Roundup: Abstinence-Motivational Speaker Shuts Down Sex Ed Class in Nashville

Rachel Larris

One parent makes a complaint about a Nashville school's voluntary sex education class which leads to it being shut down. One detail: the parent just happens to be an a motivational speaker on abstinence.

It seems like the Metro Nashville Public Schools was offering a pretty great class on HIV prevention to their high school students. And then one parent complained about some “graphic” things his daughter was shown which led to a teacher being reprimanded and the class being stopped. Simple story right? Except digging into the story it seems far less simple.

Hillsboro High School was running an extra-curricular class as part of a “service learning project.” It’s a pretty common occurrence; a lot of schools want to offer leadership programs to their students. It’s just that this particular class involved a “peer-based high school certification education program” in avoiding sexual transmitted infections, including HIV.

A parent named Rodrick Glover was apparently “aghast” at some of the things his daughter was exposed to in this “peer-based high school certification education program.”

Here is some of his complaints reported by the Tennessean:

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Rodrick Glover said he was aghast when his daughter, a senior, began describing sexual techniques detailed in her Hillsboro High leadership class, demonstrated with models of male and female genitals. Glover said instructors also gave students HIV tests without parental consent.

“It took me by surprise,” he said. “My daughter thought it was pornography.”

There is no doubt that the class was graphically explicit about sex, as the entire point of the class is to teach older teens about “sexual anatomy, sexual practices and abstinence as well as safer sex,” but a few points explain why the school was able to present the material. This class was voluntary and all students who sat in on the class had to have a signed consent form from their parents. In fact Out & About Newspaper reports:

Because the material is explicit, a two-page parental consent form must be signed, according to Joe Interrante, chief executive officer at Nashville CARES, which sponsors the class.

Except that for some reason Glover’s daughter sat in on the class without a signed permission form.

There’s something else to know about Rodrick Glover. According to the Tennessean, Glover is “a motivational speaker who promotes abstinence-based sexual education.”

The Nashville school board held a meeting to discuss Glover’s complaints. He remained the only parent who had anything negative to say about the voluntary class.

Glover was the only person to speak against the sex ed class. Two students, two parents and the CEO of Nashville CARES defended it. Students and parents in the audience held posters in support of the class and cheered after each supporter spoke.

The board did not take any action on Glover’s complaints. A letter of reprimand was issued last week to the teacher of the class, Susanne Frensley, said district spokeswoman Olivia Brown.

“This is more of an administrative issue than a board issue,” Brown said.

Nashville CARES, a nonprofit group that provides AIDS prevention information among other services, was at the center of the controversy. The group provided the instructors for the course, which ended in March.

Metro Nashville Public Schools has discontinued the class but will not discontinue its partnership with Nashville CARES for its regular sex education program, Brown said.

By the way the teacher, Susanne Frensley, who opened her leadership class to Nashville CARES, turns out she was Tennessee’s teacher of the year in 2007.

After the school board meeting police had to separate Glover from other angry parents in the parking lot when words and insults were exchanged.

As a coda to this story, lest anyone need a reminder why accurate information about sex is better than typical scare tactics used by abstinence-only programs. In Utah an 18-year-old mother explains why her school’s abstinence-only program didn’t work for her. The Cache Daily Valley reports:

When asked why she thought abstinence-only sex education wasn’t working, [Sarah Iverson] said it’s the approach. She said teens feel like adults and when they are talked to like children, they immediately disregard what they’re being taught. She said when the negative consequences of sex are made to sound so extreme it no longer seems like something that could actually happen.

“They just try to scare you into not having sex and it’s laughable,” Iverson said.

Not only are the consequences inflated, she said the only time contraceptives are even talked about is to give the failure rates. Iverson said this was part of the reason she didn’t use birth control. She said she felt like it didn’t offer much protection so there was no point.

A bill in the Senate that would have clarified Utah’s rules regarding discussion of contraception in sex education classes failed last February.

