994), p. 13.

(2.) H. Metzger, "Board Approves Sex Education Program," Hendersonville (NC) Times-News, March 19, 1998.

(3.) C. Price, "Debate Runs Hot Over School Agenda," 7huton (MA) Daily Gazette, Oct. 14, 1999.

(4.) P. Brandt, "Some Parents Object to Pinconning Sex Ed. Plan," Bay City (MI) Times, April 11, 2000.

(5.) P. Brandt, "Reaction Mixed to Sex Ed Plan at Pinny," Bay City (MI) Times, September 25, 2000.

(6.) M. Kempner, "1998-99 Sexuality Education Controversies in the United States," S1ECUS Report, 27, no. 6 (1999), p. 6.

(7.) Ibid.

(8.) M. Stoddard, "State Says Abstinence Only Option," Lincoln (NE) Journal Star, December 13, 1997.

(9.) M. Kempner, "Fewer Debates About Sexuality Education As Abstinence-Only Programs Take Foothold," SIECUS Report, 29, no. 6 (2001), pp. 4-5.

(10.) S. Ross and L. Kantor. "Trends in Opposition to Comprehensive Sexuality- Education in Public Schools: 1994-1995 School Year," SIECUS Report, 23, no. 6 (1995), p. 15.

(11.) A. Young, "Sex Education Program Questioned in Pembroke," Suncook-Hooksett (NH) Banner, January 8, 1998.

(12.) B. Dunn, "No Change in Sex Ed Classes, Capitol Times, Madison W1, September 23, 1997.

(13.) C. Stiff, "School Board Takes a Hard Look at Sex Ed Curricula" Clear Creak (CO) Courant, December 16, 1998.

(14.) D. Bonilla, "Orange County; Santa Aria School Board Rejects Abstinence Only Curriculum," Los Angeles Times, May 15, 2003.

(15.) Ross and Kantor, "Trends in Opposition to Comprehensive Sexuality Education," p. 15.

(16.) "Alternative Sex Education Program Announced," Morrison County (MN) Record, January 14, 2001.

(17.) R. Mayer, "1996-97 Trends in Opposition to Comprehensive Sexuality Education in Public Schools in the United States," S1ECUS Report 25, no. 6 (1997), p. 25.

(18.) "Parents Organize to Oppose New Sex Education Curriculum," Brooklyn Center (MN) Sun Post, March 31, 1999.

(19.) "Osseo Approves Two-Track Sex Ed Program," Family Council Pro Family News. October, 1998.

(20.) Ross and Kantor, "Trends in Opposition to Comprehensive Sexuality Education," p. 15.

(21.) See Minnesota HF 580 and SF 851.

(22.) S. Back, "State to Offer New Teen Abstinence Classes," Salem (OR) Statesman Journal, April 23, 2000.

(23.) "Sexual Abstinence Program Director Scrapping Proposals: Starting Over," Baton Rouge (LA)Advocate, November 7, 1997.

(24.) K. McGill, "Settlement to Keep Religion Out of State's Abstinence Program," Associated Press, November 13, 2002.

(25.) M. Kempner, "1997-98 Sexuality Education Controversies in the United States," SIECUS Report, 26, no. 6 (1998), p. 17.

(26.) B. Jesse, "Abstinence Only Group to Teach in Greenville," Greenville (SC) News, July 4, 1999.

(27.) M. Guerard, "Sex Ed Liaison May Be Fired," Charleston (SC) Post and Courier, March 7, 2000.

(28.) "Nurses Drop 'Crazy' Sex-ed Program," Denver (CO) Rocky Mountain News, March 18, 1999.

(29.) M. Kempner, "1997-98 Sexuality Education Controversies in the United States," p. i7.

(30.) C. Trevor, "What Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Education Looks Like in Communities Today," SIECUS Report, 29, no. 6 (2001), p. 18.

(31.) M. Clark, "Students Get Lesson on STDs, Chastity," Whittner (CA) Daily News, November 8, 1999.

(32.) C. Young, "Students Receive Powerful Message about Abstinence," The Courier, Russellville, AR, November 10, 2000.

