Ohio State Profile
The Department of Health and community-based organizations in Ohio received $8,867,073 in federal funds for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs in Fiscal Year 2007. 1
Ohio does not require schools to teach sexuality education. However, the board of education of each school district must establish a health curriculum for “all schools under their control.” The health education curriculum must include “venereal disease education.” Venereal disease education must emphasize, “abstinence from sexual activity is the only protection that is one hundred percent effective against unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease, and the sexual transmission of a virus that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.” Additionally, it must:
These points closely mirror the federal definition of “abstinence education.”
Upon written request of a parent or guardian, a student may be excused from taking any or all of this instruction. This is referred to as an “opt-out” policy.
See Ohio Revised Code Sections 3313.60 and 3313.60.11.
Legislation to Ensure Contraceptive Availability; Amend Sexual Education Requirements
Senate Bill 179 and House Bill 251, both introduced in May 2007, would require health insurers to provide coverage for prescription contraception if the policy provides coverage for other prescription drugs, devices, or services. SB 179 requires the same terms, conditions, and co-payments as for similar coverage. HB 251 requires that hospitals providing emergency services have qualified medical personnel available 24 hours a day to provide medical care to victims of sexual assault; victims must be provided information about and offered emergency contraception. Furthermore, HB 251 aims to revise sexual education instruction so that the value of abstinence is promoted while those who have already engaged in sexual intercourse are not ignored. Programs designated as abstinence-only will be ineligible for grants under HB 251. SB 179 was sent to the Committee on Health, Human Services and Aging on May 31, 2007; HB 251 was sent to the Committee on Health on June 12, 2007.
Speaker Strays from Intended Topics, Further Presentations Canceled
District administrators cancelled a second performance by national speaker Keith Deltano after they felt he had strayed from those topics he had been asked to speak about during a presentation to seventh graders at Mason Middle School.
Deltano, who describes himself as an educational comedian, travels the country delivering presentations about abstinence as well as the dangers of alcohol and drugs. SIECUS has attended and reviewed one of Delatano’s presentations and found that he relies on fear, shame, and misinformation.
Deltano had been invited into Mason Middle School to speak primarily about alcohol and drug use. Instead, he used most of the 45-minutes allotted for his presentation, which he called “Don’t Be Stupid,” to discuss the importance of abstaining from sexual activity until marriage.2
The principal explained that she did not have a problem with Deltano’s message but that she did not think it was appropriate to expose the seventh graders to this topic without alerting their parents. She also felt the topic should not be part addressed in a presentation until after students had gone through middle school’s own sexuality education curriculum, which is taught as part of the eighth grade health unit.3
Deltano explained that he had to talk about abstinence because he was being paid with federal abstinence-only-until-marriage grant funds, however, he acknowledged that it was not what he had been asked to do: “I really should have just said no,” he said.4
Schools Revise Sexuality Education to Include Contraceptive Information
School Board members in Granville unanimously approved a revised health education curriculum with units covering sexuality education, including contraception, for eighth and tenth grade students.
In previous years, the school had invited RSVP of Licking County to provide its abstinence-only-until-marriage program to students. More than one parent had objected to the program’s negative portrayal of condom effectiveness.5
A 15-member advisory committee, made up of parents, teachers, and administrators, recommended that the school include more information about contraceptive options and their effectiveness.6 The committee also recommended discussions on the differences between spontaneous and elective abortion for students in tenth grade.
In order to be enrolled in the new components, students must first obtain parental permission. Parents have the option of enrolling their children in the program at either the eighth grade or the tenth grade levels.7
Cleveland Schools Expand Sexuality Education
In October 2006, school administrators in Cleveland announced they would be expanding their existing sexuality education program to include elementary-level lessons.
The area is facing high rates of teen pregnancy—about 40 of every 1,000 girls ages 15 –19 become pregnant each year—and increasing STD rates. The school district’s coordinator for responsible sexual behavior also noted that “one-third of all the HIV/AIDS cases in Ohio are in Cleveland.”8
The city health director, supported by local advocacy groups, acknowledged that sexuality education could be a tool to bring these numbers down and worked with the mayor to improve the program. “The mayor essentially said, ‘Give me a plan. Let’s do it,’” the city health director said.9
The new elementary level classes will teach about germs and viruses and inappropriate touching. Students in grades 4–6 will learn about puberty, and students in grades 7–12 will hear about self-esteem, peer pressure, HIV/AIDS and other STDs, teen pregnancy, sexual orientation, and abortion.
As with all sexuality education classes in Ohio, parents are allowed to remove their children from any part the program to which they object. The classes, funded by a block grant from Cuyahoga County, began during the 2006–07 school year.
The Ohio Department of Health received $1,547,254 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 Ohio, the state match is provided through both direct state funds and in-kind services by the sub-grantees.
There are 12 sub-grantees in Ohio: Abstinence the Better Choice; Central Ohio Abstinence Educator’s Network; Greater Dayton Pro-Life Education Foundation; Huron County General Health District; The Mercy Foundation; Miami County General Health District; Operation Keepsake; Pregnancy Care of Cincinnati; REACH of Southwest Ohio; The Ridge Project; R.S.V.P. of Licking County; and St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center. Several of the sub-grantees use popular, commercially available, abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula, including A.C. Green’s Game Plan, the Choosing the Best series, Navigator, and WAIT (Why Am I Tempted) Training.
