Maine State Profile
Community-based organizations in Maine received $664,000 in federal funds for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs in Fiscal Year 2007.1
Maine’s sexuality education law is one of the most comprehensive in the country; it mandates that the state “undertake initiatives to implement effective, comprehensive family life education services.” The state must provide:
“Comprehensive family life education” must be taught in kindergarten through twelfth grade. The information provided must be medically accurate and age-appropriate, and must respect community values and encourage parent-child communication. Programs must teach about abstinence, healthy relationships, contraception, and conflict resolution. No specific curriculum is mandated.
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 Maine Revised Statutes, Title 22, Chapter 406, Sections 1902, 1910, and 1911.
Legislation Requires Standards for Family Life Skills
House Bill 745, introduced in March 2007, would have required the existing system of learning standards to include the subject area of “family life skills.” Students would have been required to study and demonstrate proficiency in subject areas including healthcare choices and family dynamics. The bill was sent to the Senate Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs, but failed to pass.
SIECUS is not aware of any recent events regarding sexuality education in Maine.
The Department of Human Services would have been eligible for $161,398 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. Had Maine taken the funds the state would have been required to match the money with $121,048. However, the state does not apply for these funds due to the extraordinary restrictions upon how the money must be spent. Therefore, the state does not match funds nor does it have organizations supported by this type of federal money.
On September 20, 2005, Maine officials announced their decision to reject Title V Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Funding. With this action, Maine became one of the first states to reject this ideologically biased funding.
Dr. Dora Anne Mills, the state’s public health director, stated that tighter federal control of the funding and its growing inconsistency with state law made it difficult for Maine to continue its more inclusive media campaign. (The state had already decided that due to Maine law, which mandates a comprehensive approach to sexuality education, abstinence-only-until-marriage funding could not be used in schools.) Dr. Mills also worried that this funding would not allow the state to help sexually active young people or lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth.3
Earlier that same month, the Maine Department of Education sent a letter to all school superintendents stating that abstinence-only-until-marriage programs do not fulfill the requirements of Maine law.4 At the time, Dr. Mills referred to abstinence-only-until-marriage funding as “ideological money” and said, “Studies show over and over again when youth are given full information, including abstinence, they make the healthiest choices possible.”5
Community-Based Abstinence Education (CBAE) and Adolescent Family Life Act (AFLA) Grantees
There is one CBAE grantee in Maine: Maine Character Resource (MCR). There is one AFLA grantee in Maine: People’s Regional Opportunity Program.
Maine Character Resource (formerly Heritage of Maine and Character Counts of Maine) uses “The Heritage Method” created by Heritage Community Services of South Carolina.6 According to its brochure, Maine Character Resource (MCR) offers a series of five, 90-minute classes for students in grades seven through 12; a “Pop” Program with shorter classes highlighting only part of the program; school assemblies; Heritage Keepers Club in schools, churches, and other community groups for students who have completed the program; information sessions about the program for communities; and a multi-session parent course.
The organization also offers a school consultation in which a trained abstinence-only-until-marriage program instructor works with health teachers and curriculum directors to review a school’s health curriculum and “suggest changes that will satisfy the Maine law for teaching abstinence education.”7 Maine law, however, requires comprehensive family life education which must provide education about sexuality including human development, family planning, and sexually transmitted diseases. According to the law, such education must follow a number of different criteria, including addressing the use of contraception and promoting responsible sexual behavior with an emphasis on abstinence. (See the Law and Policy section for more information about Maine’s law.)
In fact, in 2005 the state refused to allow MCR (then Heritage of Maine) to hold its programs in Maine schools because its curricula do not meet the comprehensive health education requirements for the state.8 Nevertheless, MCR’s website encourages parents, community groups, and schools to invite the organization in. Its website urges interested individuals to “coordinate with other parents and co-sign a letter of request asking to bring Heritage Keepers’ authentic abstinence program to your school.”9
MCR’s website also posts testimonials from young people who have been through its program. One teen wrote, “We really enjoyed your class very much and we also love the skits and role playing, and fireplace activity (Sex is Like Fire).”10 This is a reference to the Heritage Keepers’ curriculum. 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. Heritage Keepers also uses an elaborate analogy of fire to underscore its message that sexual activity outside of marriage is a risky behavior. The teacher is told to narrate a scene about fire in a fireplace as if the students are there and to use highly evocative words like “cozy,” “comfy,” “toasty,” “warm,” and “nice.” Students are asked to add to the scene describing the fire and how it makes them feel. The teacher then changes the scene to discuss the possibility of creating a fire in the middle of the living room and is told, “Although building fire in a room without a fireplace is, of course, a ridiculous idea, the tone of your delivery and the details and explanations you include should treat it as reasonable. Mention sensible-sounding precautions, such as opening the windows for ventilation, building the fire in a trash can…” In the scenario, despite these precautions, the fire escapes from the “insufficient, provisional boundary” and the teacher is told narrate the “consequences, the burning of the room and its contents.” This time descriptions of the fire include “dangerous,” “painful,” “devastating,” and “scary.”11
Federal and State Funding for Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs in FY 2007
Adolescent Health Contact12
Newspapers in Maine