"I'm just gonna tell you from my own personal life," the governor said finally, emitting a nervous little chuckle. "Abstinence works."
If only his parents had thought the same.
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
"We've had some discussions with DISD," says Cece Cox, the chief executive officer of Resource Center Dallas, a nonprofit serving LGBT people. "There is not, from what we can tell, any strategic approach to dealing with LGBT and questioning youth."
It's one of several areas where DISD officials try to make it clear they're following what they think the law requires because they have to, not because they want to.
"You have school districts over here, trying to deal with reality, and meanwhile, the Legislature is trying to pretend like they're still in the '50s," one frustrated DISD administrator says. "Ask Rick Perry what he thinks about discussing LGBT issues."
In a stuffy, fluorescent-lit room at DISD's Ross Avenue headquarters, something is happening, and it looks strangely like progress. Velouette Zavadil is sitting around a table with a few other SHAC members, including officials from the district's health department and Dallas County. Everyone looks relieved.
"I feel like we've found a really good program," Zavadil says. "How soon can we implement this?"
After months of work, Zavadil and the other SHAC members think they've found a curriculum to satisfy everybody. After presentations from several different sex-ed programs, they appear ready to recommend that the board buy Worth the Wait, a program from Scott & White Memorial Hospital in Temple, Texas. If approved by the board, the program will likely be implemented in the 2014-2015 school year.
Zavadil wants it sooner, but she accepts that there are logistical hurdles to clear: board approval, allocating the budget to pay for the program and, perhaps most basic of all, figuring out what it will cost. (No one seems to know that either.) She also wants the opt-in requirement removed, and for parents to have to actively bar their children from getting sex-ed instruction instead. During the meeting, she's told that opt-in is required under state law, which it isn't.
Zavadil was impressed with Worth the Wait, and with a presentation by its creator, Patricia Sulak, an OB-GYN and former PTA mom. Sulak, who's also a member of the Christian Medical & Dental Associations, has said that she "wanted to have nothing to do with sex ed" but created a program after being asked to help pick a new curriculum at her son's school and finding the options lacking. (Sulak was also at one time an advisory board member for the Medical Institute of Sexual Health, an official-sounding entity that in fact was founded by an evangelical Christian doctor in order to push abstinence.)
"Our program is about teenagers making healthy decisions," says Blair Murphy, a Worth the Wait program manager. "Historically, that's been sex ed, but now it's health risk factor avoidance — abstaining not just from sex, but from drug use, alcohol, et cetera."
Worth the Wait is in the process of changing its name to Wellness and Sexual Health, which is part of a broader shift away from just talking about abstinence. They say their program now focuses on "risk factor avoidance" in everything from drugs to sex to driving fast.
It's a transition that appears more practical than philosophical. As federal funding has waned, abstinence-only sex-ed organizations lost a lot of money in the past few years. Take Austin LifeGuard, a program written and administered by the anti-abortion crisis pregnancy center Austin LifeCare. After several profitable years, with annual revenues close to a million dollars, records show that between 2010 and 2011, Austin LifeCare suddenly lost half of its total revenue. The money that vanished had all previously come from grants and contributions. At the same time, the LifeGuard program was dropped by a number of school districts, including Austin ISD, in favor of a more comprehensive curriculum.
Which is probably why LifeGuard now insists that it's "abstinence-plus." In an email interview — the only format in which they would answer questions — LifeGuard director Corey Tabor said the program is based on "sexual risk avoidance," and includes "an age appropriate section on contraception in each of our presentations that communicates what contraceptives are and their effectiveness rates based on typical human usage."
LifeGuard remains far from "comprehensive," but it's now able to qualify for the same grant money as medically accurate programs, simply by mentioning that they don't believe condoms work. David Wiley, the Texas State professor, has seen a number of abstinence-only programs make the same change. They need to, in order to survive.
"When the Obama administration came in, they started promoting evidence-based programs and giving them money," he says. "So a lot of these abstinence-only programs funded under the Bush administration got nervous." When they did start covering condoms and other birth control, he says, all of them focused on "how much they fail."
"If Romney had been elected, abstinence-plus would still be abstinence-only," Wiley says.
