SexEd-Opt-Out-Button560     CATCH-Opt-Out-Button560

By Greg Pfundstein

This week, the NYC sex ed mandate became national news. We were helped by an op-ed in the New York Times last week, an article in the NY Post on Sunday, the extensive coverage of our press conference on Monday in Bay Ridge, and the NY Post’s editorial on the issue on Tuesday. There were links to stories about the mandate on the Drudge Report, and national radio personalities covered the news for multiple days. Members of the coalition have made and will continue to make appearances on local and national television. The message that parents deserve a choice is getting out!

With all this attention, the City has been on defensive all week. Their primary strategy has been twofold: first, to argue with a position we are not promoting, namely that there should be no sex ed of any kind in the schools, and second, that the outrageous materials which we have publicized will not be used in the school. The third argument that is being made, now as always, by the city’s apologists is that abstinence education doesn’t work. So let’s briefly answer each of those arguments and dispel the misinformation.

First, we are not opposed to sex ed in schools. While we think it is extremely important that parents be allowed to opt out completely if they think that is what is best for their kids, we think parents deserve to have the school teaching sex ed that is medically accurate, evidence based, and based on a healthy and normal understanding of human sexuality. That is why we are demanding an alternative abstinence curriculum be allowed under the mandate. Since abstinence education has been proven to work (more below), we don’t think the programs allowed in schools should be subjected to an ideological test instead of an evidence test. If the program has been proven to be effective, it shouldn’t be excluded because it doesn’t meet the ideological requirements of Planned Parenthood and NARAL.

Second, this is pretty straightforward. You can visit the DOE’s website here, and you will find the recommended curricula. If you follow the links from the DOE page and purchase the curricula, you will get Health Smart and Reducing the Risk. The Health Smart middle school abstinence teacher’s manual refers teachers to goaskalice.com on page 9 for help with answering students questions. It also refers teachers to the Health Facts books which are part of the curriculum and which refer students and teachers to goaskalice.com. As for the outrageous homework assignments, right there in the Reducing the Risk student workbook is the condom shopping assignment, the visit a clinic assignment, etc. These things are in the recommended curricula, plain and simple.

As for the City’s clarification that it doesn’t require these curricula be used but just any condom based program, they are opening a teeming can of worms. For instance, there is the Be Proud! Be Responsible! curriculum which tells 13 year old children that showering together is a “green light” activity. Reducing the Risk is the best condom-based program on the market, and the City should stick with defending that.

Finally, there is the claim that abstinence education doesn’t work. It just isn’t true. There are over twenty programs that have been shown in rigorous independent evaluations to have a statistically significant effect on delaying sexual debut, and in the cases where they have measured for it, there is no difference in condom use between kids in abstinence programs and comprehensive programs. Besides, you can’t claim that it is impossible to teach kids to be abstinent and that the Reducing the Risk program does it. In fact, Reducing the Risk has not been shown to increase condom use, only to delay sexual debut. Since that is the case, why can’t we have an alternative program that will do the same thing, minus all the offensive material. Parents who want their kids shopping for condoms and visiting clinics can have that; the rest of us can have an equally effective program.

Those are the major points to keep in mind as the coverage of this battle continues. Don’t forget to call the Mayor and the Chancellor to demand an alternative!




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Check Out Our Poll on Attitudes toward NYC CATCH

Schools participating in the CATCH program

Press Release: NYC CATCH Program Poll

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Majority of NYC parents oppose CATCH; are open to proven abstinence education

New York-- Fifty-three percent of New Yorkers think that Department of Education should not be dispensing Plan B to high school students. A poll commissioned by the Chiaroscuro Foundation and conducted by Smith Johnson Research surveyed 600 New Yorkers on the New York City Department of Education’s controversial CATCH program, and on their opinions of abstinence education. Complete poll results are available at nycparentschoice.org.

“As usual, the Bloomberg administration and the Department of Education think they know better than NYC parents,” said Greg Pfundstein, Executive Director of the Chiaroscuro Foundation, “The DOE should end the CATCH program, which is supported by less than a third of New Yorkers surveyed in its current form. Of course, our expectations for a sensible policy change from DOE are low.”

The Chiaroscuro Foundation released the entire poll including the crosstabs for the sample of 600 and the crosstabs for the oversampled under 55 demographic which had a representative sample of 400. “There should be no question about the soundness of the methodology,” said Pfundstein.

“Not surprisingly, African American and Hispanic parents carry strong opposition to the CATCH program,” said Michael Benjamin, former NY Assemblyman and Executive Director of the Parents’ Choice Coalition.

  • 54% of Hispanic respondents believe the DOE should not be distributing Plan B to high school students, and only 27% support the current opt out system.
  • African-American opposition to CATCH is also high: 59% oppose distributing Plan B to teenagers. Only 15% of African American respondents support the current opt out system.

Additionally, support for comprehensive Abstinence Education is high, especially among African Americans and Hispanics.

  • Nearly 77% of Hispanic respondents would support abstinence education that teaches the facts about contraception while promoting delaying sex as the best choice for teenagers.
  • Additionally, over 80% of Hispanic respondents would be supportive of an abstinence education program that taught healthy relationship skills.
  • Nearly 83% of African American respondents would support abstinence education that teaches healthy relationship skills.
  • And close to 73% of African American respondents would support abstinence education that teaches the facts about contraception while promoting delaying sex as the best choice for teenagers.

