ACLU wants to review Ohio abstinence classes
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The American Civil Liberties Union has asked 31 school districts in Ohio for copies of curricula used to teach sexual abstinence programs so it can review the material for accuracy.
The group's Ohio affiliate sent public information requests to districts last week as part of a project being conducted by the civil rights group's national office, said ACLU of Ohio staff attorney Carrie Davis.
The goal is to examine the content of abstinence-education programs paid for with tax money, Davis said. The material also will be reviewed for any separation of church and state concerns, she said.
A long-awaited national study ordered by Congress and released Friday concluded that students who took part in sexual abstinence programs were just as likely to have sex as those who did not.
In addition, those who attended one of the four abstinence classes that were reviewed reported having similar numbers of sexual partners as those who did not attend the classes. And they first had sex at about the same age as other students -- 14.9 years, according to Mathematica Policy Research Inc.
Some of the school districts asked to provide copies of their abstinence curricula to the ACLU include Dayton, Miamisburg and West Carrollton in southwest Ohio.
Valerie Huber, director of the National Abstinence Educators Association, a newly formed trade group, said she doubts the ACLU will uncover any problems.
"It's probably part of a coordinated effort to de-fund abstinence education," she said.
Huber said other studies show abstinence education programs work in persuading teens to delay the onset of sexual activity and persuading sexually active teens to reduce participation in casual sex.
The federal government now spends about $176 million annually on abstinence-until-marriage education. Critics have said repeatedly they don't believe the programs are working, and the study will give them reinforcement.
Some lawmakers and advocacy groups believe the federal government should use that money for comprehensive sex education, which would include abstinence as a piece of the curriculum.
Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat and critic of abstinence-only education, has stripped $1 million in state aid for those programs from his proposed budget.
The administration says it has no plans to apply for federal money for the programs after the current funding ends Sept. 30.
Ohio abstinence groups have received $23.7 million in federal dollars over the last three years, according to the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States. The state has contributed $500,000 a year, in addition to running programs through the Governor's Office on Faith-based and Community Initiatives.