Arkansas State Profile
The Department of Health and community-based organizations in Arkansas received $3,372,232 in federal funds for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs in Fiscal Year 2007.1
Arkansas Sexuality Education Law and Policy
Arkansas law does not require schools to teach sexuality education or sexually transmitted disease (STD)/HIV education. If a school offers sexuality or STD/HIV education, it must stress abstinence.
Arkansas maintains curriculum standards for physical and health education; however, these do not include specific guidelines pertaining to the content of sexuality education courses. According to the Department of Education, course content is left to the discretion of the local school districts and varies widely from school to school. There is also no system of evaluation to monitor the subject matter covered in health education classes across the state.
School-based health clinics may teach sexuality education and may also prescribe and distribute contraceptives with written parental consent; however, no state funds may be used to purchase condoms or contraceptives. These school-based health clinics must maintain records of the number of condoms and other contraceptive devices distributed and prescribed, as well as the number of pregnancies and STDs in the school. This information must remain confidential. Clinics may not give information about abortions or refer students to where they might find such information.
Arkansas does not require parental permission for students to participate in sexuality or HIV/AIDS education nor does it say whether parents or guardians may remove their children from such classes.
See Arkansas Code 6-18-703.
Legislation Requires Emergency Contraception Information and Availability in the ER
Senate Bill 847, introduced in March 2007, requires that all health care facilities in the state that are licensed to provide emergency care to sexual assault victims promptly inform the victim about the availability of emergency contraception (EC). Facilities must educate the victim on the proper use of EC and any necessary follow-up care. SB 847 passed both the House and the Senate and was signed into law by on April 9, 2007 Governor Mike Beebe, becoming Act 1576.
Bill Creates an HIV/AIDS Minority Taskforce
House Bill 2615, introduced in March 2007, creates the Arkansas HIV/AIDS Minority Taskforce. The Taskforce will coordinate statewide efforts to combat the devastating effects of HIV/AIDS on women, African Americans, Hispanics, and other minority populations. HB 2615 passed both the House and the Senate and was signed into law by Governor Mike Beebe on April 3, 2007.
Bill Appropriates $1.5 Million for Abstinence Education
Senate Bill 589, introduced in February 2007, appropriates $1.5 million for grants and assistance for the Department of Health’s “Abstinence Education and Unwed Birth and Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program.” This bill was passed in Senate and the House, and became Act 1563 on April 9, 2007.
Book about Sexuality Allowed to Remain on Shelves
March 2005; Fayetteville, AR
After the materials evaluation committee of the school board ruled against complaints issued by a concerned parent, the Fayetteville school district decided to keep Robie Harris’ book It’s Perfectly Normal on library shelves.
During a school board meeting in late February 2005, a parent of a McNair Middle School student voiced complaints about three books—The Teenage Guy’s Survival Guide, by Jeremy Daldry, and It’s So Amazing and It’s Perfectly Normal, both by Robie Harris—available in the school district’s libraries. The parent suggested that they be removed from the collection. Interestingly, It’s Perfectly Normal was not available in her child’s library as it had been lost; however, the parent stated that she learned of the book from “Point of View,” a Christian radio show, and later found out that it was available elsewhere in the school district. She felt the illustrations were too sexually explicit and that the book encouraged children to experiment with “both heterosexuality and homosexuality.”2
As a result of her complaint, the school district created a seven-member committee to review It’s Perfectly Normal. Each committee member received a copy of the book to review, in effect forcing the school to order six additional copies. The committee decided the book should be allowed to remain in general circulation in junior high libraries (though currently there are no copies available) and will be available in parent libraries in middle schools and elementary schools. In middle schools, a student may check out the book only with the approval of both an educator and a counselor or administrator.
The Arkansas Department of Health received $587,519 in federal Title V funding 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. Arkansas uses both state funds and sub-grantees to provide the match. The Arkansas Department of Health has authority over the “Arkansas Abstinence Education Program.”
