Hundreds of parents want the Pittsburgh School Board to revise its sexuality education curriculum because they feel it is inadequate.
The controversy started when a number of parents, concerned that the schools were not teaching enough, approached the school board insisting on a comprehensive curriculum. When one parent asked whether her child would hear the word “condom” during her sex education class, a school official replied “no.”1 The board promised to implement a task force to consider the matter but did not follow through.
In response two of the parents created an online petition demanding comprehensive sex education. The petition reads, in part: “In Pittsburgh Public Schools, teens aren't receiving the information they need to make healthy and responsible life decisions.” It criticizes the curriculum for trying to scare students from sex, and for promoting a married, heterosexual lifestyle as the standard of behavior. The petition summons community members to press the school board for a curriculum that “stresses the importance of waiting to have sex while providing medically accurate, age-appropriate, information about how to use contraceptives effectively to prevent unintended pregnancies and STDs, including HIV/AIDS.”2 Over 200 parents have now signed the petition.
“We’re a knowledge-based city and to have children being taught what I consider to be something from the dark ages just shocked me,” one of the petitions co-authors said.3 Students offered criticism of the program as well. One senior at a Pittsburgh high school described the current curriculum as “too vague to be helpful” and said that fellow students think sex “is just vaginal intercourse.”4
One school board member, who has been in office for over thirty years, acknowledged that the district has had nothing other than abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. She thinks teaching abstinence is necessary, though agrees that it should be accompanied by enhanced education about STDs.5
The district plans to review the health and physical education curriculum—which includes the sex education curriculum—but did not promise to discard the current abstinence-only-until-marriage program. Officials claim the current curriculum “reflects the city’s conservative mindset.”6 SIECUS will continue to monitor the situation.
- “Some Pittsburgh Parents Petitioning For Broader Sexual Education,” ThePittsburghChannel.com, 17 March 2008, accessed 21 March 2008, <www.thepittsburghchannel.com/family/15618754/detail.html>.
- “Pittsburgh Parents Petition for Sex Ed,” Associated Content.com, 20 March 2008, accessed 16 April 2008, <http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/662949/ pittsburgh_parents_petition_for_sex.html>
- “Some Pittsburgh Parents Petitioning For Broader Sexual Education.”
- Joe Smydo, “Sex-ed topics too narrow, group says,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 17 March 2008, accessed 18 March 2008, <www.post-gazette.com/pg/08077/865776-298.stm>.