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Save Abstinence & Values Education in DC (SAVE DC) Coalition

1/17/08

Sign This Letter   View the Press Release

Dear Mayor Fenty,

We the undersigned ask you to immediately launch an independent investigation into why ULTRA Teen Choice, a directive abstinence education program has been expelled from DC Public Schools by Chancellor Michelle Rhee (please see attached Press Release).  We also ask you to reinstate the program as soon as possible.

The effort to oust ULTRA Teen Choice from DC Public Schools was initiated last spring by a woman who circulated an email attacking the co-founders’ religious faith.   Although ULTRA Teen Choice is a secular program, many who support it are part of communities of faith.  These faith communities provide tremendous resources to children and youth in Washington DC.  Often faith communities provide these programs at little or no cost to the government.  By allowing blatant discrimination against people of faith to go unabated, you are signaling a dangerous precedent for the well being of youth in DC.  Dr. Martin Luther King was a man of faith, and that compelled him to act decisively for the civil rights of all citizens.

Similarly, the denial of the right of students to choose the ULTRA Teen Choice program is no less serious an infraction of the rights of youth in DC than civil rights violations.  These youth are being intimidated by a DC Public School system that is telling them there is something wrong with their choice to remain sexually abstinent and drug free.  This type of oppression of youth and their freedom of choice is called “Abstinence Stigma”.  Why is Ms. Rhee refusing to meet with the affected students and their parents if the well being of children is truly her priority?  Why won’t she tell parents and students why the program was expelled?

I am deeply disheartened by the Chancellor’s lack of transparency plus her lack of concern for parents and youth who wish to participate in the ULTRA Teen Choice program.  Public Schools should provide fair treatment and concern for all students and should not promote a particular agenda.  Public schools and public school officials should not advocate for or against homosexual relationships.  Yet the Chancellor’s office is clearly discriminating against one type of program, one that encourages abstinence, and saying that ULTRA Teen Choice must make a statement affirmative of homosexual relationships.  If the Chancellor’s office wants to promote more choices for youth, why is ULTRA Teen Choice being discriminated against and kicked out?

It is because an agenda that is promoting same sex relationships is being promoted.  Other than asking ULTRA Teen Choice to make a statement affirmative of homosexual relationships,  Ms. Rhee has not stated any other reason why ULTRA Teen Choice should be excluded from DC Public Schools.  It is not about the youth; it is about pushing a discriminatory agenda.

Our city is currently in the midst of an unprecedented crisis of values.  Twenty million dollars or more have been stolen from the public coffers.  Multiple fatal shootings of youth occurred on January 8, 2008 and one youth died.  The rate of decline for teen pregnancies has slowed.  Several public officials have resigned or been fired amid accusations of undue pressure as they try to do their jobs with integrity.

Washington DC has the highest HIV/AIDS infection rate in the nation.  The point is not whether or not homosexuality is right or wrong, but about how we can best protect the lives of children in Washington DC, who are contracting sexually transmitted diseases at an alarming rate.

There is a great need for more education that is character and values based.  Furthermore, according to Bill Milliken, the founder of Communities in Schools, a one-on-one relationship with a caring adult is a strong protective factor for at-risk youth.  That is the kind of support ULTRA teen Choice gives to youth through mentors from local colleges and universities and caring adult staff.  The motto of ULTRA Teen Choice is “Character, not Condoms”.  It says a lot about our city and its leaders when wholesome program are kicked out based on a discriminatory agenda while at the same time millions are stolen from the public coffer and thousands of DC youth and adults are infected with HIV/AIDS and a host of other sexually transmitted diseases.

We the undersigned ask you to independently investigate why ULTRA Teen Choice was kicked out of DC Public Schools, and to immediately reinstate this valuable program.  An appropriate use of funds will be to make ULTRA Teen Choice and similar programs available to all DC youth who desire to participate, not to deny access to and to stigmatize those youth who want to participate in the program.

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