Response to Board of Education comments and additional information
By Richard Urban, ULTRA Teen Choice Executive Director
In response to questions or comments by Board of Education Members regarding my testimony at the hearing on November 28, 2007, plus additional comments.
1. Mary Lord, regarding use of out of date YRBSS statistics saying that more DC youth are abstaining: As a later witness later pointed out, the data used is the most recent data, and the data referred to by Ms. Lord is a preview of national data, not Washington, DC data.
This is an instance of attempting to discredit data that clearly disproves a preconceived idea (i.e. “Abstinence doesn’t work”. In fact, abstinence always works, for those who practice it.
2. Lisa Raymond, regarding my statement that “the draft standards require discussion of sexuality and sexual orientation that does not reflect the values of the majority of the parents and students served.” A case in point is to examine who testified at the hearing. Special interest groups were heavily represented, but Washington DC public school parents were very under represented. Consider this; the panel of “experts” consisted of five Caucasian women and one African American woman, exactly opposite of the racial composition of the DC public schools. In reviewing the list of those testifying, there was one public school teacher, and very few public school parents (two of them were from the Capitol Hill Cluster Schools, and both involved in the effort to eject the ULTRA Teen Choice program from Stuart-Hobson Middle School). I do not recall even one African American public school parent testifying! This is hardly representative of those being served by DCPS, the large majority of whom are African American. We need to hear from the parents regarding these proposed standards.
More time must be allowed for community input. The Board should delay the vote on these standards until next year. Why is there such a hurry to pass the proposed standards, when sufficient community input has not been garnered? I challenge the board to publicize proposed standards 6.1.6, 7.1.7, 8.1.5, 8.1.6, and 9.1.5. (See the attached description of these standards). Do a survey of 500 parents from middle and high schools throughout the city chosen randomly and see how many agree with the standards. That would be an honest way to gauge how well the proposed standards reflect community values.
3. Testimony by the “experts”. Several said that all major medical association support so called “comprehensive” sex education. That is false statement. The Medical Institute for Sexual Health Supports directive abstinence education, as do many other medical associations.
4. “Comprehensive” sex education includes extensive teaching about abstinence. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, some “Comprehensive Curricula refer to condoms 495 times, and to abstinence only 50 times. That is not a balanced viewpoint. Furthermore, reference was made to how the proposed standards talk extensively about abstinence. I can find no reference to abstinence after the 6th grade. You can view the Department of Health and Human Services study at http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/fysb/content/abstinence/comprehensive.pdf
5. No Board member asked why ULTRA Teen Choice had been booted out of Stuart-Hobson Middle School. As proponents of more “choices” for students, why is no one concerned about the denial of the choice of youth who want to stay abstinent?
6. Directive abstinence education is just that; sexual health education that directs youth toward making the best choice for their future. It is not “abstinence only”, whatever that means. In reality, as a directive abstinence program, ULTRA Teen Choice covers many areas, including relationship skills, avoidance of other risk behaviors, such as drug, alcohol and tobacco use, goal setting, and modeling positive values to peers.
7. There are many risks related to sexual activity for adolescents Sexually active teen boys and girls are much more likely to use alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana and other drugs, run away be arrested by the police, or suspended from school. Additionally, sexually active teen girls have a two or three times higher risk to be lonely, upset, or tense, and a six times higher risk to consider hurting themselves and to attempt suicide. Condom use will not protect against any of these dangers, but being sexually abstinent will.
In conclusion, let’s look out for the best interest of our youth, not narrow political interests. As one woman testified, stop using Washington DC youth as political pawns for social experiments. These precious children’s lives are at stake. Are you listening to the children and their parents, or to special interest groups? The vote on these proposed standards must be delayed until much greater community input can be gathered. The proposed standards must not be adopted as written. It is interesting to note that both of the witnesses for the Foreign Language standards also said that passing the standards would actually result in more confusion than having no standards. Yet not one Board of Eduation member responded clearly that they would delay the voting so that these problems could be addressed. Why is the Board rushing ahead when there are serious problems with multiple sets of proposed standards?