Schools promoting abstinence, but talk contraception too

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 27, 1999

Freeborn County schools join many others around the nation in promoting abstinence and focusing on contraception.

Monday, December 27, 1999

Freeborn County schools join many others around the nation in promoting abstinence and focusing on contraception.

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Most schools opt for ”abstinence-plus” programs that discourage sex – but also suggest use of contraception for students who choose to have it anyway.

But in one school out of three, American teen-agers are not just encouraged to abstain from sex, they are taught that abstinence is the only appropriate option, according to two surveys.

These ”abstinence-only” policies teach students that they should wait until marriage, or at least until they are older, to have sex. The policies leave out any discussion of birth control to prevent pregnancy or transmission of HIV and other diseases – except to talk about the shortcomings of such approaches.

But in Freeborn County, school districts allow teachers to discuss contraception, and emphasize abstinence. Additionally, peer educating programs promote abstinence.

Jenny Hanson, coordinator of PRIDE – Pregnancy, Responsibility Includes Dependable Education – said the program focuses mainly on abstinence.

&uot;We do have the freedom to talk about it (contraception) if kids bring it up,&uot; said Hanson.

PRIDE’s partner program for younger students is designed by the state and concentrates only on abstinence.

ENABL, Education Now and Babies Later, also uses peer educators to get the message across. It not only teaches abstinence, but tells students it’s best to wait until marriage.

Unlike PRIDE, if a student asks about contraceptives, ENABL educators don’t tackle the question right away.

&uot;We always encourage them to talk to their parents,&uot; said Val Kvale-Lunning, coordinator for ENABL. &uot;I might tell them that we can talk about it after class. Or I might ask them to put the question in writing.&uot;

Kvale-Lunning said she can also refer them to previous lessons taught in health class.

&uot;We’re lucky because health classes in Albert Lea and Alden-Conger talked about all these other options before,&uot; she said.

School officials in Albert Lea, A-C and Glenville-Emmons say they emphasize abstinence. Alden-Conger health teachers send permission slips home before teaching about contraception.

In Albert Lea, curriculum goes through several committees – which include community members and parents – before gaining final approval.

Last week’s reports are the first to document how widespread abstinence-only programs are in American schools, which are a central source of sexuality education.

The first survey, by the Kaiser Family Foundation, asked secondary school principals about their sex-ed programs and found 34 percent had abstinence-only as the main message.

The second study, conducted independently by the Alan Guttmacher Institute, surveyed superintendents about district policies and found 35 percent of those with policies teach abstinence as the only option.