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When one of my brothers-in-law joined a carpool, one rule was spelled out. No talking about politics, religion or sex. Sorry, carpool. In light of this week’s news that Gov. Bill Ritter rejected $488,000 of Title V funds that would have been used for teaching abstinence-only sex education in Colorado, we’re talking about all three.

Title V programs must meet eight criteria. Among these are teaching the social, psychological and health gains to be realized by abstaining from sexual activity, that abstinence outside of marriage is the expected standard for all school-aged children, and that abstinence from sexual activity is the only certain way to avoid out-of-wedlock pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases and other related problems. Other criteria include teaching students how to reject sexual advances, how alcohol and drug use increases vulnerability to sexual advances and the importance of attaining self-sufficiency before engaging in sexual activity.

Worthy messages and standards indeed. Ritter’s rejection of funds amounted to a slap in the face for Friends First, headquartered in Longmont and Denver, Fact Foundation based in Grand Junction, the Weld County Health Department and Center Consolidated School District in the San Luis Valley. These programs previously received Title V funds. Although they can apply for Community-based Abstinence Education federal grant money, they lost significant funding.

Kim Bingaman, a Lafayette mother of four, told me she was a firm believer in abstinence-only education because it would be “well-worth it” if even one unwanted birth was prevented. Bingaman was one of four local residents who responded for this column.

I brought up Bingaman’s point to Ned Calonge, chief medical officer for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, who recommended Ritter’s actions. Calonge pointed to April’s results of a study mandated by Congress that showed abstinence-only programs don’t work. He added it is almost an “anathema” to support a program like abstinence-only sex education that must, by design, withhold information regarding safe and effective interventions that can protect health. He also said we would be irresponsible if one student got HIV for lack of knowledge and skills to avoid it.

There’s truth there. No matter how good any program is, it will not stop all teen sexual activity. Teens need to be safe, and numbers of teen pregnancies are on the rise. The Center for Disease Control’s latest posted numbers are for 2005 wherein 414,592 live births were recorded for 15-to-19-year-olds, which is 40.5 births per 1,000.

Comprehensive sex education is touted as the effective solution and one offered in the Boulder Valley School District. In grades 5-6, students are taught about puberty, reproduction and how life begins. Topics in grades 7-12 include anatomy and physiology and pregnancy from conception to postpartum. Also addressed are parenting responsibilities and the psychological, social and emotional aspects of sexual relationships. Abstinence is taught at all grade levels and contraception in grades 7-12. Other topics include heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, intercourse, abortion (spontaneous and induced) and masturbation.

While most of these topics are grounded in science-based discussions, some cross the line into religious domains. Mike Owens, a father in Superior whose children are in their 30s, went one step further. He said, “No. No. I am way too old-fashioned, too conservative for all this crap these guys are doing in school with our tax dollars.” He added if he had children in school today, they would not be attending these classes. He would teach them at home.

In contrast, Angela Rope, a Broomfield mother of three boys ages 6 through 11, said, “In a perfect world, I would love all children to do abstinence first and only think that way, but I know that’s not going to happen, so I guess the school should be teaching all of it.”

Through our discussion, Brad Fritz of Broomfield, who raised two nieces, first opposed, then supported Ritter’s move. Fritz said, “Kids can use all the help they can get these days” to be safe and to practice safe sex.

I agreed with all of these parents as they discussed the importance of parents in sex education. Parents need to convey to their children their moral beliefs and expectations about sex and to give loving structure to their lives. Government can’t give that. But, parents can promote abstinence before marriage and fidelity afterward as a healthy course to a happy life.

What say ye, carpool riders?


Source: Published Jan. 13, 2008 Daily Camera


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