Alabama State Profile
The Department of Public Health and community-based organizations in Alabama received $3,994,551 in federal funds for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs in Fiscal Year 2007. 1
Alabama Code sets minimum requirements for what must be taught in sexuality education classes. Among other things, classes must teach that:
The Code also states that:
In Alabama, curriculum content is developed locally; however, Alabama’s Course of Study: Health Education provides the foundation for the minimum content requirements for topics such as HIV, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and pregnancy prevention. In addition, in July 1987, the Alabama State Board of Education passed the Resolution to Provide Information to Students to Prevent the Spread of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome Disease in the Public Schools of Alabama. This resolution specifies that students in grades five–12 must receive instruction about AIDS through a health education program.
Parents or guardians may remove their children from sexuality education and/or STD/HIV education classes. This is referred to as an “opt-out” policy.
See Alabama State Code Section 16-40A-2, the Alabama Course of Study: Health Education, and the Resolution to Provide Information to Students to Prevent the Spread of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome Disease in the Public Schools of Alabama.
SIECUS is not aware of any proposed legislation regarding sexuality education in Alabama.
Elementary School Anatomy Lessons Raise Concern with Parents
February 2007; Tuscaloosa, AL
Parents of students in fourth and fifth grade at Tuscaloosa city schools balked when they discovered what their children were learning. The children’s health class curriculum covered “growth and human development,” reproduction, anatomy, and HIV/AIDS. Parents were specifically concerned about slides depicting female and male genitals which were included in a lesson on puberty and anatomy.3
School officials responded to parent and teacher concerns and agreed to rework the lesson plans. They started by forming a review committee composed of the curriculum team, elementary principals, and teachers. One board of education member explained that the state-approved model of study would be adapted to suit county schools.4 However, there was no mention of fate of the slides that raised the original qualms.
Parents will receive a copy of the study material two weeks before the class, which officials hope will stimulate conversations with their children about the subject. Parents have the option of withdrawing their children from the class if they find the materials offensive.
The Alabama Department of Public Health received $953,172 in federal Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage funds in Fiscal Year 2007. The Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage grant requires states to provide three state-raised dollars or the equivalent in services for every four federal dollars received. The state match may be provided in part or in full by local groups. Alabama does not use state funds for the match; instead, sub-grantees provide the match. In Fiscal Year 2007, sub-grantees matched the funds through in-kind services totaling $966,015, which exceeded the required amount. These funds are controlled by Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) through the Alabama Abstinence-Until-Marriage Education Program (AAEP).
The AAEP distributes Title V Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Funding to eight sub-grantees: the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Circle of Care Center for Families, Crittenton Youth Services, Dale County Abstinence Advocacy Council, Huntsville City Schools, Lee County Youth Development Center, Sex and Family Education (S.A.f.E.), Inc., and Troy Regional Medical Center/AIM Project doing business as Wright & Associates. In addition, Auburn University was awarded a $107,862 Title V sub-grant to conduct an evaluation.
AAEP uses the slogan, “Doin’ It Doesn’t Get It! Save Sex for Marriage!” in its abstinence-only-until-marriage program.6The AAEP also runs a statewide media campaign that uses the same slogan. The campaign consists of a website with information, resources, and upcoming events; printed material; news releases; radio and television announcements; and billboards.
The AAEP website contains misinformation and messages of fear and shame. For example, the website tells parents that a sexually transmitted disease (STD) is an infection that can be transferred through sexual activity and goes on to define sexual activity as “any activity that involves intentional contact for the purpose of sexual arousal. Sexual activity, then, includes sexual intercourse, oral sex, anal sex, mutual masturbation, & other purposeful sexual touching.” In truth, some sexual activities, such as mutual masturbation or massage, which can be categorized as “purposeful sexual touching,” do not pose any risk of transmitting STDs.
An STD chart on AAEP’s website lists several STDs. Under the column marked “Condom Effectiveness,” the AAEP tells young people that there is “no clinical proof of effectiveness” against the transmission of gonorrhea, Chlamydia, trichomoniasis, and human papillomavirus (HPV).7 In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports, “Latex condoms, when used consistently and correctly, can reduce the risk of transmission of gonorrhea, Chlamydia, and trichomoniasis.”1 8 In addition, condoms can protect against HPV. According to a University of Washington study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, consistent condom use can cut a woman’s risk of infection by 70% and protect her from developing precancerous cervical changes.9
Title V sub-grantees use a variety of curricula in their programs including Abstinence the Better Choice, ASPIRE: Live your life. Be free, Baby Think It Over, Choosing the Best LIFE, Choosing the Best PATH, Everyone Is Not Doing It, Fetal Development: A Nine Month Journey, Love U2: Increasing Your Relationship Smarts, ReasonableReasons to Wait, and Why kNOw. Sub-grantees also use Mike Long’s video, Everyone Is Not Doing It.
