The upstate, New York Shenendehowa School System, near Schenectady, is the scene of controversy over the local Planned Parenthood’s role in assisting with sexuality education. After learning that the local Planned Parenthood affiliate has provided guest presenters for Shenendehowa middle and high school classrooms, a group of local abstinence-only activists formed the Shen Parents’ Choice Coalition to demand an end to this arrangement. Bowing to the opposition, Schools’ Superintendent L. Oliver Robinson promptly ordered the cancellation of all Planned Parenthood appearances in Shenendehowa schools.
More than five dozen residents turned out for a Saturday-morning forum in which opposition leaders presented their ideas for an “alternative” sexuality education curriculum. One of the speakers, Emily Sederstrand, insisted that Planned Parenthood Mohawk Hudson materials and educational methods were causing emotional damage to students: “This is a type of sexual harassment going on. It’s bullying.”1 Sederstrand was joined by several other presenters, including Halfmoon resident Maureen Silfer, a vocal Planned Parenthood opponent whose teen daughter first brought the curriculum to her attention.
District spokesperson Kelly DeFeciani said that, as a result of the controversy, the district will convene a health advisory committee to review the current curriculum. Sexual health topics are taught as a 10-day unit during eighth-grade health class, and again in either junior or senior year. 2
Planned Parenthood Mohawk Hudson had sustained a two-decade relationship with the school district, providing guest instructors and supplemental training for teen sexual health advocates, until the Superintendent halted all such activities. The agency’s work in 12 other upstate New York school districts, involving 46 public schools, had not generated any significant opposition until Silfer, Sederstrand, and others raised objections. 3
1 Glenn Griffith, “Shen Parents' Choice Coalition Suggests School Adopt Abstinence-Centered Sex Education Program,” Saratogia.com, 21 January 2012, accessed 2 February 2012,
2 Tatiana Zarnowski, “Shen: Abstinence Advocates Keep Fighting,” DailyGazette.com, 27 January 2012, accessed 2 February 2012, <http://www.dailygazette.com/news/2012/jan/27/0127_Abstain/>.
3 “Shenendehowa Fails Sex Ed - The Observation Deck: A Blog of Opinions on Local, State and National Issues,” TimesUnion.com, 8 January 2012, accessed 2 February 2012, <http://blog.timesunion.com/opinion/shenendehowa-fails-sex-ed/17190/>.