The Union County Board of School Trustees voted unanimously Monday to approve a recommendation by the school district’s Comprehensive Health Committee that the “Choosing The Best” sex education program be implemented as part of the district’s health curriculum.
Director of Secondary Education Cindy Langley served on the 13-member committee composed of parents, educators, the clergy, community members and health care professionals. Langley said the committee began exploring possible sex education programs after hearing concerns from teachers about students becoming sexually active at earlier ages and getting pregnant or having pregnancy scares. She said the district’s current sex education curriculum had not been updated in more than a decade.
State law requires school districts to implement comprehensive health education programs, including pregnancy prevention education. Langley said Choosing The Best provides pregnancy prevention education through a strong message of abstinence. She said the committee chose the program becuase it is medically-based and involves parents.
“Choosing The Best is a national leader in abstinence-focused sex and relationship education,” Langley said. “It appealed to us because it is a medically-based program that helps students with decision making skills. It is a sequential program that begins in grade six to give students age-appropriate information. It goes through high school with each set of materials building on each other. The curriculum has interviews; it encourages parent-teen interviews; it provides role-playing opportunities for students to help them make good decisions and develop healthy relationships.”
“Parents are the most important factor in a teen’s sexual decision-making,” she added. “There is a parenting program with this model that counselors can use for parent education.”
Langley pointed out an independent study commissioned by the Department of Health and Human Services found Choosing The Best reduced teen sex by 47 percent. She said the program achieves this by teaching students abstinence until marriage is the best choice for safeguarding their health and their future.
Since 1994 when Choosing The Best was first offered, 2.5 million students have completed the program. Langley pointed out of the more than 40,000 students surveyed through post-course evaluations, 72 percent indicated they preferred to wait until marriage to have sex.
Choosing The Best offers five age-appropriate programs for middle and high school students and provides sex and relationship education content in nine areas:
• Risks (emotional, sexually transmitted disease, teen pregnancy)
• Rewards (decision making, goal setting and achievement, marriage planning)
• Relationship Education (friendships, understanding guys and girls, healthy versus unhealthy relationships, preventing sexual abuse and date rape)
• Alcohol (dangers of mixing alcohol and sex)
• Refusal Skills (setting boundaries, developing verbal skills and assertiveness skills)
• Pledge (commitment to abstinence)
• Character Development (responsibility, self-respect, courage, perseverance, compassion, respect)
• Parent Involvement (parent training and homework interviews)
• Building Self-Esteem (identifying and appreciating unique qualities, interest or skills)
Board chairman Dr. Wanda All is also a member of the committee. She said Monday the program’s comprehensive, mutli-year approach to sex education is what convinced her to support its implementation in the district.
“It is a continuing program that begins in the middle school at sixth grade with instruction in good decision making and eliminating risk,” All said. “It builds to a high school component that includes an abstinence-based sex program teaching students to delay sexual activity until marriage and all the risks and consequences if they do not.”
While Choosing The Best does provide information about contraception it does not adovcate or demonstrate the use of contraceptives. Contraceptive methods are presented along with data about their effectiveness with regard to pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
For example, Choosing The Best points out while condoms — when properly used — are effective at reducing risk of contracting HIV/AIDS, they are less effective against sexually transmitted diseases such as chlamydia, herpes and HPV which can cause cervical cancer. The unequivocal message of Choosing The Best is that abstinence is the only 100 percent effective protection against sexually-transmitted disease and unwanted pregnancy.