In the state, abstinence-only-until-marriage funds are disbursed through a grant application process and monitored by the Governor’s Steering Committee on Abstinence Education. This group was established by former Governor Mike Huckabee and is currently chaired by Martha Adcock of the Family Council in Little Rock, Arkansas.4 This organization is an affiliate of Focus on the Family.5
In Fiscal Year 2007, the Arkansas Abstinence Education Program distributed Title V funds to ten sub-grantees including: Abstinence By Choice, Inc., CALEB Initiative, Inc./Greater Fellowship Ministries, Earle School District, Excel Upward, Healthy Kids, Inc., Lee County Family Resource Center, Prim-N-Proper/Choosing to EXCEL, Reality Check, Inc., Stuttgart Public School, and Tree of Life Preventative Health Maintenance, Inc. The sub-grantees use a variety of curricula including A.C. Green’s Game Plan, Baby Think it Over, Choosing the Best, Heritage Keepers, Sex Respect,and Worth the Wait.
SIECUS reviewed several of these curricula. In our review of Game Plan we found that in order to convince high school students to remain abstinent until marriage, the curriculum relies on messages of fear and shame, inaccurate and misleading information, and biased views of marriage, sexual orientation, and family structure. In addition, Game Plan fails to provide important information on sexual health including how students can seek testing and treatment if they suspect they may have an STD. Finally, the format and underlying biases of the curriculum do not allow for cultural, community, and individual values, and discourage critical thinking and discussions of alternate points of view in the classroom. For example, Game Plan states that, “Even if you’ve been sexually active, it’s never too late to say no. You can’t go back, but you can go forward. You might feel guilty or untrustworthy, but you can start over again.”
SIECUS reviewed Heritage Keepers, Abstinence Education I and found that it contains very little information about important topics in human sexuality such as puberty, anatomy, and sexual behavior. Even topics that are frequently discussed in detail in other abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, such as condoms and STDs, receive very little mention. Instead, the curriculum devotes most of its lessons to the importance of marriage and abstinence before marriage. It relies on messages of fear and shame and promotes biased views of gender, marriage, and pregnancy options. For example, the curriculum tells students “Males are more sight orientated whereas females are more touch orientated. This is why girls need to be careful with what they wear, because males are looking! The girl might be thinking fashion, while the boy is thinking sex. For this reason, girls have a responsibility to wear modest clothing that doesn’t invite lustful thoughts.”
Sex Respect, one of the first commercially available abstinence-only-until-marriage curriculum, is also used in Arkansas. SIECUS reviewed the most recent edition of Sex Respect and found that the curriculum relies on messages of fear and shame, inaccurate and misleading information, and biased views of marriage, sexual orientation, and family structure. According to Sex Respect, “there is no way to have premarital sex without hurting someone.” Sex Respect implies that young people who become sexually active lack values, self-esteem, and principles: “Many young teens who have been brought up with principles and values may have already decided they want to save sex for marriage.” The curriculum is also not appropriate for public schools, as it remains patently religious. For example, Sex Respect uses Biblical language in giving young people dating advice: “Set ending time for your date before you go out. Be home on time. Don’t invite your date in. Lead yourselves not into temptation.”
SIECUS also reviewed Worth the Wait. We found that it covers some important topics related to sexuality such as puberty, anatomy, and sexual abuse, and that the curriculum is based on reliable sources of data. Despite these strengths, Worth the Wait relies on messages of fear, discourages contraceptive use, and promotes biased views of gender, marriage, and pregnancy options. For example, the curriculum explains, “teenage sexual activity can create a multitude of medical, legal, and economic problems not only for the individuals having sex but for society as a whole.”
Tree of Life Preventative Health Maintenance, Inc. is a faith-based organization that, according to its website, works under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.6 The organization uses the Choosing the Best curricula. (See the CBAE and AFLA section for more information on the Choosing the Best series.) In addition to the problems found in these curricula, the organization’s website contains numerous medical inaccuracies. For example, the website explains, “the best way to diagnose Chlamydia is through a blood test.”7 Chlamydia cannot be diagnosed through a blood test, but can only be detected through a urine test or a swab of the inside of the urethra for men or of the urethra or cervix for women. The website includes other inaccuracies such as “AIDS is the result of HPV.”8 In fact, HPV, human papillomavirus, can cause genital warts or cervical cancer. HIV, human immunodeficiency virus, leads to AIDS.
