FFRF pressures Santa Rosa schools over abstinence program

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a national state/church watchdog with more than 1,500 members throughout Florida, is placing pressure on the school board in Santa Rosa County to replace its abstinence-only sex education program.

FFRF first sent an open records request to the district in June expressing concerns about the abstinence-only sex education program. After reviewing the curriculum, FFRF confirms that, despite the district’s assurance to the contrary, the curriculum is in fact abstinence-only.

In the curriculum FFRF received, for example, the phrase “birth control” was only mentioned once — referenced negatively as a financial consequence of premarital sex. Contraceptives were not mentioned anywhere else in the curriculum. In the STD/STI portion of the curriculum, abstinence is not only listed as the preferred method of preventing spread of disease, but the only method.

This incomplete curriculum isn’t particularly surprising given that it was created by a controversial abstinence-only group, The Center for Relationship Education.

FFRF suggests that the board adopt the Centers for Disease Control’s suggested 16 health education topics related to “family life,” “consequences of teen pregnancy,” and “prevention and control of disease” topics in their curriculum.

This list, in addition to citing the benefits of sexual abstinence for teenagers, includes a more comprehensive approach to educating students, including ways to access valid and reliable health information, products and services related to HIV, other sexually transmitted diseases, and pregnancy, how to create and sustain healthy and respectful relationships, and how to obtain and correctly use contraceptives.

FFRF originally expressed concerns about whether the abstinence-only program was preaching religion. After combing through the curriculum, FFRF is satisfied there is no overt religion in the program. “However, even if it isn’t stated explicitly, the underlying impetus for abstinence-only sex education is rooted in unrealistic, fundamentalist religious values,” FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor says.

FFRF called the omission of contraception education “irresponsible and nonresponsive to academic standards.”

“In order to protect the health and welfare of their students, we urge the District to replace this abstinence-only curriculum with an appropriate, comprehensive, science-based curriculum,” FFRF’s letter concludes.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with over 32,000 members across the country and a chapter in central Florida. FFRF’s purposes are to protect the constitutional separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

FFRF has received a 4 star rating from Charity Navigator

FFRF is a member of the Secular Coalition for America

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