Curriculum

Running Debate

By Jessica L. Tonn — May 23, 2006 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Kansas board members try a new approach to abstinence-only sex ed.

Just three months away from statewide primary elections, Kansas state school board members who have been advocating abstinence-until-marriage sex education are softening their strategy.

Earlier this school year, the board—five of whose 10 seats are up for grabs—made headlines when it passed a policy recommending districts adopt rules that require families to sign their children up to receive sex education, instead of a system that automatically enrolls students and puts the onus on parents to have them opt out.

Then, in April, board member Kathy Martin proposed that the state’s school accreditation standards include a nine-week abstinence-until-marriage course, which would include information about contraceptives and sexually transmitted diseases, in grades 6-9.

In an interview last week, she said that the “safe-sex message” that many schools use “is pretty much bogus.”

According to board member Bill Wagnon, Ms. Martin’s idea did not receive enough support within the panel to continue discussion.

When that request stalled, the board asked the state department of education to come up with a “broad philosophy” statement regarding sex education, said David S. Awbrey, the spokesman for the department. Since 1987, the state has required schools to offer instruction on human sexuality, without specific guidelines, he said.

The department’s proposed policy says that local school boards “shall provide a comprehensive program of abstinence until marriage in human sexuality,” which should also cover contraception, sexually transmitted diseases, and disease prevention. If adopted, the abstinence-until-marriage statement would not be tied to schools’ accreditation, and would not be mandated.

Observers note that mandating the policy in state standards would take months, by which point elections could have taken place in five of the 10 board districts, potentially altering the 6-4 majority that conservatives hold over moderates.

Mr. Wagnon said that the department’s statement is “basically the same as what has been in place in Kansas forever.” He asserted that “it’s all about allowing the right wing to get in their verbiage about abstinence until marriage.”

Ms. Martin is adamant that schools send students “the right message” about sex. Schools “need to teach them that it’s a loaded gun you’re playing with,” she said.

The new sex education proposal, she said, does offer “the same information; just the message is different.”

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the May 24, 2006 edition of Education Week

Events

School & District Management K-12 Essentials Forum Get a Strong Start to the New School Year
Get insights and actions from Education Week journalists and expert guests on how to start the new school year on strong footing.
Reading & Literacy Webinar A Roadmap to Multisensory Early Literacy Instruction: Accelerate Growth for All Students 
How can you develop key literacy skills with a diverse range of learners? Explore best practices and tips to meet the needs of all students. 
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
College & Workforce Readiness Webinar
Supporting 21st Century Skills with a Whole-Child Focus
What skills do students need to succeed in the 21st century? Explore the latest strategies to best prepare students for college, career, and life.
Content provided by Panorama Education

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Curriculum Miami School Board Reverses Itself, Approves Sex Ed. Textbook
The board reversed itself again to accept the text but to maintain a block on access on the more controversial chapters.
3 min read
Image of books on a library shelf.
iStock/Getty
Curriculum Florida School Board Rejects Sex Ed. Textbook Under Pressure
Critics said the material was not age appropriate for students in middle and high school.
2 min read
Image of books.
iStock/Getty
Curriculum 4 Ways States Are Exerting More Control Over Classroom Materials
States have limited power over what materials teachers use—but some are wielding influence anyway.
7 min read
Curriculum Opinion A Search for Common Ground: Navigating Tough Classroom Conversations
Should parents or legislators have a say in what subjects educators teach?
4 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty