another sex education program in the government schools thats based on wishful thinking instead of reality and probably shoves christian values at the kids. its being taught by the catholic church in the public schools!

it must adhere to one fundamental tenet: abstinence

the Catholic Social Services teaches abstinence-based courses

But if students want to know more about contraceptives and birth control, the course won't help them

Sex education focuses on abstinence Some Valley districts discuss choices students might make

JJ Hensley The Arizona Republic Feb. 9, 2006 12:00 AM

If you attend school in Arizona, you're going to learn the same basic concepts in math, science and social studies, no matter where you go.

Sex education is a different story.

State regulations give school districts the option of offering a sex-education course, but if they choose to, it must adhere to one fundamental tenet: abstinence.

As many as 16 school districts in the Valley contract with Catholic Social Services to teach abstinence-based courses such as Worth the Wait and Choosing the Best, which emphasize personal choices teens are faced with, said Trenalisa Lewis, the program coordinator for family-life education with Catholic Charities in the East Valley.

"It's basically just talking to kids about choices," said Lewis, who isn't Catholic. The courses can't bring church doctrine into the classroom. "With your choices you're going to have a positive or negative outcome, depending on which choice you choose."

But if students want to know more about contraceptives and birth control, Lewis can't help them, she said.

"If those questions come up and students have those questions, then we refer them to their school nurse."

Mesa Public Schools has its own curriculum that a panel of community members developed in the late 1980s, which instructor Kay Russell has taught since the beginning.

While the program, like Lewis', emphasizes abstinence, Russell said she gives honest answers to the questions that come up in her all-female classes, even if it is a little awkward.

"I can't imagine something that hasn't been asked of me," she said. "They hear from a boyfriend or on TV. A lot of times they're trying to figure out, if they're doing certain behavior, is there a risk.

"If they ask me any question about any contraceptive, I can tell them what it does, how it works, but we never encourage it, we only encourage abstinence." Sue Johanson, host of a long-running Canadian radio program and Talk Sex with Sue Johanson on the Oxygen network, said she feels abstinence programs can fall short.

Johanson, who's been dishing out advice to Canadian teens and adults for more than 30 years, said American teens in abstinence-only programs are at a disadvantage because when they become sexually active, they aren't equipped with a good foundation on measures to prevent unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.

About 30 percent of American boys and girls are sexually active by age 17.

Lewis said she often hears those arguments from people, like Johanson, who've never been in one of her classes.

"If you choose to become engaged in sex, there are some things that might happen, i.e. STDs, i.e. teen pregnancy," Lewis said. "If you're not having sex, then you can't get these things . . . we just talk to the kids and give them the information and put it back on them."

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