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In this issue...

Front & Center:
Doing Good with
Good Bucks

Jerry Thacker

Uniform National
Standards of
Care for Pregnancy
Help Centers

Thomas A. Glessner

No Free Lunch?

Patrick McLaughlin

Teaching Abstinence
in Schools

A Different Road

Laura Baker

Reaching Out to Men

Paula E. Smith

Rebuilding Your Life

David J. O'Leary

Marketing 101

Jerry Thacker


Barbara Willsher

Teaching Abstinence in Schools

(Excerpted from The Abstinence Survival Kit)

[Publisher's note: This article can serve as a great resource for those occasions when schools and organizations contact you for abstinence information. Permission is granted for you to make copies of the complete article for free distribution.]

Photo by Terry Wild

Parents should be the primary educators of their children when it comes to sex education. While this is the ideal, it does not always happen. Sex education is currently a part of many schools' course work. Teaching kids a comprehensive sex education curriculum doesn't give them all the vital information they need. Shouldn't we teach kids how to have healthy relationships and abstain from sex until marriage? It can be done -- even in public schools. But before you can effectively bring abstinence-until-marriage education into your school, several things need to be assessed.

Are there are any health teachers or family life educators supportive of abstinence-until-marriage education in your school? To find out, contact those individuals and discuss their feelings toward abstinence-until-marriage education. Encourage those that are supportive to seek out abstinence-until-marriage resources or to attend training on how to teach abstinence. They may also invite special speakers or groups that do special one- or two-day presentations. Outside abstinence-until-marriage speakers and teachers usually can be invited into the classroom by another teacher.

Where do your superintendent, principal, and curriculum coordinator stand on abstinence-until-marriage education? If they are favorable, you will have a good chance of getting it into your schools. Make recommendations for presentations and a curriculum. Find motivational speakers who address the issue of abstinence and suggest them for school assemblies.

Do you know how each member on your school board feels about abstinence-until-marriage education? If not, meet with each one individually. Is he or she open or hostile to abstinence-until-marriage education? If no one on the board is open, find someone who is willing to run for a school board position who will promote abstinence-until-marriage education. If members of the board are in favor of abstinence-until-marriage education, they can assist in getting a curriculum approved.

Do you have a community coalition? If not, it may take some time to organize one, but it is well worth it if you bring in special events and earn the credibility to bring abstinence-until-marriage programs into the schools. Coalitions can bring lots of people together to work on the issue from various angles. A coalition could: provide for local schools a resource directory listing those healthcare professionals and others who will provide accurate information for health and family life classes and who are for abstinence until marriage; develop a teen panel willing to discuss why they chose abstinence until marriage (the teen panel could also put on short dramatic sketches or skits that illustrate points); implement or assist with media campaigns, such as billboards, posters in the schools, and public service announcements on television and radio.

Working within the public school system presents some interesting challenges, and each school district operates differently. It is important to know the chain of command. Do special assemblies need to be approved by the school board, principal, or superintendent? If the administration is not open, you may wish to present ideas to the school board instead. It is very important to feel out everyone and to know who are your allies and who are your opponents. You also will need to know who has the authority to make curriculum changes.

Deciding what approach to
use will take some investigation.
Talking with health teachers,
school administrators, and
school board members will
reveal who your allies are.

If you do have success bringing abstinence-until-marriage education into a school, it probably will not happen overnight. People are slow to change. It is good to start out with speakers or presentations and work your way up to the point where you can provide or develop a curriculum. The speed of your progress will depend on the amount of support you have and at what level. You can build bridges by starting out with information on self-esteem, date rape, or abstinence from drugs and alcohol. Going the extra mile might involve changing the law in your state.

