Abstinence ed is now ‘risk avoidance’

Abstinence-only sex education has been rebranded as “risk avoidance” sex ed, writes Ed Week‘s Ross Brenneman.

U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.) wants to increase grants for risk avoidance ed in response to a Centers for Disease Control report that says young people ages 15 to 24 are responsible for half of all new cases of sexually transmitted infections.

Abstinence-education groups claim “risk avoidance abstinence education” is more effective than comprehensive sex education.

Tennessee: ‘No holding hands’ in sex ed class

“Spurred by a classroom demonstration involving a sex toy,” Tennessee has barred teachers from promoting “gateway sexual activity,” reports CBS News. Critics call it the “no holding-hands bill.

Tennessee’s teen pregnancy rate “has dropped steadily since the first abstinence-focused sex education curriculum was put in place in the 1990s,” but remains one of the highest in the nation.

Utah governor vetoes sex ed ban

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert vetoed a bill that would have banned discussion of contraception in sex ed classes. A Republican in a very conservative state, Herbert gave the veto a parent control spin.

. . .  Herbert said that as a parent and grandparent he considered proper sex education in public schools an important component to the moral education youngsters receive at home.

“If HB 363 were to become law, parents would no longer have the option the overwhelming majority is currently choosing for their children. I am unwilling to conclude that the state knows better than Utah’s parents as to what is best for their children,” he said.

Currently, schools can teach “abstinence plus” sex ed, with parents’ consent, or abstinence-only.

. . .  Utah teachers may describe different types of contraceptives, how they work (such as by preventing transfer of bodily fluids) and their success and failure rates, though they may not advocate their use or explain to students how to use them.

The bill also would have barred instruction on homosexuality or other types of human sexuality.

Kids delay sex after abstinence classes

Abstinence-only classes delayed sex for black sixth and seventh graders, concludes a new study.  Previous research has found no effects for abstinence education and the Obama administration plans to defund current abstinence education programs.

“This is a rigorous study that means we can now say that it’s possible for an abstinence-only intervention to be effective,” Dr. John B. Jemmott III, the University of Pennsylvania professor who led the study, said Tuesday, hours after results of the study were released. “That’s important, because for some populations, abstinence is the only acceptable message.”

Roughly a third of the students who participated in a weekend abstinence-only class started having sex in the next two years, compared with half who were randomly assigned instead to classes teaching safer sex or general health information. For those who got the gold standard of sex education — comprehensive instruction on both abstinence and safer sex –  about 42 percent began having sex in the following two years.

“None of the curricula had any effect on the prevalence of unprotected sexual intercourse or consistent condom use,” an editorial in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine added.

The abstinence program did not take a moralistic tone or tell children not to have sex before marriage. It did not disparage condom use.

Instead, it involved assignments to help sixth- and seventh graders see the drawbacks to sexual activity at their age, including having them list the pros and cons themselves. Their “cons” far outnumbered the “pros.”

“The message was not mixed with any other messages,” said Jemmott.