Michigan Parents Fought for Better Sex Ed in Their School District, and Won

Earlier this week, a Michigan school district abandoned a harmful sex education program because two moms decided they wanted better for their kids.

For the past 15 years, students at Forest Hills Public Schools have received a sex ed curriculum taught and developed by the Pregnancy Resource Center. Pregnancy Resource Centers, also called Crisis Pregnancy Centers, are religious organizations which discourage (to put it mildly) women from having abortions.

The PRC used religious ideology and shaming to teach an abstinence-only sex ed curriculum, which included pressuring students to sign virginity pledge cards in front of their teachers and classmates. They also told students that those who had sex were like used tape repeatedly stuck to a wall and ripped away; every time they had sex it would be harder to stick to a partner. Rather than providing students with information that would allow them to make smart and healthy choices, the PRC curriculum positioned abstinence as the only moral choice for students.

Abstinence-only sex ed is not only psychologically damaging to students, it has been repeatedly proven ineffective at preventing teen pregnancy and STDs.

These harmful lessons had concerned parents before, but then in January Melody McPherson got a letter in the mail about her eighth grade daughter’s sex ed class that didn’t sit well with her. The note said the class would be taught by a PRC using their Willing to Wait curriculum. She reached out to her friend Kristyn Vander Zouwen, whose own children attend the same district, to get her take on PRCs.

When Kristyn Vander Zouwen found out that’s what her children’s school district was teaching, she knew there was no way she could stay quiet.

“All I knew was how much that [curriculum] messed me up…I just felt like I couldn’t sit around and let it continue,” Vander Zouwen told Care2. “It was too personal to know they were causing that same damage right in my town, heck right in my kids’ school district.”

Together they started contacting the superintendent and school nurse looking for more information and organized enough parents to voice their concerns that the school had to take notice.

At that point, the school learned they were not in compliance with state mandates for funding, which required them to have a reproductive health advisory board review the sex ed curriculum every two years. The district had not had such a review in at least 15 years.

They did finally form an advisory board of parents and community members, which researched potential sex ed programs.  Despite pushback from the PRC, the school board voted at their meeting this week to officially drop the PRC and abstinence-only sex ed and adapt an abstinence-based curriculum known as the Michigan model for health.

According to the FHPS school board, the Michigan model is used in 80 percent of Michigan schools and follows a curriculum used across almost 40 states. While it is still abstinence based, it’s not shame or morality-based and actually allows teachers to discuss condoms and birth control.

“Because of the laws that Michigan has in place, it’s really hard to get comprehensive sex ed,” said Vander Zouwen. “But we got as close as we could.”

At the school board meeting, the PRC tried to put on a more moderate face.

“It was Forest Hills solely who asked us not to teach from the abstinence-based plan,” said Jim Sprague, president of the Pregnancy Resource Center. “We couldn’t even utter the word condom in the classrooms. That is what we were instructed to do for the last 15 years.”

Regardless of what the PRC believes, they are now out of the picture and fact-based sex ed is in.

Vander Zouwen recommends concerned parents call their children’s school and ask to see the sex ed curriculum.

“You should be able to review it in full,” she said, “and if they say no, like the PRC did to us, that’s a big red flag. Also check who teaches the curriculum and which organization they are affiliated with.”

For there, she says, it’s all about “drumming up support” and just showing up.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

65 comments

Paulo R
Paulo Reeson3 days ago

ty

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Paulo R
Paulo Reeson3 days ago

ty

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Amanda M
Amanda M10 days ago

Comprehensive sex ed is the way to go. Studies have shown that when teens are exposed to scientifically accurate information about human biology, contraception, STDs, and other matters, they not only wait longer to start having sex but also use contraception more because they know what truly works! Our county has an abstinence-based sex ed program (which I've countered by teaching our kids the facts at home and even gave our older daughter a copy of "Our Bodies, Ourselves" several years ago), and you can tell how well THAT works by the fact that our county has the fourth-highest teen pregnancy rate in the entire STATE. And this is in MARYLAND!!!!

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Marilyn L
Marilyn L15 days ago

The best protection against pregnancy, STDs and other sex-related issues for teens (and the rest of us for that matter) is good, honest, straightforwrd information.

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Greta H
Greta H17 days ago

thanks for sharing

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Jen S
Jen S19 days ago

Good parents make better kids and better schools. Good Job!

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Kay M
Kay M19 days ago

Good afternoon and thank you for this article - good information - those parents did an awesome job at their kid's schools sincerely KAY M

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Amber M
Amber M19 days ago

Thanks.

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Renee M
Renee M19 days ago

Awesome job spearheaded by concerned parents! Thanks for sharing.

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Joan E
Joan E19 days ago

This is good. We are supposed to have Separation of Church and State, and our schools should not be plagued with religious extremists who lie about sex to impressionable teens to push their own agenda. If it's your agenda, you can try to push it on your own kids (and they may end up getting pregnant at an early age because of it like Bristol Palin) but you have no constitutional right to push your religion and lies about sex onto other people's kids.

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