(33.) C. Richards, "Schools Putting 'No' Back in Sex Education," Chicago Tribune, November 18, 1998.

(34.) "Gov. Bush Pushes Abstinence," Ft. Worth (TX) Star-Telegram, April 25, 1999.

(35.) "'True Love' Attracts More Than 600," Schuyler (NE) Sun, February 17, 2000.

(36.) C. Trevor, "Number of Controversies Decline as Schools Adopt Conservative Policies," SIECUS Report, 30, no.6 (2002), p. 6.

(37.) G. Marshall, "BASD Approves Tentative 1-Mill Hike; Parents Protest Board Decision to Cancel Pro-Abstinence Speaker," Morning Call, Allentown, PA, May 20, 2003.

(38.) "Board Splits on Sex Education," Westfield (NJ) Record, January 18, 1996.

(39.) R. Mayer and L. Kantor, "1995-96 Trends In Opposition to Comprehensive Sexuality Education in Public Schools in the United States," SIECUS Report, 24, no. 6 (1996), pp. 6.

(40.) R. Mayer, "1996-97 Trends in Opposition to Comprehensive Sexuality Education in Public Schools," p. 26.

(41.) Kempner, "1997-98 Sexuality Education Controversies in the United States," p. 20.

(42.) W. Peal, "Schools Adopt Sex Revisions: Despite Concerns Trustees Are Unanimous," Clarion-Eccentric, Rochester, MI, January 17, 2002: R. Whigtman, "Board Approves Sex Ed Curriculum," The Oakland Press, Pontiac, MI, Jan. 15, 2002.

(43.) "Author Says Sex Ed Law Has Been Misinterpreted," Observer brews, September 26, 1997.

(44.) "Censorship Doesn't Help Students," North Hills (PA) News Record, October 10, 1998.

(45.) K. Pesznecker, "Comeau: Book Too Much for Grade School: School Will Hear Public Testimony About 'It's Perfectly Normal," Anchorage (AK) Daily News, September 19, 2001: Kaiser Family Foundation, "Anchorage School Board Votes to Restrict Sex Ed Book in Grade Schools After Representative Mails 'Explicit' Book Illustrations to Voters," Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Report, October 9, 200l.

(46.) J. Luken, "Board OK's Buying Controversial Textbook," Caledonian (VT) Record, October 5, 1999.

(47.) M. Garcia, "Book Choice Causes Concern," Press Enterprise Riverside, CA, May 7, 2003.

(48.) "School Board Vote on Witch Baby," PABBIS News, March 14, 2003.

(49.) B. Kuhles, "RLC Vows to Continue Challenge to Books: Library Panel Returns Contested Works to Shelves," The Houston Chronicle, Houston, TX, November 20, 2002.

(50.) Kantor, "Attacks on Public School Education Programs," p. 15.

(51.) G. Flannery, "Caribou Board Approves Health Curriculum," News, Bangor, ME, October 14, 1994.

(52.) G.S. Thurston, "Fifth Grade Sex Video Modified By Board," Great Falls/Mclean Vienna (VA) Sun Gazette, December 25, 1997.

(53.) H. Pickard, "Domenech Pushes Sex Ed Tape Trim," Fairfax (VA) Journal, July 7, 1999.

(54.) Ross and Kantor, "Trends in Opposition to Comprehensive Sexuality Education in Public Schools" p. 12.

(55.) S. Serrano, "Some Parents Say New ECISD Sex Ed Curriculum Is Too Graphic," Odessa (TX) American, March 7, 1999.

(56.) M. Slemey and D. Gregorian, "Queens School Board KO's Plan to BanTalk of Sex," New York (NY) Post, April 24. 1998: S. Kershaw and A. Podos, "Words Schools Can't Use," New, York (NY) Newsday, May 12. 1998.

(57.) C. Trevor, "Number of Controversies Decline as Schools Adopt Conservative Policies," p.7.

(58.) R. Pulley and R. Carroll, "Discussion in Health Class Draws Parental Complaint," Kansas City (MO) Star, February 22, 1998.