April 14, 2010

Could the abortion debate become more partisan? Politico

Supreme Court reporter will talk about abortion Sarasota Herald-Tribune 

Abortion flap stalls cigarette tax The State

ND Measure Would Ban ‘skull Crushing’ In Abortions WKRG-TV

Vatican reacts to cardinal’s gay-link paedophile claim BBC News

Politics of aid seen in clash over maternal deathsThe Associated Press

Saudi needs sex education-study Maktoob Business

Call to Kiss 108 show angers gay rights activists Boston Globe

No reason to cancel HIV vaccine facility, MPs told Montreal Gazette

Sex ed opponents, supporters clash at board meeting The Tennessean

April 13, 2010

Nebraska Law Sets Limits on Abortion New York Times

Stupak’s health care compromise was not a victory, Catholic leader argues Catholic News Agency

Kagan, Garland, Sears Seen by Pro-Lifer as Most Likely Pro-Abortion Supreme

My abortion, their political ploy Salon

HIV vaccine program hits 1000th volunteer mark The Tennessean

Huckabee likens gay marriage to incest, polygamy The Associated Press

School District Shifts Sex Ed Focus Bradenton Herald

Chances appear better this year for abortion limits, school prayer and school Palm Beach Post

Ghana Ministry Helps HIV/AIDS PatientsVoice of America

ACLU, Human Rights Watch call on Alabama to cease separate housing for HIV (blog)

Teen mother: Utah needs better sex ed options Cache Valley Daily

Roundups Law and Policy

Gavel Drop: The Fight Over Voter ID Laws Heats Up in the Courts

Jessica Mason Pieklo & Imani Gandy

Texas and North Carolina both have cases that could bring the constitutionality of Voter ID laws back before the U.S. Supreme Court as soon as this term.

Welcome to Gavel Drop, our roundup of legal news, headlines, and head-shaking moments in the courts

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton intends to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate the state’s voter ID law.

Meanwhile, according to Politifact, North Carolina attorney general and gubernatorial challenger Roy Cooper is actually saving taxpayers money by refusing to appeal the Fourth Circuit’s ruling on the state’s voter ID law, so Gov. Pat McCrory (R) should stop complaining about it.

And in other North Carolina news, Ian Millhiser writes that the state has hired high-powered conservative attorney Paul Clement to defend its indefensible voter ID law.

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Alex Thompson writes in Vice that the Zika virus is about to hit states with the most restrictive abortion laws in the United States, including Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. So if you’re pregnant, stay away. No one has yet offered advice for those pregnant people who can’t leave Zika-prone areas.

Robin Marty writes on Care2 about Americans United for Life’s (AUL) latest Mad Lib-style model bill, the “National Abortion Data Reporting Law.” Attacking abortion rights: It’s what AUL does.

The Washington Post profiled Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Given this Congress, that will likely spur another round of hearings. (It did get a response from Richards herself.)

Kimberly Strawbridge Robinson writes in Bloomberg BNA that Stanford Law Professor Pamela Karlan thinks the Supreme Court’s clarification of the undue burden standard in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt will have ramifications for voting rights cases.

This must-read New York Times piece reminds us that we still have a long way to go in accommodating breastfeeding parents on the job.

News Health Systems

What Happens When a Catholic-Run Clinic Comes to Your Local Walgreens?

Amy Littlefield

“It causes us great concern when we think about vulnerable populations ... [who] may need to use these clinics for things like getting their contraception prescribed and who would never think that when they went into a Walgreens they would be restricted by Catholic doctrine,” Lorie Chaiten, director of the women’s and reproductive rights project of the ACLU of Illinois, told Rewire.

One of the largest Catholic health systems is set to begin running health clinics inside 27 Walgreens stores in Missouri and Illinois next week. The deal between Walgreens and SSM Health has raised concerns from public interest groups worried that care may be compromised by religious doctrine.

