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Texas Study Claims School Districts 'Rob' Students of Sex Ed

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By Katherine T. Phan, Christian Post Reporter
February 25, 2009|8:16 am

Researchers at Texas State University released a study Tuesday that found a majority of Texas school districts teach only abstinence programs when it comes to sex education.

More than 94 percent of school districts teach only abstinence programs while 2 percent ignored the topic altogether, according to the study. Only 4 percent of school districts taught a more comprehensive approach to sex education.

"Texas is failing families when it comes to sexuality education," said David Wiley, who co-authored the report with fellow Texas State professor Kelly Wilson.

"Our classrooms are perpetuating a conspiracy of silence that robs young people of the reliable information they need to make responsible life decisions."

The report, titled "Just Say Don't Know," was sponsored by the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund, a liberal group that supports comprehensive sex education that would include lessons on condom and contraceptive use.

Wiley and Wilson analyzed thousands of pages of sex education curriculum materials provided by 990 of the state's 1,031 school districts.

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Some findings the researchers found notable include: 41 percent of Texas districts use abstinence-only materials with factual errors, shame and fear are used by abstinence programs to discourage condom use and some public schools use religious instruction to promote sexual abstinence.

The TFN Education Fund points out that although Texas receives more federal funding for its abstinence programs than any other state, it holds one of the highest teen birthrates in the country.

"I also want sexuality education programs to encourage abstinence. But 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 and their futures," said TFN Education Fund President Kathy Miller said.

East Texas Abstinence Program, which promotes community-based, abstinence-only education, contended that abstinence programs have actually helped to reduce the teen birth rate.

Since 1991, the year federal abstinence funding began, there has been a 43 percent decrease in teen births to 15-17 year olds, noted ETAP.

The group runs a program called "ESTEEM" which stand for Encouraging Student to Embrace Excellent Marriage.

"Some call us abstinence only, I say that we teach Authentic abstinence or abstinence in preparation for marriage," Tonya Waite, a spokeswoman for ETAP, told The Christian Post.

She said the ESTEEM program covers a wide range of topics from the symptoms for men and women, long-term effects and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases to the effect of drugs and alcohol on sexual behavior. Students are also asked to write down what they would provide for a baby now versus ten years later and examine what kind of traits would a future spouse have.

Surveys taken by trained staff before and after ESTEEM classes, according to Waite, show that students who go through the course respond to the information presented.

Following the class, the proportion of participants who: 1) said they have the refusal skills necessary to resist sexual urges went from 74 to 78 percent; 2) committed to abstain from sexual activity until marriage went from about 62 to 65 percent; and 3) intended to avoid risk behaviors such as drug use and alcohol consumption that make them more vulnerable to sexual advances rose from 82 to 84 percent.

In documents examining comprehensive sex education versus abstinence programs, the ETAP also cited studies that show students who received school-based abstinence education were about one-half as likely to become sexually active after one year as those who had not.

Waite said the benefits of abstinence programs include "stronger youth who can focus on their algebra test instead of wondering if they need to pick up a pregnancy test on the way home" and "stronger future marriages."

"By students waiting, we will see more homes with fathers in them helping to raise their babies," added Waite. Abstinence programs can also help students focus "more on their football, drama club and band performance and not have to keep track of when they need to pick up their STD medication."

 

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