Kentucky State Profile
The Cabinet for Health and Family Services and community-based organizations in Kentucky received $3,070,315 in federal funds for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs in Fiscal Year 2007. 1
Kentucky Sexuality Education Law and Policy
All Kentucky schools follow the Department of Education’s Program of Studies, required instruction for students in grades six through 12. Through personal and physical health education, students learn “how decision-making relates to responsible sexual behavior (e.g., abstinence, preventing pregnancy, preventing HIV/STDs), impacts physical, mental and social well being of an individual.” Students also learn about the basic reproductive system and functions. No specific curriculum is required. However, state funds are available for local health departments to use to help young people postpone sexual involvement.
Kentucky 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 Kentucky Department of Education’s Program of Studies.
SIECUS is not aware of any proposed legislationregarding sexuality education in Kentucky.
A Single Complaint Prohibits Class Discussion of Standard Exam-related Novel
March 2007; Louisville, KY
In March 2007, administrators at Eastern High School barred teachers from discussing Toni Morrison’s novel Beloved despite the fact that the book is often covered on the Advanced Placement English Exam given each May.
The controversy began when one parent objected to the book’s themes of racism and sexuality. The principal agreed with the parent, saying he could not “support some of the language and references to racism and bestiality.” He also said he could not “condone a class discussing the kinds of talk” that is prohibited in the halls.2 The principal prohibited the book from being discussed in class, though he pointed out that it technically is not “banned.” He replaced the Princeton professor’s award-winning book with Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter and Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness.
Students lambasted the principal’s unilateral decision. One senior said, “Students are furious, the teachers are furious, and the parents are furious that the complaint of one parent outweighs that of everyone else.”3 He went on to explain that by banning the classroom discussions, the principal is putting him and his peers at a disadvantage on the AP English Exam, “Now because of the censorship we cannot discuss these images with our teachers and are now left clueless.”4
The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services received $817,297 in federal Title V Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage 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 Kentucky, sub-grantees are required to make up the match. The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services oversees all Title V Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Funding.
Kentucky allocates a majority of its Title V Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Funding to 16 local public health departments (see the funding chart for more information on these).6 The remainder is available for non-profit/governmental agencies and is awarded to five sub-grantees: AA Pregnancy Care Center; Countrywide Action Reachout Effort, Inc.; Marsha’s Place (Pregnancy Resource Center of Henderson County); New Hope Center; and Pregnancy Helpline, Inc. (Pregnancy Resource Center). All of these organizations are crisis pregnancy centers.
Both the local health departments and the sub-grantees use a variety of curricula including Choosing the Best, Mike Long’s Everybody is Not Doing IT, and Why kNOw.
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.”7
SIECUS also reviewed the commercially available videotape of Mike Long’s presentation, Everyone’s Not Doing IT. In his presentation to students, Mike Long, a self-described pioneer in the abstinence movement lectures, preaches, and tells young people in no uncertain terms that premarital sex is morally wrong, that they are incapable of making decisions for themselves, and that everyone should aspire to marry and raise children in a “traditional” family setting. In a style that falls somewhere between that of an infomercial spokesperson and a televangelist, Long relays messages of fear and shame and provides medically inaccurate information. For example, he tells his audience “You’ll never know whom you want to marry… Maybe that man or woman will regard virginity as an important indicator of character, and maybe, if you’ve been sexually active, he or she will find out. (If you’ve been pregnant or had a sexually transmitted disease, your chances of marrying such a person may be even slimmer.)”8
SIECUS reviewed Why kNOw and found that it 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.”9
Community-Based Abstinence Education (CBAE) and Adolescent Family Life Act (AFLA) Grantees
There are three CBAE grantees in Kentucky: A Door of Hope Pregnancy Care Center, New Hope Center Inc, and Women for Life, doing business as AA Pregnancy Help Center. There are no AFLA grantees in Kentucky. In addition, Heritage of Kentucky receives a discretionary grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
All three CBAE grantees are crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs). Crisis pregnancy centers typically advertise as providing medical services and then use anti-abortion propaganda, misinformation, and fear and shame tactics to dissuade women facing unintended pregnancy from exercising their right to choose.
Women for Life, doing business as AA Pregnancy Help Center, does not provide information on its abstinence-only-until-marriage program, but its website contains biased information about abortion. For example, the website says, “Abortion is not just a simple procedure; it may have many side effects. Abortion has been associated with preterm birth, emotion and psychological impact, and spiritual consequences.”10 In truth, abortion is a generally safe procedure, and medically sound research has shown that first trimester abortions cause almost no long-term fertility problems.11
A Door of Hope Pregnancy Care Center states that it is a “Christian pro-life ministry… dedicated to meeting the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of men and women in a crisis pregnancy situation while providing abstinence education and offering help for post-abortion trauma.”12 While CPCs often refer to post-abortion stress, there is no sound scientific evidence linking abortion to subsequent mental health problems. Neither the American Psychological Association nor the American Psychiatric Association recognize “post-abortion stress syndrome” as a legitimate medical condition.13
New Hope Center, Inc. explains that its abstinence-only-until-marriage programs cover the following topics: “pressure to be sexually active; risks of sexual activity, STD’s and HIV, pregnancy, emotional consequences; setting boundaries and being assertive; making healthy choices and goal setting; choosing the best: the rewards of abstinence; and relationships and dating.”14
Heritage of Kentucky, which receives a discretionary grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, provides several different programs including Heritage Keepers Abstinence Education and Heritage Keepers Life Skills Education.15 SIECUS reviewed Heritage Keepers, Abstinence Education I and found that itcontains 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.”16
Heritage of Kentucky is affiliated with Heritage Community Services of South Carolina, and states that its programs “utilize the Heritage Method.”17
Federal and State Funding for Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs in FY 2007