Last month parents and physicians sued the Clovis Unified School District in California over that district’s abstinence-only-until-marriage sex education policy. According to a press release from the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, the lawsuit charges that the district is violating California law and putting teens’ health at risk by teaching students misinformation and denying them critical instruction about condoms and contraception. From the press release:
The textbook that Clovis Unified uses for high school sex education does not mention condoms at all, even in chapters about HIV/AIDS and on preventing STDs and unintended pregnancy. Instead, for example, the textbook lists that the ways to prevent STDs are to respect yourself, get plenty of rest, go out as a group and practice abstinence.
The curriculum teaches that all people, even adults, should avoid sexual activity until they are married. Additional materials compare a woman who is not a virgin to a dirty shoe and suggest that men are unable to stop themselves once they become sexually aroused.
We’re very familiar with the textbook they’re talking about — Lifetime Health from publisher Holt, Rinehart and Winston. Holt submitted that textbook for adoption by the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) in 2004. Just 10 years earlier, Holt had withdrawn an earlier health textbook from consideration in Texas after it had become the focus of relentless attacks by religious-right groups and abstinence-only advocates on and off the SBOE. That textbook had included information on condoms and other forms of contraception and, primarily in its teacher’s edition, information about how to support young people who might be gay. The decision to withdraw its textbook from consideration no doubt cost Holt a lot of money — Texas is the second-largest purchaser of textbooks in the country. Apparently in an effort to avoid yet another controversy, in 2004 the company submitted a new textbook — Lifetime Health — doesn’t have a shred of medically accurate information about contraception. In fact, the words “contraception” and “condom” don’t appear even in the index. Moreover, except for a brief mention of homosexuality in the teacher’s edition, the subject of sexual orientation is nowhere to be found.
Instead, Holt hired a prominent social conservative and abstinence-only advocate, Dr. Joseph McIlhaney, to help write its textbook.
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