Worth the Wait, the program being eyed by DISD, has undergone a similar makeover. These days, its website assures students that it wants to help them make "informed, educated decisions and smart life choices."
"We're not saying sex is bad!" it reads. "It is great at the right time and stage in your adult life."
"I'm just gonna tell you from my own personal life," the governor said finally, emitting a nervous little chuckle. "Abstinence works."
If only his parents had thought the same.
The U.S. policy debate concerning the most appropriate and effective type of sex education for school-age youth has raged for the past twenty something years. Parents are very concerned about how sexuality, the most intimate of human subjects, is taught to their children. Yet, schools are clearly making an exception to the normal health education standards in the way they teach sex education, which tells us there is an ideology or cultural shift influencing the teaching of sexuality education. The standard for health education in public schools is risk-avoidance. Whether the topic is illegal drug use, alcohol use, weapons, bullying or nutrition, the expected standard is abstinence from unhealthy behaviors. For instance, it is not acceptable to teach students what specific type of alcohol to drink to become less intoxicated. Nor is it acceptable for students to be taught about community drug dealers who may have safer drugs for them to buy. Risk-reduction is simply not acceptable teaching in health education. Students are taught to avoid the activity all together so they can avoid the risks associated with the behavior. But, when the teaching of sexuality is concerned, exceptions are frequently made. Teaching risk-reduction in sexual behaviors is acceptable and often promoted in public school systems where students are taught how to use condoms and contraceptives to decrease the risks associated with being sexually active. Abstinence education is not exclusively a Christian standard; it is primarily public health prevention, which requires risk-avoidance. With all of the physical, mental, emotional and social risks associated with early sexual debut and multiple sexual partners, there should be no deviation from teaching risk-avoidance.
Parents have to be responsible and teach their kids at home. Now I worry that what I teach may actually be undone at schools! What a disaster.
For anyone who lived through the 60s and 70s [an age that embraced a good bit of truthfulness], as dubya did, to turn sex-education into a exercise in fantasy is appalling. Texas is a truth-starved-state and its politicians are going to make certain that it stays that way.
I have a 19 yr old daughter who graduated from DISD and a 15 yr old and 12 yr old still in DISD. I try to teach sex ed at home, but want the lessons reinforced at school.
My older daughter has friends who had pregnancy scares and didn't know what to do. They had no knowledge of how their body worked and no info on birth control. Boys need to know too.
If I could pay to have condoms avaiable in our school nurse's office, I would.
I hope a decent fact and science based curriculum can be found. I am skeptical about Worth the Wait which wouldn't even show the whole curriculum to the advisory board.
You mean, in the Internet Era (bringing an end to the Cable TV Era), where anyone can learn virtually anything known to humanity, in a state and a city that boasts more strip clubs and sexually-oriented businesses than the US average, in the plastic surgery capital of the world, our children don't know something about sex? With modern teen roll models, like Lindsey Lohan, the "Jersey Shore" cast and constant sex themes in all forms of media, how is it possible that our children have misconceptions about sex? Well! This is awkward!
When the government school system teaches anything now, God and morality are usually left out. Our children are not really emotionally ready for sexual relationships. But secular society encourages it and kids feel pressured into giving in. Kids are taught today that their bodies are their own and that they have their right to do anything they want to including having sex. We seem to have forgotten that it was God who made male and female and yes, God created sex. But he created it with certain guidelines and responsibilities because He knows the strong emotional and physical bond that humans can develop. That's why He gave us the institution of marriage. He encourages marriage between a man and woman and He encourages them to stay sexual pure for each other until they marry. Sex outside of marriage often has negative consequences. ie: disease, unwanted pregnancy ,feelings of shame or rejection. If our children could only remember that their bodies are really not their own but belong to their heavenly Father and that He only wants what is best for them. It could save them a lot of heartache.
You mean the stork didn't bring me from the Jesus Baby Store? Well, I'll be a monkey's uncle.
The reason I like Liberalism and reject Conservatism is that the American Taliban just isn't appealing to me. Republican Jesus carries an AR-15 and will mow down anyone who disagrees with him, God only answers the prayers of the rich, and if you join the "right" church God will even give you money. Republican Jesus thinks that violence is patriotism, but sex belongs to Satan. Republican Jesus insists that what we do not know will never hurt us and that ignorance is bliss.
