Colorado State Profile
The Department of Public Health and Environment and community-based organizations in Colorado received $2,138,407 in federal funds for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs in Fiscal Year 2007.1
Sexuality Education Law and Policy | Recent Legislation | Events of Note | Youth Statistical Information of Note | Title V Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Funding | Community-Based Abstinence Education (CBAE) and Adolescent Family Life Act (AFLA) Grantees | Federal and State Funding for Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs | Adolescent Health Contact | Organizations that Support Comprehensive Sexuality Education | Organizations that Oppose Comprehensive Sexuality Education | Local Newspapers | References
Colorado Sexuality Education Law and Policy
Colorado schools are not required to teach sexuality or sexually transmitted disease (STD) education. Colorado law states that districts can decide whether to te ach sexuality education and may address the subject in preschool through twelfth grade. Colorado law also states that when offered, sexuality education classes must use curricula that are science-based, age-appropriate, culturally sensitive, medically accurate, and address the topics of both abstinence and contraception, including emergency contraception.
The Colorado Department of Education is charged with providing guidelines as to the length of courses, the subjects included, and the manner in which these subjects are addressed. The department also provides guidelines on teacher training in sexuality education that include information about high-risk behaviors. Under Colorado law, whenever sexuality education and/or human reproduction are taught, teachers must emphasize abstinence.
Parents or guardians must be notified if a sexuality education course is taught and given an opportunity to review the curriculum. Parents or guardians may remove their children from sexuality education or STD/HIV education classes by sending written notice to the school. This is referred to as an “opt-out” policy. However, if a school receives state funding to teach sexuality education, then parents and guardians must receive written notification about the topics and materials to be presented and must give prior written approval before their child can participate in “any program discussing or teaching sexuality and human reproduction.” This is referred to as an “opt-in” policy.
See Colorado Statutes 22-25-104, 22-25-106, 22-25-110 and 25-4-1405.
Bill Requires Sex Education to be Scientifically and Medically Accurate
House Bill 1292, introduced in February 2007, requires schools that offer sexuality education to develop scientifically and medically accurate curricula which stress abstinence and also discuss the health benefits of using contraception. It applies to all Colorado district schools, charter schools, and institute schools that offer curricula on human sexuality. In addition, it allows charter schools to appeal to the State Board of Education in order to be allowed to create a narrower sexuality education curriculum. The Colorado law also includes an “opt-out” clause, allowing parents to remove their children from sexuality education classes. The Governor signed the bill into law on May 14, 2007.
Legislation Aims to Create an Opt-Out Policy in Schools
House Bill 1300, introduced in February 2007, would eliminate the requirement that school officials in Colorado receive written consent from a parent and/or guardian before his and/or her child may participate in an educational program that discusses human sexuality. School officials would still be required to provide parents and/or guardians the option to excuse a student (without penalty) from the portion of a curriculum that concerns human sexuality. This bill only applies to schools receiving funding from the state. This would constitute a move from an “opt-in policy” to an “opt-out policy.” The bill is scheduled for a second reading in spring 2007.
SIECUS is not aware of any recent events regarding sexuality education in Colorado.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment received $488,314 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. In Colorado the state match is provided by local sub-grantees and event partners. The Colorado Abstinence Education Program (CAEP) oversees the program.
The CAEP’s goal is to reduce teen pregnancy rates, out-of-wedlock births, and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) among teens. The CAEP uses community meetings as a forum to receive feedback on the current year’s programming and input for the development of future strategies.
There are four sub-grantees in Colorado: Center Consolidated Schools, FACT Foundation, Friends First, and Weld County Health Department. The sub-grantees use three curricula: Choosing the Best, Friends First Quinceañera Program,and WAIT (Why Am I Tempted) Training.
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.”
The FACT Foundation uses Keith Deltano, a national motivational speaker, in its community outreach.3 Mr. Deltano is a Christian comedian who has given talks on abstinence-until-marriage and drug abuse around the country in middle schools and high schools. SIECUS attended one of Mr. Deltano’s most popular presentations, “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 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?!?!”4
See the CBAE and ALFA section for more information on WAIT Training.
Title V Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Funding Status
In October 2007, state officials decided no longer to participate in the Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage program due to the mounting evidence that abstinence-only-until-marriage programs are ineffective in preventing sexual activity among students. This decision went into effect for Fiscal Year 2008.
Community-Based Abstinence Education (CBAE) and Adolescent Family Life Act (AFLA) Grantees
There is one CBAE grantee in Colorado: WAIT Training. There are two AFLA grantees in Colorado: Colorado State University- Cooperative Extension (receives two grants), and Friends First, Inc.
WAIT Training runs several abstinence-only-until-marriage websites, including www.waittraining.org, the organization’s main website; www.why-abstinence.org, a site dedicated to training and curriculum; www.marry-well.org, a site designed to help enhance marriages throughout Colorado, and www.coloradoabstinence.org, a site specifically for citizens of Colorado who want to attend or sponsor a training.5 WAIT Training also maintains a separate website for its programming conducted through its CBAE grant.
On the “Why Abstinence” webpage, WAIT Training lists as one of its organizational goals, “To increase the value of marriage.”6 WAIT Training uses its CBAE funding to run the “Healthy Futures, Healthy Families” initiative in Colorado.7 This initiative uses the organization’s own fear-based, abstinence-only-until-marriage curriculum, WAIT (Why Am I Tempted) Training.
SIECUS reviewed WAIT Training and found that it contains 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.”8
Friends First, Inc., which is both a Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage sub-grantee and an AFLA grantee, provides several initiatives including STARS (Students Teaching Abstinence, Relationships and Self-Control) Mentoring program, the Quinceañera program, and The Art of Loving Well. The STARS Mentoring Program is an abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula to accompany the Friends First program in rural and urban areas. The program works by pairing older students with younger ones to develop meaningful relationships. The Quinceañera Program is an abstinence-only-until-marriage program for “Hispanic girls ages 11-15 and their families.” The Art of Loving Well, a “literature-based character education curriculum for today’s teenagers.”9
In the “Frequently Asked Questions” of the Friends First website, fathers are advised to “give a chastity ring to their daughters to represent the gift of sexuality to be given to her future husband on her wedding day.”10 Research has found that under certain conditions virginity pledges may help some adolescents delay sexual intercourse. When they work, pledges help this select group of adolescents delay the onset of sexual intercourse for an average of 18 months—far short of marriage. More importantly, the studies also found that those young people who took a pledge were one-third less likely to use contraception when they did become sexually active than their peers who had not pledged. These teens are therefore more vulnerable to the risks of unprotected sexual activity such as unintended pregnancy and STDs, including HIV/AIDS. Further research has confirmed that although some students who take pledges delay intercourse, ultimately they are equally as likely to contract an STD as their non-pledging peers. The study also found that STD rates were higher in communities where a significant proportion (over 20%) of the young people had taken virginity pledges.11
Federal and State Funding for Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs in FY 2007