The “What about safe sex?” section of the organization’s website also includes misinformation. For example, it says “Youth and adults alike have been given the false impression that a condom can protect one from disease and unwanted pregnancy…..Did you know that the Center for Disease Control is now telling physicians to wear two latex gloves when examining patients? The thickness of two gloves is 11 times that of a condom. How can we then expect a condom to protect us from anything?”9 In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that latex condoms, when used consistently and correctly, are highly effective in preventing transmission of HIV and can significantly reduce the transmission of other STDs.10 Moreover, research shows that when used consistently and correctly, condoms are 98 percent effective in preventing pregnancy.11
Stuttgart Public Schools, a Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage sub-grantee, uses the Aim for Success speaker series.12 Based in Dallas, Texas, Aim for Success sends abstinence-only-until-marriage speakers into schools. The website for the program describes the key components including, “Sexually Transmitted Diseases: A description of the leading STDs many of which are incurable and can lead to infertility, reoccurring sores, cancer, and death.” In addition, Aim for Success instructs youth on, “Failure Rate of Contraceptives: Pregnancy, STDs, and emotional scars can occur even with a condom.”13 Research shows fear and shame tactics are not effective in changing youth behavior.
Community-Based Abstinence Education (CBAE) and Adolescent Family Life Act (AFLA) Grantees
There are five CBAE grantees in Arkansas: CALEB Initiative/Greater Fellowship Ministries, Earle School District Abstinence Education Program, Fayetteville Public Schools, Reality Check, Inc., and Tree of Life Prevention Health Maintenance. There is one AFLA grantee in Arkansas: Health Connections.
The CALEB Initiative abstinence-only-until-marriage program is operated through Greater Fellowship Ministries. According to the program’s director, the CALEB Initiative serves Jefferson County and Arkansas County, and specifically serves the Watson Chapel School District. The program consists of an in-school abstinence-only-until-marriage program two times a week, an after-school abstinence-only-until-marriage and homework help program, and an on-going abstinence-only-until-marriage program in the juvenile detention system that meets one to two times per month. In addition, the CALEB Initiative sponsors a summer camp program and reaches about 2,100 students per year. 14
CALEB Initiative uses the Choosing the Best series.15 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.”16
Reality Check, Inc. is an abstinence-only-until-marriage program that operates in schools, reaching students from 6th to 12th grade.17 This organization serves as an abstinence-only-until-marriage provider and also as the abstinence program of Tree of Life Preventive Health Maintenance. Tree of Life receives Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage and CBAE grants.18 The organization identifies itself as “a Christian organization that promotes healthy living,” and runs several programs in addition to Reality Check, Inc.19 (For more information on Tree of Life, see the Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage section).
The Reality Check, Inc. organization presents misinformation on its website. Under the section “Programs,” Reality Check, Inc. states that condoms “are not particularly effective when used to prevent pregnancy,” “scientific evidence shows that condoms may not prevent the transmission of most STDs,” and “almost no risk reduction is provided for HPV infection.”20 However, when used consistently and correctly, condoms are 98 percent effective in preventing pregnancy.21 In addition, according to the CDC, condoms can help protect sexually active individuals from a number of STDs, including HPV.22
Reality Check, Inc. also produces television commercials featuring its staff members who conduct abstinence-only-until-marriage programs in schools. One of the staff members tells students “Don’t cheapen yourself, you’re worth more than you think,” and “your emotions don’t last, Your future does.”23
In addition, the Reality Check, Inc. sub-grantee also uses the services of the speaker Keith Deltano.24 Mr. Deltano is an abstinence-only-until-marriage speaker and Christian comedian who has given talks around the country in middle schools and high schools. SIECUS attended one of Mr. Deltano’s most popular presentation, “The New Sexual Revolution or Abstinence is Cool,” and found that he uses a loud, aggressive style, reminiscent of a football coach to badger students into accepting his abstinence-only-until-marriage ideology. Deltano relies on messages of fear and shame, inaccurate and misleading information, and biased views of marriage and gender. The highlight of Deltano’s performance includes an activity designed to illustrate the ineffectiveness of condoms against HIV in which he suggests that condoms fail 10% of the time and then he dangles a cinderblock over the genitals of an unsuspecting male student yelling, “Is 10 percent good enough for you?!?! Is it good enough?!?!”
Federal and State Funding for Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs in FY 2007