Whatever in the world could be wrong with any of that?
Aren't these little boys and girls adorable. They know all about life and sex. And the responses are charming. TheIncredibleSulk must be a rapist, wanting to drag those pure people into the sexual orgy pile of filth.
I imagine people like this are on divorce #3 and live a life seeking instant gratification. Pathetic existence.
You have no regard for pesky details like facts and reality. As abstinence has been made the focus, teen pregnancies, disease, abortions, and teen parenting has gone out of control. You know why simpleton? Because teaching abstinence doesn't work. The ironic part is, while you simple conservatives are so busy trying to tell the rest of society what you think it should be doing, your innocent 14 year old is probably sexting and setting up her first sexual encounter while waiting for her dumbass parents to finish giving their little speech. And if and when you find out your daughter had unprotected sex yesterday with some random, Pimply freshman, you'll be trying to shove a Plan B down her throat like you were trying to give your dog his worming medicine. The solution to all society's illness is to get rid of the disease called clueless conservatism.
@Five Rings Financial - Life Advisors Teaching abstinance only sex ed IS NOT WORKING. I repeat, IT IS NOT WORKING. Human beings (and every other creature on earth) have hormonal urges to reproduce, they do not, however, have a naturally occuring biological chemical that is released into their brains instructing them to drink and take drugs.
@Five Rings Financial - Life Advisors___Thank you for the public service announcement from the religious right, whose mottos seems to be, "Ignorance is bliss."
@Five Rings Financial - Life Advisors In case anybody's curious, this is lifted directly from Focus on the Family's website. Fun!
@JohnWileyPrice It is horrible that someone would expect insurance premiums to cover prescription medication.
Anybody who lets their insurance company pay for any medical procedure or medicine are definitely slutty freeloaders. Insurance is only supposed to collect premiums. They're not supposed to pay for anything.
@pooua Sorry to quibble, but S. Korea is the plastic surgery capital of the world.
@RadarGortMarriage does not guarantee sex will not have negative consequences, disease, unwanted pregancy or feelings of shame and rejection. But a good solid lack of education and experince almost certainly will. If god had intented us to not have sex in our teenage years, why on earth did he/it make those years the ones where we are most hormonal and sexually charged? It makes no sense, NONE of it makes any sense.
@RadarGort Ahhh, the preface to the "Breed 'em but don't feed 'em" sermon. Is it Sunday already? Man, that was a short week.
@RadarGort Did your priest tell you to say that while he had you bent over receiving the "Word of God?"
@RadarGort If he only wants whats best for children, then why are millions of them dying of hunger across across the world?
@gordonhilgers Seems like you have a pretty radicalized view of conservatism. Just as many conservatives have a radicalized view of Democrats. The reality is that true conservatism is defined by: "lower taxes, limited government regulation of business and investing, a strong national defense, and individual financial responsibility for personal needs (as retirement income or health-care coverage)" (Merriam-Webster).
True liberalism is defined as "political ideology with its beginnings in western Europe that rejects authoritarian government and defends freedom of speech, association, and religion, and the right to own property".
I venture to guess that you're misguided about the definition of each.
Happily married to my first and only wife of nearly 20 years.
Don't worry though, I had plenty of sexual partners prior to that, and having had a good strong educational foundation in biology, sexual ed and birth control, I was able to avoid risky sexual behavior and its pitfalls such as unwanted children and STD's.
By the way, we're trying to educate the children of the reticent so they DON'T end up with unwanted children or STD's.
Why do you hate knowledge and education?
@AMeaningfulLife well aren't you a charming lad, calling someone a rapist bc of their opinion? You must always be wonderful in bed, I imagine you lying flat on your back while your husband pokes you with no passion so he can create 2 offspring
God is only responsible if the outcome is good.
Free will is the origin of all evil and God cannot be held responsible for your own bad decisions.
Move along . . .
@ScottsMerkin More people are dying from obesity than from starvation, all around the world. This world has not experienced a natural famine in a century. Most of those cases of starvation we see are the result of wars or politics; our world has become too small for natural disasters to keep an area in famine. Enough charitable organizations exist that food is available to anyone in need, if humans don't interfere with the delivery.
