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Denver Public Schools Board Unanimously Passes Comprehensive Sexuality Education Resolution

On June 17, 2010, the Denver Public Schools (DPS) Board of Education unanimously passed a resolution stressing the importance of comprehensive sexuality education districtwide. The Resolution Concerning Colorado Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health declares the school board’s recognition of “the need to continue and expand efforts to ensure that all young people have access to science-based, comprehensive, medically accurate, culturally relevant, and age-appropriate sexuality education, information, and resources to make informed decisions about their health and relationships.”[1]
 
The resolution continues a trend of forward progress for comprehensive sexuality education in Colorado.[2] In May 2007, the Colorado House of Representatives passed House Bill 1292, known as the Healthy Youth Act, which requires that, when taught, sex education be science-based, age-appropriate, culturally sensitive, and medically accurate. The bill also emphasized that schools teaching sex education teach both abstinence and contraception. Similar language is reflected in the recent Denver resolution.[3] In addition, in October of that same year, the state refused Title V federal abstinence-only-until-marriage funding.[4] Additionally, earlier this year, the mayor of Denver issued a Youth Agenda that included the express goal of increasing access to “developmentally appropriate comprehensive sex education” for Denver’s youth.[5] The passage of the Resolution Concerning Colorado Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health signals further commitment to achieving this objective.
 
“This resolution tells us that DPS sees the connection between positive academic performance and healthy youth,” stated Lisa Olcese, executive director of The Healthy Colorado Youth Alliance. “Ensuring that youth have access to age-appropriate sexuality education that is fact-based, not shame-based, is a big step in the right direction. We hope this resolution will be a model for school districts throughout our state.”
 
The resolution notes the lasting impact education has on lifetime decision making and community wellness as one reason to provide comprehensive sexuality education in public schools.[6] It also states the positive impact such education can have on “youth delaying sexual activity until they are ready, avoiding unwanted consequences of sexual behavior, learning medically accurate information about their health, and promoting positive messages concerning growth, development, body image, gender roles, and all aspects related to healthy relationships and sexual behavior.”[7] Further, the resolution advocates for Denver public schools and organizations to seek out federal support—financial and otherwise—to implement comprehensive sexuality education goals and names community partnerships as essential in implementing those goals.[8] Finally, it acknowledges the right of parents to make health-related decisions for their children.[9]
 
A groundswell of support predated passage of the resolution, as local and state-based organizations worked to gather 5,000 emails of support to send to the DPS Board.[10] The Healthy Colorado Youth Alliance, Colorado’s statewide comprehensive sexuality education coalition, in partnership with lead member organization COLOR, mobilized a broad spectrum of support from local organizations, including youth advocacy, teen pregnancy prevention, family planning, HIV/AIDS, reproductive justice, faith-, and community-based organizations. Twenty-six Denver-based and greater Colorado organizations have endorsed the resolution, including The Alliance and several of its member organizations and supporters. The Colorado AIDS Project, Colorado Association of School-Based Health Centers, Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR), Colorado Youth Matter (formerly COAPPP), Denver Teen Pregnancy Prevention Partnership, Interfaith Alliance, NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado Foundation, and Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains were among the list of endorsers.[11]

Several of these organization spoke at the meeting in support of the resolution, as did parents, students, medical professionals, and members of the board itself including its president Nate Easley and its superintendent Tom Boasberg.[12] In her testimony, Sandi Lyman, organizing director of The Healthy Colorado Youth Alliance stated the importance of recognizing youth sexual health needs. “For the health and safety of our youth, we must confront this discomfort [with discussions about health and sexuality] and acknowledge, as this resolution does, the connection between access to medically accurate information and thriving and vibrant youth,” said Lyman. “This is no longer an issue that we can keep locked in the realm of controversy.”
 
“SIECUS applauds the Denver Public School Board for their resolution, the latest in a series of wins in Colorado crucial to getting the young people in Denver the information they need to lead safe and healthy lives,” comments Jen Heitel Yakush, director of public policy at the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States. “We support the implementation of comprehensive sexuality education in all Denver public schools, as well as in greater Colorado, and look forward to seeing the health and education benefits that will result.”
 
 
 


[1] Denver Public Schools, School District No.1, Resolution Concerning Colorado Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health (17 June 2010), accessed 7 July 2010, <http://www.boarddocs.com/co/dpsk12/Board.nsf/files/86MM8F59FAAA/$file/5.09+-+Resolution+Re+Colorado+Adolescent+Sexual+and+Reproductive+Health+signed.pdf>.
[2] Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, Colorado State Profile Fiscal Year 2009, SIECUS State Profiles: A Portrait of Sex Education and Abstinence-Only-until-Marriage Programs (2009), accessed 7 July 2010, <http://www.siecus.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=Page.ViewPage&PageID=1209>.
[3] Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, Sexuality Education Victories in Colorado and Kansas (May 2007), accessed 7 July 2010, <http://www.siecus.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=feature.showFeature&FeatureID=949&varuniqueuserid=95465593434>. See alsoSexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, Comprehensive Sexuality Education Comes to Colorado (February 2007), accessed 7 July 2010, <http://www.siecus.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=feature.showFeature&FeatureID=1073&varuniqueuserid=95465593434>.
[4] Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, SIECUS Applauds Colorado's Refusal of Title V Funding (October 2007), accessed 7 July 2010, <http://www.siecus.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=feature.showFeature&FeatureID=988&varuniqueuserid=95465593434>.
[5] Office of Mayor John Hickenlooper, Denver’s Youth Agenda: Advancing the Mayor’s Action Challenge (January 2010), accessed 7 July 2010, <http://denvergov.org/Portals/409/documents/Denver%27s%20Youth%20Agenda.pdf>.
[6] Denver Public Schools, School District No.1, Resolution Concerning Colorado Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health.”
[7] Ibid.
[8] Peter Marcus, “DPS Backs Sex-Ed Policy,” Denver Daily News, 18 June 2010, accessed 7 July 2010, <http://www.thedenverdailynews.com/article.php?aID=8917>.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Healthy Colorado Youth Alliance, “Comp Sex Ed Resolution Passes in DPS,” Press Release published 25 June 2010.
[11] Healthy Colorado Youth Alliance, Why Do We Need a Resolution for Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health? (6 July 2010), accessed 7 July 2010, <http://healthycoloradoyouth.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=42&Itemid=3>.
[12] Healthy Colorado Youth Alliance, “Comp Sex Ed Resolution passes in DPS.” See also Nancy Mitchell, “DPS Board Approves Sex-Ed Resolution,” Denver Times, 18 June 2010, accessed 7 July 2010, <http://www.indenvertimes.com/dps-board-approves-sex-ed-resolution/>.

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