New Toolkit Tackles Homophobia in 'Abstinence-Only' Education, Equips Communities to Fight for Real Sex Ed
(NEW YORK, Monday, September 9, 2002) - Citing an increase in public school districts replacing sex education with programs that teach that sex is only acceptable for people who are heterosexual and married, Lambda Legal today released a first-of-its-kind toolkit to help youth, parents and community members make sure their local school district is teaching accurate and inclusive sex education. In the new school year, public school districts in 49 states will teach these so-called “abstinence only” programs, according to Lambda Legal. To qualify for highly sought-after federal funding, these programs must teach that sex within marriage is “the expected standard of human sexual activity” and that any sexual relationships outside of marriage are “likely to have harmful psychological and physical effects.” These programs either don’t mention homosexuality or limit it to discussions of immorality, promiscuity and HIV/AIDS. “These programs aren’t helping kids postpone sex - they’re feeding them inaccurate information, telling them a tiny fraction of the story, and ultimately putting their health at risk by not teaching them about safer sex,” said Jonathan Givner, Lambda Legal staff attorney. “Most people oppose these ‘abstinence-only’ programs, but they don’t know whether this is being taught in their schools. This new resource gives people the tools they need to find out what’s being taught and then to make sure young people are getting real sex education.” In 1999, 23 percent of high school teachers said their schools taught “abstinence-only” in sex education classes, up from only 2 percent in 1988, according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute. In the past six years, the federal government has devoted more than half a billion dollars to these programs - and President Bush is lobbying heavily for even more funding. The new Lambda Legal toolkit - “Tell Me the (Whole) Truth: School Supplies To Get Real Sex Education” - is the first action-oriented resource specifically addressing the anti-gay aspects of “abstinence-only” programs and their effect on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth. The toolkit, which is also online at www.LambdaLegal.org, includes:
- Extensive factual background on the differences between “abstinence-only” programs and real sex education;
- Statements from major mainstream national education and health groups on the need for comprehensive, accurate sex education;
- Questions to ask to find out whether “abstinence-only” programs are being taught in local school districts;
- Tips for working with local school boards to secure real sex education;
- Samples of school board testimony, letters to schools and opinion pieces for local newspapers.
The toolkit is designed to be used not just by students and their parents, but also by local community members - specifically including LGBT people. “These programs render our youth invisible and have potentially deadly consequences for them,” Givner said. “We all have a responsibility to start asking questions and getting answers about this, which this toolkit helps do.” Contact: Eric Ferrero, 212/809-8585 ext. 227; 888/987-1984 (pager)