@mcdallas @gordonhilgers--Well, well, well. The "other wing" of Conservatism speaks-out. And speaks-out. And keeps speaking-out. What Conservatism is really about, of course, is the politicization of commercial activity, at least when it's not simply a reactionary response to what the liberal democratic tradition has managed to accomplish, especially via modern-day Liberalism and Progressivism. When we talk about "lower taxes", what we're really talking about is dismissing our obligations to the famed "social contract"--in which we trade some of our independence in order to pool our resources to achieve goals as a united nation-state. That said, by borrowing from the banks instead of relying solely on taxpayers for revenue, don't you think the government is trading-away our national sovereignty? I sure do. And when we talk about limiting governmental regulatory activity, we're actually talking about dismissing political inclusiveness that protects the people and helps coordinate economic activity in favor of values that exclude everything but profit.
And, since our nation's military expenditures are larger than the next 10 nations on the list together, it's obvious that what's really happening there is called extraction, otherwise known as "private profit via public expense", a real problem when America goes to war for private profit.
As far as "personal responsibility" goes, the hijacking of individualism into a reduction that defines it merely as "self interest", what we're actually doing is leaving the individual to fend for him- or herself against mammoth economic forces that are both unpredictable and dangerous to our well-being as a nation-state. The "personal responsibility" selling-point is, moreover, nothing but an excuse to privatize social welfare programs for purposes of profit, absolutely a contradiction of social welfare programing that was designed to protect the elderly, the infirm and the poor from the rapaciousness of the market.
But if you want to buy the substitution of unregulated capitalism for democracy, best of luck. You can run but you cannot hide.
@mcdallas @gordonhilgers "True Conservatism" is a lot like "Communism" - neither exists in the real world. Both are theoretical. Name me one single time that ANY Republican "Conservative" has EVER acted in a truly conservative way. You cannot do so because it has never happened. It is just a buzzword they use to deceive dumb people into following and supporting them.
Show me just one example of a true Communist society larger than some hippie commune. You cannot do so because it does not exist. Any country with a government cannot possibly be Communistic because in a Communist society there would NO government, and no need for a government. Instead, we have benevolent (like Great Britain) and dictatorial (like China or North Korea) socialist countries, the latter being totalitarian and the former deriving its powers from the consent of the governed.
@mcdallas @gordonhilgers Isn't it interesting that the stereotypes the liberals put forth are based in fantasy? I haven't seen a Conservative with an AR-15 mowing down anyone - ever. Jesus does not care whether a person is a Liberal or Conservative whatsoever. That Jesus teaching on morality and a meaningful sexual relationship creates such vitriol and falsen accusations says much more about his character than someone elses.
@amule_82 25,000 people out of 7 billion people is not a famine or widespread starvation. It's hardly a statistical blip for the number of people who die *every day*.
That is completely untrue. Approx 2.8 million die per year as the result of obesity related complications, 25,000 people starve to death EVERY DAY. Where do you get your statistics from? Mine are from the World Health Org.
@pooua why did he allow them to eat to much? why didnt he save them? Why did he allow for fast food that is terrible for you? Why why why.
@pooua so then why does god allow children to be FAT, how dare him
@gordonhilgers there's a lot of room in the middle of the political spectrum Thanks for stretching the far left edge to make even more.
@gordonhilgers I think you literally need a soap box. Thanks for the talking points. And for disproving any far-reaching notion that we can have an adult discussion here (except, of course, regarding "adult" topics, and even then it's a stretch).
@scottie1620 @mcdallas @gordonhilgers Scottie, your assertion that Fascism is defined as "lower taxes, limited government regulation of business and investing, a strong national defense, and individual financial responsibility for personal needs " is so off-base that it's comical. This is an adult conversation...the kids' table is down the hall.
@AMeaningfulLife so you are against giving your kid choices and educating them fully? You are telling them how they have to live? Reality is a lot different outside the walls of the house you raised your kids in. Congrats your kids Im assuming are in the very small percentage of kids that remained abstinent till marriage