Catholic health systems generally follow directives issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that restrict access to an array of services, including abortion care, contraception, tubal ligations, vasectomies, and fertility treatments.

“We are concerned that the clinics will likewise be required to follow the [directives], thereby severely curtailing access to important reproductive health services, information, and referrals,” MergerWatch, the National Health Law Program, and the American Civil Liberties Unions of Illinois and Missouri wrote in a letter to Walgreens on Wednesday. They also sent a letter to SSM Health.

In a statement emailed to Rewire, Walgreens said its relationship with SSM Health “will not have any impact on any of our current clinic or pharmacy policies and procedures.”

SSM Health emailed a statement saying it “will continue to offer the same services that are currently available at Walgreens Healthcare Clinics today.” If a patient needs services “that are beyond the scope of what is appropriate for a retail clinic setting, they will be referred to a primary care physician or other provider of their choice,” the statement read.

A spokesperson for SSM Health demurred when Rewire asked if that would include referrals for abortion care.

“I’ve got to check this part out, my apologies, this is one that hadn’t occurred to me,” said Jason Merrill, the spokesperson.

Merrill later reiterated SSM Health’s statement that it would continue to offer the same services.

Catholic health systems have in recent years expanded control over U.S. hospitals, with one in six acute-care hospital beds now in a Catholic-owned or -affiliated facility. Patients in such hospitals have been turned away while miscarrying, denied tubal ligations, and refused abortion care despite conditions like brain cancer.

Catholic health systems have also expanded into the broader landscape of outpatient services, raising new questions about how religion could influence other forms of care.

“The whole health system is transforming itself with more and more health care being delivered outside the hospital,” Lois Uttley, director of MergerWatch, told Rewire. “So we are looking carefully to make sure that the religious restrictions that have been such a problem for reproductive health care at Catholic hospitals are not now transferred to these drug store clinics or to urgent care centers or free-standing emergency rooms.”

Walgreens last year announced a similar arrangement with the Catholic health system Providence Health & Services to bring up to 25 retail clinics to Oregon and Washington. After expressing concerns about the deal, the ACLU of Washington said it received assurances from both Walgreens and Providence that services at those clinics would not be affected by religious doctrine.

Meanwhile, the major urgent care provider CityMD recently announced a partnership with CHI Franciscan Health–which is affiliated with Catholic Health Initiatives–to open urgent care centers in Washington state.

“We’re seeing [Catholic health systems] going into the urgent care business and into the primary care business and in accountable care organizations, where they are having an influence on the services that are available to the public and to consumers,” Susan Berke Fogel, director of reproductive health at the National Health Law Program, told Rewire.

GoHealth Urgent Care, which describes itself as “one of the fastest growing urgent care companies in the U.S.,” announced an agreement this year with Dignity Health to bring urgent care centers to California’s Bay Area. Dignity Health used to be called Catholic Healthcare West, but changed its name in 2012.

“This is another pattern that we’ve seen of Catholic health plans and health providers changing their names to things that don’t sound so Catholic,” Lois Uttley said.


In the letters sent Wednesday, the National Health Law Program and other groups requested meetings with Walgreens and SSM Health to discuss concerns about the potential influence of religion on the clinics.

“It causes us great concern when we think about vulnerable populations, we think about low-income people… people who… may need to use these clinics for things like getting their contraception prescribed and who would never think that when they went into a Walgreens they would be restricted by Catholic doctrine,” Lorie Chaiten, director of the Reproductive Rights Project of the ACLU of Illinois, told Rewire.

The new clinics in Walgreens will reportedly be called “SSM Health Express Clinics at Walgreens.” According to SSM Health’s website, its initials “[pay] tribute” to the Sisters of St. Mary.

“We are fairly forthcoming with the fact that we are a mission-based health care organization,” Merrill told Rewire. “That’s something we embrace. I don’t think it’s anything we would hide.”


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