Friday, March 04, 2005

Washington abstains from abstinence-only

Way to go, Washington. I hope other states will follow their lead:

House passes bill outlawing abstinence-only sex ed

By REBECCA COOK
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to sex, state representatives said Friday.

The House passed a bill that would prevent high schools from offering abstinence-only sex education. Instead, schools' sex ed classes would have to include information on both abstinence and contraception.

"We want our children to abstain, but if they don't, I want them to have a safety net," said Rep. Shay Schual-Berke, D-Normandy Park, who sponsored the bill.

Washington schools aren't required to teach sex ed. In response to reports that some students were getting inaccurate information from some sex ed classes - for example, some were told condoms are rarely effective - the state Health Department and the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction created voluntary guidelines for medically accurate sex education. The House bill makes those guidelines mandatory, though schools still can choose whether to teach about sex at all.

Some Republicans said that local, elected school boards should be able to decide for themselves what kind of sex ed to offer. They said some schools will likely drop sex ed altogether rather than drop abstinence-only education.

"To say, 'Take it or leave it' is an insult to these school boards," said Rep. Doug Ericksen, R-Bellingham. "We're saying, 'We're going to jam this down your throat whether you like it or not.'"

Rep. Rodney Tom, R-Medina, said he could think of 12,000 reasons to pass the bill - the number of teen pregnancies in Washington last year.

"One of the great myths is we're encouraging kids to have sex," Tom said. "When students have medically accurate sex education information, they are less likely to be sexually active."

The bill passed 61-36. It goes now to the Senate.


Here's a case where local control is unacceptable. School boards do not have the right to discriminate, nor should they have the right to mislead. Schools must give medically accurate information to students. Period.

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