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National News

Washington State Legislation Would Require "Medically Accurate" Sex Ed

January 31, 2003

Washington state lawmakers are considering legislation that would require public schools that offer sex education to provide only "medically accurate" information supported by scientific research and experts in the field. Washington schools are not required to provide sex education; the decision is up to local school boards. The federal No Child Left Behind Act bars federal funds from being used for sex education unless it is "age appropriate" and teaches the health benefits of abstinence. Washington has received over $700,000 a year for abstinence-based education since 1997.

At a hearing Thursday, students testified that they had been taught abortions were likely to lead to death or sterility, that condoms are rarely effective, that parents who give their children condoms don't love or trust them, and that tampons can get lost in a woman's uterus. "When kids are misinformed, when they're lied to, they can be harmed for the rest of their lives -- they can even die," said Rep. Shay Schual-Berke (D-Normandy Park), the bill's sponsor.

Opponents of the bill say its intent is to censor abstinence-only sex education. "Comprehensive sex ed is a risk and I think we need to do a better job of teaching risk avoidance," said Kathy Taylor, executive director of Sexuality, Health, And Relationship Education (SHARE). About 100 Washington schools use the SHARE program, which promotes abstinence only.

"The sex education I received in my high school was unforgivable due to its scientific and medical inaccuracies," said Lindsay Scola, a sophomore at the University of Washington. She added that believing condoms were not effective, many students did not use them. Four of her classmates became pregnant, she said.

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"The legislation falls short," said Robert Harkins, executive director of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of Washington, "... but it does set an important standard for medical accuracy in whatever information is presented in the classroom."

"It's totally beyond my comprehension that anybody would object to providing medically accurate information to our young people," said Judith Billings, chair of the Governor's Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS.

Back to other CDC news for January 31, 2003

Previous Updates

Adapted from:
Associated Press
01.31.03; Kristen Gelineau



  
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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.
 

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