San Marcos CISD Trustee John Crowley, left, and San Marcos resident and retired science teacher Jeannie Lewis, right, at Monday night’s San Marcos CISD trustees meeting. Photo by Sean Batura.
the July 19, 2010 San Marcos school board of trustees meeting.
By SEAN BATURA
San Marcos CISD trustees abolished the school district’s “abstinence only” sex education policy in favor of “abstinence plus” Monday night at a board meeting unusually well attended by the public.
Trustees voted, 5-2, to adopt the abstinence plus sex education curricula for grades six through 12. Instructors using abstinence plus curricula will still teach students that refraining from sex is the best way to avoid pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), though they will now include information about contraception and methods of preventing sexually transmitted infections.
Parents may legally prevent their children from being exposed to abstinence plus curricula.
Trustees David Castillo and Jesse Ponce cast the votes against abstinence plus.
“I assume that the majority students at San Marcos High School are Christian,” Castillo said. “And if that is the case, then this whole thing is anti-Christian.”
Trustee Judy Allen said she, too, is a Christian and does not find abstinence plus to be against her religion.
Three people addressed trustees during the portion of the meeting reserved for public comment regarding any issue. Two of the individuals expressed support for abstinence plus. The third person asked board members for more funding for the Miller Middle School choir booster club.
San Marcos CISD Superintendent Patty Shafer said a committee could be formed to examine abstinence plus curricula before they are used in classrooms.
“If they see some things that were real blocks for this community, that they just felt weren’t acceptable to the majority of the community, (they could) pull some of those off of there,” Shafer said.
However, Trustee Kathy Hansen said such a committee should strive to make such items more palatable for San Marcos CISD parents, rather than striking them completely. Hansen said she and her colleagues should exercise similar oversight with any curricula.
Shafer’s suggestion came after Ponce expressed horror at reading a proposed abstinence plus curricula that teaches students how to use condoms.
“That has never left my mind,” Ponce said. “That part I read where he shows someone how to put on a condom — that only tells me one thing.”
Allen said she has seen data suggesting that more than 50 percent of teenagers in Texas who had sex within the last three months did not use a condoms. Most school districts in Texas have abstinence only policies, said Texas State Associate Professor of Family and Consumer Sciences Ani Yazedjian at a previous board meeting.
“We have many teenagers that are sexually illiterate,” Allen said. “I wish we didn’t have that. But I don’t know where they’re going to learn proper condom use. They don’t seem to know it now. So I’d just say, I’d be very careful of us saying, ‘Whoops, let’s just don’t cover that because that’s something people might get upset about.’”
Jennifer Vogel, the school district’s school age pregnant and parenting program coordinator, said 67 San Marcos CISD students were pregnant during the 2009-2010 school year and 145 students were parents during the same period. San Marcos CISD submitted an enrollment figure of 2,086 for San Marcos High School to the University Interscholastic League (UIL) for re-alignment purposes last October.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 20 of every 1,000 unmarried girls ages 15-17 nationally gave birth in 2006. The same study said the rate of unmarried girls aged 18-19 giving birth in 2006 was 62 per 1,000.
Trustee John Crowley said he was on the school health advisory council when the district adopted the most recent abstinence only curriculum.
“Our teenage pregnancy rates have been fairly consistent for a decade,” Crowley continued. “And I think it was 68 or 70 (pregnancies) that we had this year. So the problem’s not going away.”
Castillo said the board should “shoot for zero” STIs and teen pregnancies by only promoting the sole fool-proof method: abstinence.
The two local citizens who spoke against abstinence only were San Marcos residents Jeannie Lewis and Sue Harrison.
Harrison, a pediatrician who has practiced in San Marcos for more than 20 years, said “abstinence only programs have not been proven effective,” adding that birth rates and STIs have increased among students exposed to such curricula.
“Our local church and our national faith organization, which is the Unitarian Universalist Association, has long supported a comprehensive sexuality education program that includes abstinence, but also includes medically-accurate, safer sex information,” said Lewis, a retired science teacher. “We do believe that that is the best way to go to help our pre-teens and teens avoid sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy. It has just proven to work better in other school districts, and I hope that you will consider that.”