April 13, 2001
Young people's health and their lives are being threatened in schools across the nation by federally backed censorship of appropriate sex education. You can help the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC), and the groups below, fight this threat.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 25% of new HIV infections in the U.S. are contracted by teenagers, and 51% of all new HIV infections in the U.S. occur in young people under 25.
But despite these startling numbers, the federal government is pressuring schools with the big carrot of generous federal funding to limit sex education to abstinence-only-until-marriage programming. Abstinence-only education feeds an epidemic by denying students life-saving lessons about HIV, STD, pregnancy prevention, and other vital information.
Abstinence-only education not only silences speech about sexual orientation. It isolates lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and questioning students with the clear message that such youth either don't exist or don't count. Abstinence-only education prohibits information and discussion about LGBT sexuality. With its emphasis on marriage as the expected standard of human sexual activity (and its statement that sexual activity outside of the context of marriage is likely to have harmful psychological and physical effects), abstinence-only education reflects hostility to the very notion of same-sex relationships and stigmatizes students who are, or are thought to be, gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. Social and public health science have demonstrated a strong correlation between self-esteem and accurate sexual health education, and the avoidance of behaviors that risk HIV infection.
The "abstinence education" provision in federal law is expected to come up for re-authorization in 2001. It is important that legislators, policy makers, parents, students, and others understand the threat that abstinence-only education poses to the health of young people, as well as to their first amendment rights.
NCAC has authored a joint statement against abstinence-only sex education. This statement will be used to inform legislators, educators, policy-makers, and about the threat to young people's lives and their first amendment rights. The organizations that have signed on to the statement include:
It is critical that LGBT organizations join the effort by signing on to the joint statement.
To sign on the statement, go to http://www.ncac.org/cen_news/cn80sexeducation.html, or contact the National Coalition Against Censorship via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone at 212-807-6222.
You also can help by covering the issue in your newsletters, by reporting about the Joint Statement, or writing an article on the issue. The National Coalition Against Censorship can provide models.
Your Web site also can also be an outreach tool to build support for this effort. You can provide a link to the joint statement (http://www.ncac.org/cen_news/cn80sexeducation.html) and background materials (http://www.ncac.org/issues/abstinenceonly.html). The National Coalition Against Censorship provides a link to each of the endorsing organizations on its Web site.
Let members of your organization know that you support this effort by circulating the statement to your electronic mailing lists. Additionally, we encourage you to ask your members if they have had experiences of being denied information in their sex education classes. NCAC would like to gather students' stories to help in the effort to fight this legislation.
I will be contacting you in the next couple of days to discuss how we can work together to save the lives of young people and put an end to abstinence-only sex education in schools.
Public Information Coordinator