District Opinions Divided on Future of Sex Education, Fear Loss of Local Control

Batesburg-Leesville, SC

The Batesburg-Leesville area schools are considering replacing their current sex education with a fear-based, abstinence-only-until-marriage program entitled Worth the Wait. School board members, administrators, and a district committee are debating whether to make improvements to the current curriculum, which emphasizes abstinence, or scrap it in favor of Worth the Wait, which is used by six other South Carolina districts.

South Carolina Parents Involved in Education (SC PIE) receives over $800,000 a year in Community-Based Abstinence Education funding from the federal government, which it uses to promote and administer Worth the Wait. To use the curriculum, a district must commit completely to it, to the exclusion of any other sex education curricula, for a minimum of three years.

SC PIE tried to introduce Worth the Wait into the state’s schools in 2005, but a review board made up of health professionals and educators rejected the proposal because it found that the curriculum featured “inherently biased” gender roles and relied on scare tactics.  The review board deemed the curricula only useful as supplemental material, though the CEO of SC PIE claims changes have been made. 

SIECUS also reviewed Worth the Wait, and found that it relies on messages of fear, discourages contraceptive use, and promotes biased views of gender, marriage, and pregnancy options.  As part of the program students are encouraged to sign a virginity pledge and are given misrepresented statistics about their effectiveness.1

While school officials in Batesburg-Leesville are not concerned with the strict abstinence-only-until-marriage messages in this curriculum, some are concerned with the rigid teaching methods and long-term commitment the program requires. One district health coordinator said the script gives her educators guidance in discussing different topics, but another countered that the program is “very prescriptive and devalues the expertise of the teacher.”2    The State Schools director noted that a limited, scripted method of teaching is “not the way teachers who have their master’s and bachelor’s degrees usually work.”3   And, the Superintendent said he fears that Worth the Wait “doesn’t support your program; it takes it over,” and said that he “could not in good faith recommend the Worth the Wait curriculum.”4

References

  1. For more information see SIECUS’ review of Worth the Wait at: www.communityactionkit.org/reviews/ WorthTheWaitSummary.html.
  2. Devon Copeland, “Lexington District’s Sex Education Plan Stirs Sharp Debate,” The State, 22 January 2008, accessed 26 March 2008,<http://www.thestate.com/local/story/292626.html>.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.

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