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Victory over Planned Parenthood

We bring to your attention the following news story which indicates the type of victory that our Child Protection Project is meant to bring about. Activists in Torrance have been working with our office for most of the past year to point out to the school district the legal liabilities it faces by its involvement with Planned Parenthood. We look forward to many other school districts dropping their association with Planned Parenthood, including any type of referrals.

Friday, June 13, 2003

Sex ed provider dropped

TORRANCE: The school district decides to end its contract with Planned Parenthood, but says the move isn’t based on lesson content.

By Renee Moilanen


Capping a year of intense pressure and heated debate, the Torrance school district has decided to drop Planned Parenthood from its sex education lineup, opting instead to seek less controversial ways of dispensing lessons on the subject.

The move, which district officials say has nothing to do with the content of Planned Parenthood’s presentations, marks a decisive turn in the yearlong dispute over sex education. For months, Planned Parenthood supporters have squared off against those who oppose the organization’s reproductive services.

Planned Parenthood supporters lamented the change.

"It’s sad to see a program such as Planned Parenthood that has been working pull out," parent Nancy Cincotta told board members at a board-cabinet workshop Thursday.

Critics of Planned Parenthood expressed guarded optimism. They have accused Planned Parenthood of promoting sex by teaching teens how to use condoms, and they take issue with lessons on how to protect against diseases transmitted through oral and anal sex.

"We don’t want (Planned Parenthood) replaced by another group that has the same unethical philosophy," parent Janelle McArthur said.

The district decided to drop Planned Parenthood after one of its representatives publicly accused three board members of meeting illegally to alter the sex education program, Superintendent Steven Fish said.

A contractor who attacks the school board should not be rewarded with more business, Fish said. "When any board member’s integrity is questioned or their activities, we just don’t think it’s appropriate to continue that relationship," he said.

Officials at Planned Parenthood, which has delivered state-mandated lessons about condom use, abstinence and birth control for eight years in Torrance, expressed dismay.

"No matter what the rationale is for the decision, the only losers are the students," said Martha Swiller, acting president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Los Angeles.

In place of Planned Parenthood, the Torrance district favors hiring a health resource teacher for $80,000 per year to make the biannual safe sex presentations to ninth- and 10th-graders. Other options include using the County Harbor-UCLA Women’s Clinic, classroom health teachers or medically trained volunteer parents.

The school board plans to make a decision in July.

Talk of overhauling the sex education program comes just as the district released survey results showing that Torrance parents overwhelmingly support lessons about condoms, birth control, safe sex and abstinence.

Most parents said that accurate instruction on birth control decreases a teenager’s risk of unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease, according to the survey of 1,200 high school parents. They agreed that sex education programs that teach teenagers how to avoid pregnancy and AIDS do not encourage them to experiment with sex.

A large majority - 91 percent - also believed that sex education programs should deliver a "clear message" that abstaining from sex is the safest choice for teens.

Board member Joe Bonanno - a staunch supporter of abstinence programs - said many of the survey’s questions were confusing and unclear. The questions, for example, did not consider the family’s role in sex education, he said.

"I think we’re confusing teaching the biological processes of sexuality, reproductive systems and reproductive actions from the responsibility of parents to determine their own philosophical, spiritual, religious and social parameters," he said.

The survey, conducted earlier this year, was designed to gauge public opinion about sex education programs and parent permission requirements.

The majority of parents questioned, 56 percent, said they want their teens to receive sex education unless they specifically exempt them - the so-called "opt-out" policy. The others want to give written permission before their teen attends sex education classes.

State law allows school districts to choose either option.

Bonanno said he favors requiring permission slips for all students, not just those who want out of the sex ed lessons.

"I think we need to bend over a little bit and give more acceptance to the minority. Fifty-six to 44, that’s a pretty strong minority," he said. "I think we need to protect the minority."

Board member Beth Wilson, a Planned Parenthood supporter, disagreed.

"I believe the survey sends a strong message about what the parents in this community want for their children," she said.

Publish Date:June 13, 2003


Priests for Life
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