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Sex Ed or Abstinence-Only For Michigan Schools?

October 19, 2009

LANSING, Mich. - As Michigan lawmakers consider legislation that would require school districts to put in place sex education classes, federal lawmakers are working to fund both abstinence-only and sex-ed curriculum through health care reform proposals.

Jennifer Martin, education task force chair for Michigan NOW, notes that sex education currently is left up to each school district. The proposed state legislation would require districts to set up a sex education advisory board and train employees.

"The districts would have to provide factual and medically accurate instruction which is age-appropriate at all grade levels including family planning, human sexuality and the emotional, physical, psychological, hygienic, economic and social aspects of family life."

The state legislation suggests that schools advocate abstinence but also provide factual information. Martin calls it the "abstinence plus" provision and says it might fit well against the backdrop of Sen. Orrin Hatch's call to continue funding for Title V abstinence-only programs and Sen. Max Baucus's provisions that would make available $75 million to states with comprehensive sex education classes. After 12 years of abstinence-only federal funding, only about half the states now request Title V money, she notes.

President Obama has said he will deny requests for federal funding of abstinence-only programs. Martin says that's because the latest statistics available show that abstinence-only programs are not effective.

"Michigan has had a four percent increase in births for 15 to 19 year olds in the year 2006, so it's not as though abstinence-only is doing anything to reduce these problems."

Under the proposed state law, Martin says, students or parents who advocate abstinence-only curriculum would be able to opt out of any sex education classes. With dwindling state funding for school districts, Martin says the Baucus funding proposal could help schools establish the new curriculum.

Amy Miller/Laura Thornquist, Public News Service - MI