Step One: Getting educated

  1. Research laws regarding sex education in your state. You should be able to locate these through your local library, state office of public instruction, or your school district's attorney.
  2. Obtain a copy of your local school district's policy for sex education.
  3. Request to review the current curriculum used within your school district.
  4. Visit sex education classes taught at your local school.
  5. Find out what teacher training is provided and what organization provides sex education training.
  6. Become aware of the sex education terminology used within your community. Some terms that may be used are "family life education," "human growth and development," and "abstinence-based education." Work to stay aware of terminology changes in the area of risk-reduction education. New terms frequently are created to replace older terms. Examples include: "contraceptive availability" instead of "contraceptive distribution," "sexually transmitted infections" rather than "sexually transmitted diseases," and "a faithful, long-term, monogamous relationship" rather than "marriage."

Step Two: Involving the community

  1. Initiate and organize a group of community citizens and leaders who support abstinence-until-marriage education. Determine a name for your group; come up with a logo to use on flyers, educational brochures, meeting invitations, etc.
  2. Write letters to the editor of the local paper expressing support for abstinence-until-marriage programs or in response to other articles or activities regarding sex education.
  3. Submit an editorial to your local paper.
  4. Initiate a petition in support of abstinence-until-marriage programs. Collect signatures from parents, community leaders, and students.
  5. Have speakers who support abstinence-until-marriage programs speak to various community groups.
  6. Host meetings for parents who are supportive of abstinence-until-marriage education. Assist them in their efforts. Encourage them to recruit other parents.
  7. Call in to radio or TV talk shows that discuss the issue of sex education in schools.
  8. Contact local pregnancy care centers and conservative organizations within the community to find out what efforts they are making to support abstinence-until-marriage education.
  9. Recruit sponsors to assist in buying an ad in the local paper or in placing ads on billboards expressing support for abstinence-until-marriage programs. (Contact the Abstinence Clearinghouse for ad ideas.)
  10. Attend school board meetings. If you wish to raise an issue, be sure to know your facts. Know exactly what the issue is you wish to bring up and be prepared to offer a solution.
  11. Put bumper stickers on your car or wear buttons that encourage abstinence until marriage. (Contact the Abstinence Clearinghouse for a selection from their Directory of Resources.)
  12. Organize a ribbon campaign, designating a white ribbon (to represent purity) to show support for abstinence-until-marriage education. Promote the ribbon campaign, encouraging folks to wear their ribbons within the community and at schools.
  13. Develop a display that can be used at local health fairs, community events, etc. The display can provide information on abstinence-until-marriage education. Brainstorm on location ideas. Look for areas of high visibility. (Having these displays at community events could provide great opportunities to collect signatures for petitions.)
  14. Make contact with local churches and pastors. Discuss the issue of abstinence-until-marriage education and what kinds of things a congregation could do to have an impact on the issue.
  15. Hold educational forums to educate the public on issues regarding abstinence-until-marriage education.
  16. Compile a directory of local health professionals who support abstinence-until-marriage education. This directory should include, but not be limited to, physicians, nurses, and mental health and counseling practitioners. These individuals can be contacted to speak in school classrooms, write articles, and be spokespersons on abstinence-until-marriage education.
  17. Develop a mailing list. Collect lists from churches, civic organizations, school committees, etc. Use this list to keep people informed regarding meetings, upcoming events, and issues. Consider putting together a brief newsletter.
  18. Contact the Abstinence Clearinghouse for technical assistance, suggestions, referrals, materials, and other help.
  19. Enlist students who support abstinence-until-marriage education to write letters, to speak to teachers and school board members, and to speak at community meetings.
  20. Meet with your most active co-workers to identify specific goals, develop a strategy to achieve those goals, and draw up a list of activities that will help the group accomplish objectives leading toward those goals.
  21. Create a "phone chain" to inform parents and friends regarding specific issues coming up at board meetings or within the community. Mobilize co-workers to attend those meetings to present the abstinence- until-marriage perspective and approach toward dealing with those issues.

For more information on how to support abstinence-until-marriage education or on abstinence-until-marriage resources please contact the Abstinence Clearinghouse at 1-888-577-2966.

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