SIECUS reviewed Game Plan and found that in order to convince high school students to remain abstinent until marriage; the curriculumrelies 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.”11
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.”12
SIECUS reviewed Navigator and found that it relies on messages of fear and shame, inaccurate and misleading information, and biased views of marriage, sexual orientation, and pregnancy options. Navigator fails to provide important information on sexual health, and the format and underlying biases of the curriculum dictate specific values and discourage critical thinking. For example, the authors explain, “Navigator does not promote the use of contraceptives for teens. No contraceptive device is guaranteed to prevent pregnancy. Besides, students who do not exercise self-control to remain abstinent are not likely to exercise self-control in the use of a contraceptive device.”13
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.”14
The Pregnancy Care of Cincinnati is a crisis pregnancy center (CPC). 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.
The Pregnancy Care of Cincinnati focuses a section of its website on teens and supports another website, www.makingabstinencepossible.net, which describes its abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. It offers classroom presentations, assemblies, after-school clubs, parent education, and community group presentations.15 One student explains on the website, “I have chosen abstinence because of you coming in and telling us the dangers.”16
The website also reinforces “commitments to premarital abstinence and secondary virginity through after-school clubs and peer counseling opportunities.”17 Research has found that under certain conditions these commitments, often called 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. Researchers found that pledges only worked when taken by a small group of students. Pledges taken by a whole class were ineffective. 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 percent) of the young people had taken virginity pledges.18
Title V Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Funding Status
In March 2007, Governor Ted Strickland of Ohio announced that his state has no plans to reapply for Title V after current funding runs out.19 Keith Dailey, spokesman for the governor, explained, “The governor believes that continuing to pay for a program that has not been proven to work is an unwise use of tax dollars, particularly when we’re facing a very challenging or constrained budget environment.”20
Community-Based Abstinence Education (CBAE) and Adolescent Family Life Act (AFLA) Grantees
There are eight CBAE grantees in Ohio: Abstinence the Better Choice, Inc., ATM Education, Inc., Central Ohio Youth For Christ, Elizabeth’s New Life Center, Operation Keepsake, the RIDGE (Reality Instruction Developing Generations of Excellence) Project, Inc. (receives two grants), Ross County Health District, and St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center. There are three AFLA grantees in Ohio: Catholic Social Services of Miami Valley (receives two grants), St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center, and Tri County Right to Life Educational Foundation. A number of these grantees then sub-contract with other community-based organizations or abstinence-only-until-marriage providers.
Abstinence the Better Choice, Inc. created the abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula Responsible Social Values Program (RSVP) and the “C.A.T.S.” (Concerned About Teen Sexuality) program.21 RSVP is for students in grade school and middle school, and the C.A.T.S. program is for high school students.22 Five to six C.A.T.S. members visit a high school classroom and “through original talks, skits, audience participation, music, and humor” they “make an engaging and enlightening case for abstinence.”23 Theme C1 of the C.A.T.S. program states, “Contraception may fail – C.A.T.S. does not promote or encourage contraceptive use.”24 There are C.A.T.S. satellite programs in California, Iowa, New York, New Mexico, and Virginia.25
ATM (Abstinence Til Marriage) Education, Inc. conducts abstinence-only-until-marriage programming in 17 counties in north-central Ohio.26 In addition to classroom presentations, school assemblies, teacher seminars, billboards, promotional items, and a resource library, ATM operates a website (www.MisstheMess.com) that “provides a party atmosphere where participants can see the consequence of behavior through games, movies, and resources.”27
In the “Party Room” section of the website, ATM Education offers a story about students at a party. One of the students, Rochelle, claims to be raped by Jason when she drives him home from the party. Jason justifies his actions stating, “Rochelle has had it bad for me since we were in sixth grade.” Another student, Monica, who has just broken up with Jason, explains: “Every guy wants Rochelle since she has a reputation for ‘putting out’” and “Rochelle was considered a slut, so when they left together, I figured they were going to do more than talk.” Jason acts upset about his breakup with Monica. Rochelle recalls the drive home, saying, “When he started bawling, I hugged him. He immediately started kissing me and within five seconds, he was pressing down on me. That’s when I got the feeling I was going to be raped.” After Rochelle goes home and calls the police with her father, Jason is arrested. Monica states, “I don’t think he raped Rochelle. He always asked me to have sex with him, but he never forced me to do anything I wasn’t comfortable with.” ATM Education gives several other statements from students at the party and then concludes the scenario by shaming and judging the alleged victim, stating, “Did you think a rape occurred? Answer: We don’t really know if Rochelle consented to have sex with Jason…Unfortunately, we are left judging Ro’s honesty by her character and her actions…Monica implied Rochelle had a promiscuous reputation and the whole school seemed to know it.”28
Central Ohio Youth for Christ describes its mission by saying, “Youth for Christ reaches young people everywhere, working together with the local church and other like minded partners to develop lifelong followers of Jesus, who lead by the godliness in lifestyle, devotion in prayer, passion for sharing the love of Christ and commitment to social involvement.”29
Elizabeth’s New Life Center is a crisis pregnancy center (CPC). The organization uses its CBAE grant to support the abstinence-only-until-marriage program “Empowered by Truth.”30 Empowered by Truth uses several abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula, including RSVP, Chastity by Choice, Go for the Gold, and S.T.A.R.S. Mentoring Program.31 Part of the RSVP program for eighth grade students includes the activity “Gender Approach Project” where males and females are separated for discussion. The discussion topics for young ladies is “Do you want to be treated liked a Treasure or a Target?” where as young men discuss “Do you want to act like a Protector or a Predator?”32
Federal and State Funding for Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs in FY 2007