Sunday, January 30, 2000

Taking sides in Ohio's sex-ed debate

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Ohio lawmakers held hearings recently on whether to allow a federal grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to finance several controversial sex education programs for schools. Here are excerpts and quotes from people who participated in the hearings:

        FOR THE GRANT:

        • Peggy Fisher, wife of former Attorney General Lee Fisher, said the CDC programs are a favorable runner-up to abstinence instruction.

        • Barb Bungard, Ohio PTA Coordinator of Legislative Services: “As parents, we try to teach our children to make good decisions and right choices to live a healthy lifestyle ... not all parents are healthy role models or feel comfortable with these issues. We must be available to help these children.”

        • Dr. Joseph Rauh, co-founder of Postpone Sexual Involvement, a sex-ed program with Cincinnati Public Schools and Children's Hospital Medical Center: “The state of Ohio will suffer from the lack of these funds, because the legislature doesn't have the courage to deal with a small portion of it. I think it's a tragedy.”

        • Amy McMahon, co-chair for Responsible Sex Education, a Cincinnati-based group, said holding up the grant because of sex education could jeopardize other parts of the grant for dental care, tobacco prevention and nutrition programs.

        • Kathryn Thompson, education coordinator, AIDS Volunteers of Cincinnati, urged giving children “comprehensive” information (about sex) so they can make “informed decisions.”

        • Quanita Munday, sex-educator, American Red Cross in Cincinnati: “Abstinence is the No. 1 thing we talk about, but we also teach prevention.”

        • Sen. C.J. Prentiss, D-Cleveland: “I'm trying to figure how this teaches prevention when you have 40 kids in a class, 20 of them are having sex, and all they hear about is abstinence.”


        • Kendra Davis, Cleveland young mother, said that at age 13 she received her “first comprehensive sex ed instruction” and then became “teacher” for her 11-year-old sister and 13-year-old neighbor. Both of them, along with her, became pregnant and contracted diseases. She said “pro-condom instruction” had given her a “false sense of security.”

        • Dr. David Miller, Middletown urologist, urged legislators “to hold schools to a higher standard” than the CDC programs. This money is “the carrot that federal health regulators are using to get schools to adopt a sex-education curriculum that encourages teens to use contraceptives and that condones premarital sex. This is not about educating our children in the issue of HIV/AIDS. Send a message that you will not accept funds from the CDC that have strings attached.”

        • Thomas Connors, lawyer, presented a 90-page analysis of school health programs under development by the Ohio Department of Education. “If ODE and the Taft administration have policy proposals that they believe are in the best interests of the citizens of Ohio, then let them openly and completely present their proposals to the legislature for a thorough review and full debate ... What you are being presented with is pieces and parts of a puzzle ... The policies at stake are of profound importance to Ohio citizens.”

        • Rev. Levon Yuille, national director, National Black Pro-Life Congress, compared the stability of the black community in years past to the instability today. “The sky-rocketing out-of-wedlock birth rate is not because of the absence of a 13-year-old knowing how to put on a condom correctly. No, our community was stable because we had a value system that gave us a right sense of direction.”

        • Mary Ann Mosack, executive director, Operation Keepsake, said the mixed message of the pro-condom approach is “counter-productive to adolescent health ... the CDC material, which endorses vaginal, oral and anal sex practices among youth, is at odds with societal norms and conflicts with what parents expect.”

        • Melanie Howell, nurse and director of Abstinence Educators Network, said “the issues embodied in the federal agreements are much more extensive than the concerns about sex education ... The core issue is about who will control health instruction and the health care environment of our local schools.”

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