No-Sex Education: Newark, N.J. Schools to Try Abstinence-Only Course
October 10, 2003
Next month, Newark public schools plan to roll out a sex education program for ninth-graders that will only teach abstinence, without mentioning condoms or other contraception. And as a departure from most sex-ed classes in New Jersey public schools, the new program will urge students to sign a promise of chastity to be kept until they marry.
Although a separate health class will discuss contraception methods, including condoms, the abstinence course will be the main component of sex education for about 8,000 ninth-graders in Newark. Using hip-hop music and an interactive video game, "The Choice Game" will last 90 minutes once a week for the nine-week semester.
Abstinence proponent Kathy DiFiore, who has run homes for pregnant teenagers for 23 years, created "The Choice Game" last year and will oversee the program, including hiring five full-time teachers to hammer home one message: Sex before marriage can ruin your life.
Some proponents of more comprehensive sex education are startled by the program's message, because New Jersey has long been a leading national advocate of frank classroom discussion of birth control. "That's not education; it's indoctrination of a moral viewpoint," said Susie Wilson, who runs the Network for Family Life Education at Rutgers University.
But in Newark, where STD and teenage pregnancy rates are among the highest in the state, exasperated school officials say its time to try something new. "We have to end the cycle of teen pregnancy and dropping out of school," said Vincent L. Mays, a school official who helped bring the curriculum to the city.
Newark's position echoes that of a growing number of school districts nationwide and is supported both financially and philosophically by the Bush administration. The US Department of Health and Human Services granted $2.3 million to launch "The Choice Game" in Newark, concluding it could be a model for schools nationwide. Already, districts in Ohio and Chicago have signed on to use the program. A federal study of abstinence-only education is to be completed in 2005.
Record (Bergen County, N.J.)
10.06.2003; Ruth Padawer
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.