Testimony on the Proposed Health Education Standards for DC Public Schools
Chancellor Rhee and Honorable Members of the DC State Board of Education. My name is Richard Urban. I am the Executive Director and co-founder of ULTRA, or Urban Life Training & Reality Assessment, Teen Choice. ULTRA Teen Choice is a youth empowerment program that guides youth toward the formation of two parent families and positive character development by emphasizing the benefits of abstinence from drugs, alcohol, and sex before marriage. We serve schools, community based and faith based organizations.
The program provides HIV/AIDS and teen pregnancy prevention education plus character development education. Currently, our program serves over 500 youth at Eastern Senior High School and Stuart-Hobson Middle School, both in Ward 6, and at School Without Walls Senior High School in Ward 2.
ULTRA Teen Choice opposes the draft “Health Learning Standards” and urges the Board of Education to do likewise. Our main areas of concern are 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. This includes the discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation for 6th grade, contraception as the preferred method of birth control for 7th grade, the discussion of sexual orientation and theories of what determines sexual orientation for 8th grade, and the availability of abortion for 9th grade.
If that is not bad enough, youth are given no guidelines about expected standards of sexual behavior after 5th grade. There is little discussion of the physical, intellectual, emotional, social and moral benefits of abstaining from sexual relations, and no discussion of the benefits of forming a family before having sexual relationships. Apparently children are expected to fend for themselves in a city that has the highest HIV infection rates of any comparable US city. Abstaining from sex before marriage and stable family formation are not expressed as a desirable goal for young people.
In fact, youth in DC are responding to the message of abstinence. According to the 2005 YRBSS, 52% of District of Columbia high school youth have never had sexual intercourse, a 16 percent increase in abstaining youth in just two years! Furthermore, 76% of District of Columbia middle school students have never had sexual intercourse, a 9 percent increase in abstaining youth in just two years. Shouldn’t we encourage this positive trend, instead of rushing to provide ever more condoms (like the 1,000,000 condoms campaign) to any one who wants one?
The draft standards will be used to eliminate ULTRA Teen Choice (UTC) and other directive abstinence programs from DC public schools. This has already happened at Stuart-Hobson Middle School, where the UTC program was told to stop last week after four years of successful service even though 30 youth were participating in the ULRA Teen Choice Service Club. The Chancellor’s office has until now supported this effort by stating that “The Chancellor has placed a moratorium on all external providers of health and consumer education. Her goal is to ensure providers programs are consistent with DC standards”.
This is in spite of the fact that the UTC program has been reviewed multiple times by the DCPS HIV/AIDS office.
There is a hidden agenda among those promoting the addition of discussion of gender identity, sexual orientation, and contraception for 6th, 7th and 8th grade youth, and discussion of the availability of abortion for 9th grade youth to deny students the choice to have a program that encourages and supports them in their decision to stay abstinent.
Jeremy Ogusky, one of the authors of the proposed Health Standards, wrote in an email last spring that “This is a good opportunity to neutralize [ULTRA Teen Choice] now’. He has a clear bias against directive abstinence programs, and should not have been allowed to work on drafting the standards.
The just released HIV/AIDS surveillance report for Washington DC and the recently released report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing increasing rates for Sexually transmitted diseases and a very high rate of HIV/AIDS infection.
It is ironic that those who promote more “choices” for youth are actually denying the choice of youth who want to remain sexually abstinent.
The Health Education Standards must include language that specifically welcomes programs that directively teach abstinence from sexual activity until marriage as the expected standard of behavior for school age children.
Read the emails detailing these events and other pertinent information at http://www.ultrateenchoice.org/c_SAVE_DC_Action_Page_629_English.htm