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.
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