Crittenton Youth Services operates both middle and high school programs in the Mobile, Alabama school district. The agency trains teachers and monitors their progress in delivering abstinence-only-until-marriage programming, and provides abstinence-only programming to students. In high school, Crittenton Youth Services uses ASPIRE: Live your life. Be free. SIECUS reviewed Aspire and found that it is based on one set of values and opinions—that marriage should be everyone’s ultimate goal and that sex outside of marriage is wrong—which it tries to pass off as universally held truths. In an effort to convince students that these opinions are facts, the curriculum provides incomplete and biased information, promotes fear and shame, and undermines young people’s confidence in their own decision-making abilities. For example, students are asked which life decision—college, career, or marriage—will have the most impact on their life. The answer is marriage because “College is for a few years, and you may have a number of careers. But marriage is for life.”10
In addition to using Aspire, Crittenton Youth Services uses The Choice Game in high school classrooms. The Choice Game is an interactive CD/DVD software program, created by Several Sources, that teaches “healthy choices” about abstinence, drugs, alcohol, and teen pressures. Several Sources has produced two versions of this resource: an “urban version” and a “Midwestern version.”11 Both versions include a section on teen pregnancy. On the website, the urban version follows a young pregnant woman of color as she attempts to decide if she will marry, put the child up for adoption, or raise the child alone. Abortion is not discussed as an option. The young woman is shown as having no support until the home for pregnant teens (which Several Sources also runs) steps in—her grandmother cannot help her raise the child because “you know that landlord won’t have no babies,” her boyfriend leaves to join the Navy, and her boyfriend’s mother doubts if her son is the father. The Midwest version does not deal with unintended pregnancies, instead stating that this “curriculum has as its exclusive purpose to teach abstinence and is consistent with the abstinence-until-marriage message.”12 While it is often appropriate to create culturally competent curricula geared to the specific population or community in which the program will be used, the double standard implied by these two versions is disturbing. Several Sources seems to suggest that while young people in the Midwest have the ability to decide to save sex for marriage thereby avoiding unintended pregnancies, their “urban” counterparts do not and will be left to deal with the consequences.
The Sex and Family Education (S.A.f.E.), Inc. Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage sub-grantee operates throughout the state of Alabama. Its mission reads, “To make abstinence a desirable, achievable and sustainable lifestyle for all unmarried people while promoting sexual integrity within marriage.”13 One of the programs available from S.A.f.E., Inc. is Sex Cents. This fifty-minute session “focuses on the personal and social economic gains of a successful marriage and the personal and social economic costs of marriage failure.”14
Why kNOw is another abstinence-only-until-marriage curriculum used by sub-grantees in Alabama, SIECUS reviewed this curriculum and found thatthe program offers limited information about important topics in human sexuality such as puberty, anatomy, and human reproduction, and no information about sexual orientation and gender identity. The information that is included is outdated, inaccurate, and misleading. In addition, Why kNOw relies on negative messages, distorts information, and presents biased views on gender, marriage, family structure, sexual orientation, and pregnancy options. For example, the curriculum tells students that the tradition of lifting the veil shows that “the groom [is] the only man allowed to uncover the bride,” and demonstrates “her respect for him by illustrating that she [has] not allowed any other man to lay claim to her.”15
Two other sub-grantees—the Circle of Care Center for Families16 and the Troy Regional Medical Center/ Abstinence In Motion Project17 — use the Choosing the Best curricula. (See the CBAE and AFLA section for more information on Choosing the Best LIFE and Choosing the BestPATH.)
Community-Based Abstinence Education (CBAE) and Adolescent Family Life Act (AFLA) Grantees
There are five CBAE grantees in Alabama: Alabama State University; Charles Henderson Memorial Association, Crittenton Youth Services, New Hope Baptist Church, and Teens Empowerment Awareness with ResolutionS (TEARS), Inc. There is one AFLA grantee in Alabama: Alabama State University.
Alabama State University uses its grant to conduct the “L.I.F.E Savers” abstinence-only-until-marriage program. The mission of this program is to “empower youth to make an informed decision to choose abstinence as a means to preserve their health through interactive education.”18
Charles Henderson Memorial Association conducts the “AIM (Abstinence in Motion)” and “Mentoring Matters” abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. The Mentoring Matters program “is designed to educate teens about the advantages of pursuing abstinence until marriage.”19 In Mentoring Matters, a group of high school students in grades 10–12 is trained to serve as teen mentors for students in grades seven and eight. High school mentors must fall into one of three categories:
Crittenton Youth Services, which is also a Title V grantee, is an affiliate of the Abstinence Clearinghouse, an organization designed to “promote the appreciation for and practice of sexual abstinence (purity) until marriage through the distribution of age appropriate, factual, and medically-referenced materials.”21
New Hope Baptist Church conducts the “Birmingham Abstinence Education Program,” an abstinence-only-until-marriage program that reaches middle school and high school students in Birmingham city schools.22 Facilitators from the church provide two week programs to students using the Choosing the Best curricula.23 SIECUS reviewed two of the curricula produced by Choosing the Best, Inc.—Choosing the Best LIFE (for high school students) and Choosing the Best PATH (for middle school students). These reviews found that the curricula name numerous negative consequences of premarital sexuality activity and suggest that teens should feel guilty, embarrassed, and ashamed of sexual behavior. For example, Choosing the Best LIFE states that, “Relationships often lower the self-respect of both partners—one feeling used the other feeling like the user. Emotional pain can cause a downward spiral leading to intense feelings of lack of worthlessness.” Choosing the Best PATH says, “Sexual activity also can lead to the trashing of a person’s reputation, resulting in the loss of friends.”24
Teens Empowerment Awareness with ResolutionS (TEARS), Inc. offers a number of services, including counseling, school-based programs, martial arts, dance, and Positive Peers, a “support group for youth choosing abstinence and positive choices.”25 TEARS created the abstinence program “Abstinence Education To Help Instill Character (A-ETHICS),” which uses two curricula: The Choice Game and WAIT (Why Am I Tempted) Training.26 SIECUS reviewed WAIT Training and found that it contained little medical or biological information and almost no information about STDs, including HIV/AIDS. Instead, it contains information and statistics about marriage, many of which are outdated and not supported by scientific research. It also contains messages of fear and shame and biased views of gender, sexual orientation, and family type. For example, WAIT Training explains, “men sexually are like microwaves and women sexually are like crockpots…. A woman is stimulated more by touch and romantic words. She is far more attracted by a man’s personality while a man is stimulated by sight. A man is usually less discriminating about those to whom he is physically attracted.”27 (See the Title V section for information on the Choice Game.)
Federal and State Funding for Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs in FY 2007