Among all parents, more than 75% of respondents would support abstinence education that teaches healthy relationship skills. Close to 71% of respondents would support abstinence education that teaches the facts about contraception while promoting delaying sex as the best choice for teenagers. 

“This kind of social experiment has no place in the education of our children,” said State Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr. “NYC parents agree that the DOE is out of bounds on this issue.” Noting that the poll found only 32% of New Yorkers who rated the performance of New York City public schools in academics excellent or good, Diaz said, “The schools should be focused on providing a quality education to our children, not on passing out pills.”

The Chiaroscuro Foundation is a member of the NYC Parents’ Choice Coalition, which opposes the CATCH program and advocates for optional abstinence education in NYC schools.

The questions on abstinence education were taken from a national survey conducted by the National Abstinence Education Foundation, the results of which can be found at http://whattheytoldus.org/. The results of the NYC survey are comparable to the national results.

 

Complete poll results are available at nycparentschoice.org.

Open Letter to Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Walcott

Dear Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Walcott,

As parents, we wish to express our strong opposition to the Connecting Adolescents To Comprehensive Health (CATCH) pilot program. In fact, we would like it to be known that 55.8% of parents with children under the age of 18 oppose the CATCH program, according to a recent poll commissioned by the Chiaroscuro Foundation and conducted by Smith Johnson Research.

While we agree with the goal of reducing unwanted pregnancies, we object to the deceptive means employed by the Department of Education to disengage parents from important, potentially life-altering health care decisions involving their minor children. According to the same poll, only 30% of parents think the city’s current “opt-out” procedure is appropriate.

Furthermore, no one questions the idea that giving teens access to Plan B will work to decrease teenage pregnancies. But we should question it, because there is no evidence that it will, and in fact there is some evidence that the increased access will change teen behavior in a way that will result in an increase in sexually transmitted diseases. Several studies over the years have concluded that access to abortion and contraceptives alter sexual behavior in ways that lead to more unplanned pregnancies and STI’s.

In reality, CATCH should be replaced with proven risk avoidance programs that will encourage adolescents to wait at least until they are adults before becoming sexually active. Fully 76% of parents would support abstinence education if it taught the facts about contraception but promoted delaying sex as the best choice for teens. Additionally, 81% of parents would support abstinence education if it taught healthy relationship skills to teens.

 New York parents have strong opinions about their children’s sex education.  Parents, not the school system, should decide the health care options for their children. We strongly urge that you suspend the CATCH pilot program, respect the rights of parents to make affirmative health care decisions involving their children, and create a permanent parents advisory council to advise city agencies on how best to engage parents.

Sincerely,

 

Michael Benjamin, Former Assemblyman, NY
Ali Klo, MD, NY
John Margand, lawyer, NY
George H. Morrissey, Board Member, Program Reach, NY
State Senator Reverend Reuben Diaz (D-Bronx), NY
Greg Pfundstein, Chiaroscuro Foundation, NY
Meg McDonnell, Chiaroscuro Foundation, NY
Edward Mechmann, Archdiocese of New York
Bill Harder, The Cross Road Foundation, Executive Director
Pastor William Devlin RN BSN MA, Interim Pastor, Iglesia Biblica de Manhattan, Manhattan NYC
Chris Slattery, President, Expectant Mother Care
Miriam Grossman, M.D. Psychiatrist, NY
Chaplain Viviana V. Hernandez, United Chaplains State of NY
Nanci Coppola, MD, Executive Director of Program Reach

View All of the Signatures

Sign The Letter:

Press Coverage:

10-24-12 - Mona Davids, President of the NYC Parents Union - Voice of America 

10-21-12 - Greg Pfundstein, Executive Director, Chiaroscuro Foundation and NYC Parents' Choice Coalition member, is quoted in a NYPost column.

9-29-12 - Mona Davids, President of the NYC Parents Union and Michael Benjamin, former NY Assemblyman, are quoted in a Daily Beast article.

9-28-12 - Greg Pfundstein, Executive Director, Chiaroscuro Foundation and NYC Parents' Choice Coalition member, writes for The Public Discourse

9-28-12 - Valerie Huber, President of the National Abstinence Education Association is quoted at The New American

9-27-12 - NY Post - Bronx Assemblyman Marco Crespo is quoted by columnist Andre Peyser
Out of (Birth) Control

9-26-12 - Christian Broadcasting Network covers the NYC Parents' Choice Press CATCH press conference

9-26-12 - Valerie Huber, President of the National Abstinence Education Association is quoted in an AP article at CBS News.

9-25-12 - Michael Benjamin, former NY Assemblyman and Executive Director, NYC Parents' Choice Coalition, writes for the NYPost

9-24-12 - Mona Davids appearance on CNN:

Short Clip

Medium Clip

Full Debate about 10 minutes

9-24-12 - Greg Pfundstein, Executive Director, Chiaroscuro Foundation and Parents' Choice Coalition member, quoted by National Review Online

9-24-12 - Greg Pfundstein, Executive Director, Chiaroscuro Foundation and NYC Parents' Choice Coalition member, is quoted in a NYPost column.

9-23-12 - New York Times - Greg Pfundstein

9-23-12 - NY Post -- Sue Edelman's exclusive report: NYC schools give morning-after pills to students -- without telling parents