(59.) A. Green, "Bryant Schools Ponder Ways To Keep 'Unacceptable' Speakers Out," Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, February 6, 1999.

(60.) K. DeFresse, "Complaints Spur Review of Beech Grove Sex Ed," Indianapolis (IN) News, May 9, 1998.

(61.) Ross and Kantor, "Trends in Opposition to Comprehensive Sexuality Education in Public School," p. 14.

(62.) H. Metzger, "Decision on Sex Education Delayed." Hendersonville (NC) Times-News, February 8, 1998.

(63.) A. Estes, "Bill Would Make Teachers Answer Students' Sex Questions in Private," Salt Lake City (UT) Standard Examiner, February 28, 2001.

(64.) M. Pinion-Whitt, "Sex Ed Voted Downy Hemet (CA) News, November 14, 1997.

(65.) G. Chapman, "Board Votes Against Condom Scene for Inclusion in Secrets," Fremont (CA) Bulletin, December 17. 1999.

(66.) "Florida School Board Fires High School Teacher Who Gave Condom Demonstration," Associated Press, January, 31, 2003.

(67.) D.V. Chapman, "District Decides Against Condoms," Berkshire (MA) Eagle, March 27, 1998.

(68.) J. Smith, "Court: OK 1f Schools Hand Out Condoms," Philadelphia (PA) News, July 10, 1999.

(69.) L. Leslie, "St. Paul Schools Confront Birth Control," Minneapolis (MN) Star Tribune, April 4, 1999.

(70.) R. Gottileb, "School Climes to Distribute Contraceptives," The Hartford (CT) Courant, July 11, 2001.

(71.) B. Laister, "Condom Proposal Before School Board," MetroWest Daily News, March 15, 2000.

(72.) "Board Blocks Students' Plans to Sell Condoms at Piedmont High School," Hayward (CA) Daily Review, November 11, 1999.

(73.) S. Palmer, "Students Distribute Condoms in Protest," Eugene (OR) Register Guard, February 15, 2001.

(74.) T.S. Mills-Faraudo, "Woodside Considers Condom Handout," The San Mateo (CA) Times, October 24, 2001.

(75.) "Solon School Gets Calls, Cancels Program on Sexual Orientation," Cedar Rapids (IA) Gazette, November 15, 1995.

(76.) H. Metzger, "Decision on Sex Education Delayed," Hendersonville (NC) Time-News, February 8, 1998.

(77.) C. Hubbard,"Board to Approve Sex Ed Video," Clayton (GA) News Daily, January 12, 1998.

(78.) Policy 6541, Rescission of Policy 6540, June 6, 1996, (Merrimack School District Administrative Procedures).

(79.) Mayer, "i996-1997 Trends in Opposition to Comprehensive Sexuality Education in Public Schools," p. 25.

(80.) Kempner, "Fewer Debates About Sexuality Education" p. 13.

(81.) Ibid.

(82.) "2003 Legislative Report," SIECUS Public Policy Department, June 30, 2003, available at policy/legislative/lcgis0000.html, accessed on July 24, 2003.

(83.) "Alleged Gay Teacher Has Class Back," Associated Press, March 10, 1999.

(84.) G. Florio, "She's Out: Now Parents Want Her Ousted," Philadelphia (PA) Inquirer, November 14, 1997.

(85.) CNN Student News, "Utah Court Rules in Favor of Lesbian Teacher," April 5, 2003.

(86.) E. Hayward, "lst Grade Teacher Tells His Kids He's Gay," Boston Herald, June 8, 2000.

(87.) Human Relations Policy, Board of Education, Montgomery County, MD, pp. 1-2.

(88.) S.E. McAdams, "HCS OK's Sexual Orientation Policy," Odensberg (NY) Journal, February 1, 2001.

(89.) K. Miller, "School Board OKs Protection for Gay Students," Palm Beach Post (FL), March 25, 2003.

(90.) K. Folmar and M. Espino, "Orange County School Must Allow Gay Straight Club to Meet," Los Angeles Times, February 5, 2000.

