January 2006 (To print, click the print icon on your browser
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Tampa Schools Reviewing Abstinence-Only Speakers

In Tampa , Florida , Hillsborough County School District officials are beginning to reexamine the supplemental speakers who have been a part of their sexuality education curriculum.

The Hillsborough Schools coordinator for wellness programming explained that the district uses an abstinence-plus curriculum that emphasizes the benefits of abstinence but also includes information about oral and anal sex, contraception, and disease-prevention methods.1 Some middle schools and high schools, however, chose to invite abstinence-only-until-marriage speakers from A Woman's Place Ministries into their classrooms to supplement the curriculum, despite claims from some students that the different messages confuse them.

A Woman's Place Ministries, a faith-based organization that has been sending speakers to the district since 1999, has been criticized for its moralizing messages and disparaging remarks about condoms. Students have also confirmed that A Woman's Place speakers show graphic slides of infected genitalia and tell them that “for most STDs, condoms don't protect.”2

A Woman's Place recently received a federal grant of nearly $2.4 million to provide community-based abstinence-only-until-marriage programming over the next three years. The money has allowed the organization to hire more speakers and offer its services free of charge to schools.3 Despite the influx of money and the support for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs from the current Administration, district officials are questioning the public health credentials of A Woman's Place's curriculum.

The controversy over A Woman's Place arose after a recent survey of teen behavior showed that nearly half of all high school students and one in five middle school students in the district had reported having sexual intercourse.4

The Hillsborough County School Board has dealt with other controversies surrounding the topic of sexuality this school year. Last month a group of parents opposed to the formation of a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) in one of the high schools argued to the school board that “sexually oriented” clubs, which they presume the GSA to be, are inappropriate and in conflict with the district's policy of teaching abstinence.5

The school board has not made final decision on either of these issues. SIECUS will continue to monitor the situation.

References

  1. Marilyn Brown, “Sex Ed Looms As Next Issue For Board,” The Tampa Tribune , 27 December 2005, accessed 13 January 2006, <http://tampatrib.com/floridametronews/MGB8ROCQPHE.html>
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Melanie Ave , “‘Sexual' School Clubs Decried,” St. Petersburg Times , 14 December 2005, accessed 13 January 2006, <www.sptimes.com/2005/12/14/Hillsborough/_Sexual__school_clubs.shtml>.