Minnesota: Sex Education Debate Flares at State Capitol
March 13, 2003
A crowd of students and sex education advocates went to the Minnesota Capitol Tuesday to fight a House proposal that would require schools to offer a strict "abstinence until marriage" sex education curriculum. Rep. Sondra Erickson (R-Princeton), the bill's chief author, said that abstinence is "safe, healthy and secure" and deserving of its own place in the curriculum. But the proposal, heard briefly in a House panel meeting, threatens to bring to the state level a debate that divided the Osseo School District, which now offers two separate curriculum tracks for kids to learn about sexuality. One promotes abstinence and cites the benefits and risks of contraceptives. The other, emphasizing abstinence until marriage, discusses only failure rates for contraception.Adapted from:
Tom Prichard, president of the Minnesota Family Council, who worked with Erickson on the bill, said that while sex education advocates argue that abstinence is a cornerstone of a sexual health curriculum, it too often is treated as a mere option -- as opposed to "the course to go."
Erickson presented her bill at the end of a House Education Policy Committee meeting devoted largely to a presentation on proposed math, English and reading standards. As a result, time constraints limited testifiers to just one parent and one student -- both in favor of the proposal. The meeting ended with sex education advocates angered by Tuesday's one-sided message.
Bonnie Young Johnson, a school health coordinator for the Hopkins School District, noted that existing programs already cover abstinence and that districts could not afford to offer multiple sex education options.
The House panel resumes discussion on the bill next Tuesday. The proposal has a Senate companion bill, but Prichard acknowledged "the Senate is not as friendly." In Osseo, which moved to dual tracks in 1999-2000, district spokesperson Lisa Hunter said the change "appears to be going well." Registration figures show, however, that students are more likely to take abstinence-only classes in junior high than in senior high.
Star Tribune (Minneapolis-St. Paul)
03.12.03; Anthony Lonetree
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.