Guest column – Wrong way on health

By Robin H. Allen

Community leaders should be concerned about the new Wake County health education policy [” Wrong signal to donors ” , Philanthropy Journal, 12/22/03].

It requires teachers, counselors and nurses in the schools to repeat a litany of 11 messages when any “sexual issue” comes up.

Although reasonable people can disagree, there is nothing reasonable about this draconian measure that requires a counselor to talk abstinence to a child seeking help for sexual abuse. This is censorship.

It also is a surprise.

Last school year, the School Health Advisory Committee, a group that advises the school board, called for thorough revision of the standard health curriculum and the introduction of an optional curriculum.

The schools’ staff developed proposed curricula, and a panel of local physicians reviewed the standard curriculum proposal, which also was the subject of a public hearing.

But the board’s proposed new policy would drop the optional curriculum and introduce required sexual education that was not part of the curriculum recommended by the staff, reviewed by the physicians panel and the subject of the public hearing.

Are these board members playing politics on the school playgrounds of children?

Parents are the best teachers of moral values. Most parents agree that abstinence is the best choice and first message for youth.

However, not all parents agree that sex is always wrong outside of marriage.

The last Youth Risk Behavior Survey in 2003 of North Carolina students found that 73.5 percent of 12th graders reported having sexual intercourse. Will we continue to say, “just be abstinent” to these sexually active youth?

Ironically, the 7th message in the county’s new health policy praises the importance of parental involvement.

This is lip service and an insult. This censorship will negate the health elective that students could choose in grades 10 through 12 who have not already taken the standard health elective in grades seven through nine.

Parents like me seeking more information about disease protection and contraception will have no choice but the standard curriculum.

Parents who don’t want any health curriculum for their children can opt out. Only 1 percent did last spring.

So whom do these board members represent?

At the public hearing last spring, people bused from churches wearing white shirts for “purity” spoke against the proposed standard curriculum.

The Wake County Christian Coalition has a focus on Abstinence Until Marriage, and a local group called Citizens for Excellence in Education recently criticized school board incumbents who supported the proposed standard curriculum for “promoting promiscuity, condom usage, homosexuality and pornography.”

If this action is not about politics, religion or personal sexual ethics, could it be at the bidding of these groups?

Contrast last year’s thoughtful official process to this maneuver just before winter break, allowing no time for public input, medical review or consideration by the School Health Advisory Committee.

Board members Amy White, Carol Parker and Ron Margiotta, led by board members Bill Fletcher and Patti Head, cast the first December vote to ram this new policy through for a final vote on Jan 6th.

The father of Duke University historian John Hope Franklin said: “Right is slow and tardy”.

There is nothing right about this. It is fast, arrogant and wrong for the health and well-being of our children.

Robin H. Allen is a member of the Wake County Health Education Task Force.

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