(91.) Ross and Kantor, "Trends in Opposition to Comprehensive Sexuality Education in Public Schools," p. 11.

(92.) D. Gallianetti, "Board Opts For Opt-Out Sex Ed," Sheboygan (WY) Press, November 19, 1997.

(93.) J. Spielvogel, "Grossmont Rejects 'Opt-In' Sex Ed Proposal," The San Diego Tribune, October 12, 2(101.

(94.) L. Harrison-Stone, "Legislator Wants Parents Involved," The Springdale (,AR) Morning News, September 6, 2000.

(95.) Kempner, "Fewer Debates About Sexuality Education," p. 13.

(96.) Ibid., p. 14.

(97.) J. Toomer-Cook, "Nebo Sex Ed Plan Rejected," Salt lake City (UT) Desert News. February 2, 2001.

(98.) Ross and Kantor. "Trends in Opposition to Comprehensive Sexuality Education in Public Schools," p. 13.

(99.) D. Kilnec, "Parents Take Sides Over Sex Teaching, s," The Elyria (OH) Chronicle Telegram, November 26, 1997.

(100.) Turk Leebaert v. Fairfield Board of Education, No. 3:99- CV-2046 (ruling and order on cross motions for summary judgment).

(l01.) Mayer and Kantor, "Trends in Opposition to Comprehensive Sexuality Education," p. 9.

(l02.) S. Hall, "Committee Wants Sex Ed to End." Detroit (MI) News, January 12, 2001.

(103.) "Keep Lansing Out of Love. Marriage," The Detroit (MI) News, July 11, 2002.

(104.) See Massachusetts House Bill 1445.

(105.) Mayer and Kantor, "Trends in Opposition to Comprehensive Sexuality, Education." p. 6.

(106.) 72 Kornelson, "Sex Ed Program to Change," Tinley Park (ILl Daily Southtown, January 26, 1999.

(107.) A. Friedrich, "Parents: Video Makes Kids Blush," The Monterey (CA) County Herald, May 14, 2000

(108.) Toward a Sexually Healthy America: Roadblocks Imposed by the Federal Government's Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Education Program (Washington, I)C: Advocates for Youth and SIECUS, 2001) pp. 19-21.

(109.) B. Cook, Choosing the Best (1993 Edition), (Marietta, GA: Choosing the Best, Inc., p. 27.)

(110.) E. Hayt. "Surprise, Morn: I'm Against Abortion," The New York Times. March 30, 2003.

(111.) T. K. Hui, "Sex Ed Lessons Amended," News and Observer, Raleigh. NC, February 11, 2003.

(112.) "Superintendent Upholds Decision to Permit Gay Straight Group to Meet," Associated Press, November 27, 2002.

(113.) C. Connolly, "Texas Teaches Abstinence. with Mixed Grades," The Washington Post, January 21, 2003.

(114.) See: Arizona Senate Bill 1142 and Washington House Bill 1178.

(115.) At press time California Senate Bill 71 had passed both Houses and been sidled by the governor.

(116.) See: Illinois Senate Bill 99; Rhode Island Senate Bill 863 and house Bill 6070.


In an effort to help parents, educators, and policymakers stay informed, SIECUS prepares frequent reports on both ongoing controversies and proposed legislation.

Controversy Reports. SIECUS' Community Advocacy Project creates monthly reports throughout the school year to help individuals track controversies as they are unfolding in communities. These reports contain the most up-to-date news on those communities considering changes to sexuality education or facing debates regarding this important topic. Controversy reports are available online at:

Legislative Reports. SIECUS' Public Policy Department continually monitors legislation introduced in the states on topics such as abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, comprehensive sexuality education, contraception access, HIV/AIDS prevention, medical accuracy in sexuality education, parental consent requirements, teen pregnancy prevention, and safe surrender laws. Legislative reports are posted whenever there is relevant legislative activity and are available online at: http:/ /
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Author:Kempner, Martha E
Publication:SIECUS Report
Date:Sep 22, 2003
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