Pennsylvania County’s New Sex Education Curriculum To Focus Less on HIV/AIDS, Reinforce Abstinence
The sex education curriculum in West Allegheny County, Pa., public schools has been revised to reinforce sexual abstinence and the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, with less of a focus on HIV/AIDS, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. The new curriculum also will not include information about condoms, oral contraceptives or any other methods of preventing pregnancy or the transmission of STDs other than abstinence from sexual activity, according to the Post-Gazette. The school district's original curriculum -- which was developed in the late 1980s -- focused primarily on HIV/AIDS. Although there is no evidence that West Allegheny students have become increasingly sexually active or are experiencing an increase in STD incidence, Charles Fazekas, district director of education services, said that the curriculum "still needed to be updated," according to the Post-Gazette. Fazekas since January has been meeting with a panel of parents and teachers to discuss revisions to the county's health education, physical education and sex education curricula. The committee members -- who became "alarmed" by published data about increasing STD prevalence among U.S. teenagers -- decided that the "only safe approach" is to teach only abstinence, the Post-Gazette reports.
"We want to protect students," Fazekas said, adding, "We're taking the approach that the only way to prevent getting a disease is not participating in activities that put you at risk." Fazekas added that parents should be teaching students about contraception. Committee member Pam Perry said she supports the revisions because she "believes in saving sex for marriage," according to the Post-Gazette. "That's what's taught in the Bible," she said. However, abstinence-only education can be "dangerous" when schools "try to scare students into pledges of chastity," according to Brenda Green, vice president of education for Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania, the Post-Gazette reports. "When you do abstinence-only [education], especially when it's fear-based, I think you're medically putting kids at risk," she said. Although Pennsylvania does not require public schools to teach sex education, it requires HIV/AIDS and abstinence education among schools that do, according to the Post-Gazette (Iglar, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 8/11).