Since October, parents in Omaha have been battling with the city’s school board over proposed changes to the sex education curriculum. Impassioned parents and grandparents voiced their objections loudly and clearly to the “comprehensive” sex ed program the school board had proposed. Since 1985 sex ed at Omaha public schools has been taught as part of a course called Human Growth and Development.  Among other changes, the new program will add discussion of two items to the tenth grade curriculum: abortion and emergency contraception.
But it’s not just those two hot-button topics that are upsetting parents. “Comprehensive” sex ed, as opposed to “abstinence-based” sex ed, provides kids with a smorgasbord of ways to give and receive sexual pleasure.  Students are taught about the risks of sexual activity, and encouraged to reduce those risks.  Condoms, in particular, are heavily stressed.  Abstinence is almost always mentioned, but only as one choice among many.
I remember being taken completely by surprise when my then-9th grader described students putting condoms on bananas in health class.  There had been no warning given to parents—not even a clue that sex ed was included in the curriculum.  So when it came to my younger child, who happened to attend a different school, I took a proactive approach.  The health teacher there was sympathetic about my concerns and willingly described the curriculum.  She told me that students were taught the “three different types of sex,” how best to reduce the transmission of sexually transmitted infections, and shown various types of birth control, including condoms.  Abstinence was one part of the discussion; marriage and morality (heaven forbid!) were not. Thankfully she was also willing to accommodate my desire that my child not participate.  Had I not asked, however, I never would have known about any of it.
Valerie Huber is president of Ascend, formerly known as the National Abstinence Education Association. According to her, Sexual Risk Reduction (SRR), or “comprehensive” sex ed, has as its underlying assumption that teens are going to be sexually active, and therefore the emphasis should be on reducing risks.  Ascend supports Sexual Risk Avoidance (SRA) curricula, which focus on encouraging teens to avoid risk by refraining from sexual activity.  Sex is treated like every other health risk teens are confronted with, such as drugs, alcohol and tobacco.  As the Ascend/NAEA website puts it, students in SRA programs are taught that “waiting for sex eliminates all risk and is always the best and healthiest option.”
When it comes to sex ed in non-religious schools, parents are often unaware (as in my case) or apathetic.  That wasn’t the problem in Omaha.  The Archdiocese even got involved, urging parents to attend public forums, and posting this on its Facebook page:  “The modern phenomenon of classroom sex education is not designed to warn kids way from permissive and harmful sex experiences.  Rather, what they really aim at is breaking down traditional morality and sexual inhibitions in favor of actually encouraging sexual experiences.”
Unfortunately the opposition in this case wasn’t enough to convince the school board, which voted to implement the new curriculum.  But there’s some good news in all this. First, Omaha parents have the choice of opting their children out of the classes.  And second, parents and the Archdiocese have proven their willingness to make their voices heard.