Sex-Ed Bill Proposes Funding For Pro-LGBT, Pro-Contraception Programs

A new sex education bill would reward programs that reject gender stereotypes, reach out to LGBT students, and teach a range of birth control methods.

It’s almost as if Congress is doing something right for once.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) reintroduced the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act on Valentine’s Day. The bill would give grants to state and local education agencies, nonprofit organizations, and universities to fund comprehensive sex education programs — ones that would include information about birth control, LGBT sexuality, emotional health, and other aspects of sex-ed:

The bill requires programs to emphasize emotional skills and the development of “healthy attitudes and values” about issues like body image, gender identity and sexual orientation. All teaching would be “age and developmentally appropriate.”

Strict standards would apply to funded programs. None could “promote gender stereotypes,” be “insensitive and unresponsive” to LGBT students, or “deliberately withhold” information about HIV.

By rewarding more comprehensive programs, the bill would indirectly tackle some of the most crucial gaps in sex education in the United States:

“The bill does a lot of important things — it’s a big bill,” Sarah Audelo, the Domestic Policy Director for Advocates for Youth, explained to ThinkProgress. “There’s a lot to be covered, and a lot of resources that young people need that they’re not currently getting.”…

Right now, sexual education standards vary widely across states. Just 12 states mandate that sexual health curricula must be medically accurate — which means that young people across the country are receiving false information about birth control’s effectiveness, the right way to prevent STDs, and the way that HIV is transmitted.

Some provisions of the curriculum are deliberately aimed at ensuring long-term change in how young people access and use information about sexual health:

One section requires that curricula refer interested students to local clinics for more information about sexual and reproductive health. In practice, those clinics could include Planned Parenthood centers.

Under another section, certain programs would be required to report information about their students’ sex lives to federal health officials, including age of first intercourse, number of sexual partners and contraceptive use.

The bill isn’t without its challengers. On the same day, Illinois Reps. Randy Hultgren (R) and Daniel Lipinski (D) re-introduced the Abstinence Education Reallocation Act, an antagonistic bill that would give greater funding to abstinence-only sex education programs:

“Teens often remark that they wished more adults believed they were capable of making healthy decisions,” said National Abstinence Education Association President Valerie Huber in the press release. “These congressional leaders are sending teens a strong message of their support and the passage of this bill will amplify that support by providing practical skills for them to succeed in achieving optimal sexual health.”

That bill’s sponsors denounced the progressive sex-ed bill, saying that it “provides harmful messaging that puts teens at risk by suggesting that condoms make sex safe.” Right… Because, as we learned from Mean Girls: Don’t have sex. You will get pregnant and die.

About Camille Beredjick

Camille is a twentysomething working in the LGBT nonprofit industry. She runs an LGBT news blog at gaywrites.org.

  • Trickster Goddess

    Under another section, certain programs would be required to report
    information about their students’ sex lives to federal health officials,
    including age of first intercourse, number of sexual partners and
    contraceptive use.

    That sounds rather creepy. In the next paragraph it says it’s about collecting data to judge the effectiveness of program, but requiring teachers to report intimate details of teenagers’ sex lives to the government is a gross invasion of privacy.

    • J-Rex

      I was just going to mention that. It seems weird…

    • Baby_Raptor

      As long as it’s anonymous, I don’t really see the big deal. Data is collected for reasons like that all the time, I don’t see why it being about someone’s sex life makes it any different.

      Unless, of course, they start misusing it. But, that threat isn’t specific to this type of info either.

      • Trickster Goddess

        But what if the students don’t want to share, even anonymously, the info the teacher is required by law to collect?

        And really, how anonymous can you actually be when there is only ~25 other students in the class?

        • Baby_Raptor

          I imagine there’s a provision for the students not wanting to talk. The teacher can’t control that. As long as he/she can prove that they tried to uphold the obligation the law puts on them, I can’t see how any prosecution could result.

          Also, yeah. The teacher might be able to figure out whose who, but the government won’t be able to. The government would know nothing about the kids involved other than the listed stats. If they’re anonymous, I don’t see how it could be used.

          Let’s not condemn a good effort at the word go for a potential flaw. Wait and see if anything comes of it.

        • Myrmidon

          Surely there would be the option for students to willfully abstain. There always is when it comes to surveys collecting extraneous information; the ethnicity portion of the standardized testing we took at my primary and secondary schools comes to mind.

          • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

            in some places, no, actually.

            if a student goes to the school nurse for something like an STD, that nurse is often required by law to report it to the state health department. for data collection purposes which will later be used in determining the numbers which are the basis for funding things like health clinics and suchlike.

            it’s a little intrusive sounding, i know. but in the name of science, it makes sense. parents aren’t going to call the government and say, “my son caught the clap!” but social workers and medicare nurses need to be aware of what is out there, in terms of trending diseases, to do their jobs well.

            • http://www.facebook.com/karen.uncoolmom Cary Whitman

              I think you are correct, there are other diseases that doctors are required, or at least strongly encouraged, to report to health departments. They don’t report names, just how many patients they see with confirmed cases and sometimes things like age and sex, that’s how they track epidemics of things like the flu or measles. It’s a benefit to everyone to know if these diseases are spreading in a community, and doesn’t effect the patients at all because their names are not reported.

        • http://www.facebook.com/karen.uncoolmom Cary Whitman

          If they are gathering information anonymously it’s usually by questionnaires that don’t have the student’s names on them. A student who doesn’t want to share information will simply lie on the questionnaire or not fill out certain parts. You can’t force someone to talk if they don’t want to, and there’s no way to tell if someone is lying, so the schools just report what they can and the health departments assume there is always some false data in there.

    • baal

      I agree that it sounds creepy and generally consider myself pro-privacy. So long as the questionaires are pseudo anon and have opt-out, then I’m ok with it. Similarly, there should be mandatory reporting from the nurses office (for example).

      Data like this is needed. The anti-sex-ed likes to say that abstinence only works and then they point to the lack of data as proof that it works. It’s irrational. If you have data that shows the on-set of sex is (i’m making up numbers) 10% @ 11, 25% at 15 and 60% @ 17 that’s a different educational need vs 30% @ 11, 55% by 15 and 85% @ 17. Anecdotes will not identify the difference between age groups with those two different patterns but data will.

      I strongly suspect that the education needs to be more blunt and explicit than most parents are comfortable with. Data will help to make that argument.

  • Baby_Raptor

    It’s Fucking pathetic that we should even have to mandate that the people teaching kids about their bodies use correct information. Thanks, Republicans and Christians!

    • http://twitter.com/FelyxLeiter Felyx Leiter

      “Just 12 states mandate that sexual health curricula must be medically accurate…”

      That is some serious WTF?! right there.

  • http://twitter.com/FelyxLeiter Felyx Leiter

    Rep. Lee and Sen. Lautenberg: *applause*

  • spook

    Yikes, don’t look at the comments there…

    • RobertoTheChi

      I looked. Holy shit! That is just all shades of stupidity.

    • Sindigo

      I looked! And I can’t…. look away! Don’t help me! Save yourself!

      • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

        now see, i listen when people tell me stuff like this.

        /opens youtube page instead

  • RobertoTheChi

    The comments over there are frighteningly stupid. Those people scare the shit out of me. Yikes!

  • ggsillars

    Unfortunately, the Idiot Caucus of The Stupid Party™ will kill even this eminently sensible piece of legislation.

  • http://www.facebook.com/karen.uncoolmom Cary Whitman

    Here in Utah they tried, and luckily failed, to gut the already inadequate sex ed program last year, so this year they are trying get sex ed completely out of the schools and replace it with a set of instruction so parents can teach their kids at home, or some such nonsense. I wonder if there is any way to get sex ed added to the common core? And somehow force it onto states that want to keep their kids ignorant?

    “Teens often remark that they wished more adults believed they were capable of making healthy decisions,” said National Abstinence Education Association President Valerie Huber in the press release.

    I’m really offended by this statement, and teens should be too. We absolutely believe that teens can make healthy decisions, but how can you make a “healthy decision” without knowing all the facts? How did anyone ever come up with the idea that giving teens MORE information will somehow make it HARDER for them to make healthy and informed decisions about their sexuality? Yes, I absolutely want my kids to choose abstinence until they are married, but I want them to choose it based on knowing all the facts, not because they are too ignorant to know better and are blindly following someone who thinks they know what’s right for them!

    • Anon

      ‘How did anyone ever come up with the idea that giving teens MORE information will somehow make it HARDER for them to make healthy and informed decisions about their sexuality?’

      Because if they know how to have sex ‘safely’ then they will have all the sex.

      Which a 2000 year old book and an invisible sky being don’t want them to.


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