Texas School District Looks To ‘Abstinence-Plus’ Curriculum After ‘Abstinence-Only’ Proves Ineffective
96 percent of schools in Texas school districts teach abstinence-only; it’s not really working, though. Reports from the Lone State are grim: as a state, they rank fifth for most teen pregnancies, fourth for highest rate of syphilis among teens, and third for the most young people infected with HIV. “These are girls as young as 13 that are pregnant, some of them are on their second pregnancies,” Tracy Dees, a supervisor of health services, told Texas Tribune. Feeling the heat, Dee’s Midland district — the West Texas town George W. calls home — has begun shifting their sex education efforts from abstinence-only to abstinence-plus, a program that emphasizes abstinence but is comprehensive in contraceptive and safe sex practice. And according to the Tribune, Midland is not alone in conceding to the failures of abstinence-only education; although still a minority, more and more districts are moving towards “-plus” programs.
“It’s like we’re beyond this argument of abstinence, abstinence plus. Districts want something that works,” Susan Tortoler, the director of University of Texas’ Prevention Research Center, told the Tribune. “-plus” programs make way for hormones, and can act as a corrective for any information or mis-information kids get from television, friends and the internet, she says. And she assures, “kids aren’t getting aroused when they see a condom.”
Also influencial in many districts push for abstinence-plus is the fact that federal support for abstinence-only has waned. Whereas the Bush Administration offered significant financial support for those programs, the Obama Administration has emphasized “evidence-based” prevention programs. Evidence for many abstinence-only programs lagging, districts are finding it harder to get the federal support they need.
This is all not to give up hope that abstinence has it’s benefits, it’s just accepting that it hasn’t proven successful. Also quoted in the Tribune piece is pastor and abstinence educator Ed Ainsworth as saying that, “Most people take the path of the least resistance.” He asks:
Will a condom protect your heart? As a female, will a condom protect your reputation? It might protect you from getting pregnant, it might protect you from getting a disease, but there’s no way it will protect your heart, mind, emotions, and reputation. There’s no way. So how can we call it safe?
And in many ways he’s right, particularly in communities where waiting until marriage to have sex is taken as the moral high ground. But the fact remains that condoms do prevent disease and pregnancy no matter what your age or marital status, and it’s interesting to see Texas school systems begin to take account of that fact.
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