Parents wary of 'comprehensive sex ed'

WASHINGTON (BP)--A sizable majority of American parents oppose the "comprehensive sex education" curricula used widely in public schools, according to a new survey.

In a poll done for a pro-family coalition, Zogby International found as much as 75 percent of parents disapproved of sex-ed training that includes instructions on the use of condoms. Meanwhile, 74 percent of parents approved of character education that endorses remaining sexually abstinent until marriage.

The survey asked more than 1,200 parents to respond to descriptions of different sex-ed guidelines. Some were from curricula promoting contraceptive use in addition to abstinence, such as those by the Centers for Disease Control, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS). Respondents also gave their opinions of abstinence-only guidelines from the Medical Institute for Sexual Health (MISH).

The highest level of disagreement came on the CDC material, while 61 percent also disapproved or strongly disapproved of the SIECUS guidelines. Nearly three-fourths of parents approved of the MISH material.

"What parents really want is for their children to be taught an abstinence-centered education," said Genevieve Wood of the Family Research Council in a written release. "Parents play a major role in whether or not their teen will choose to have sex. Study after study shows that when teenagers perceive that their parents strongly disapprove of them having sex, they are more likely to delay sexual activity."

The poll found parents' disapproval of sex information escalated when it involves their children. Only 46 percent of parents opposed high-school students being taught they can obtain contraceptives without parental approval, but the opposition increased to 70 percent when the question was personalized to their children.

Zogby performed the survey in January for the Coalition for Adolescent Sexual Health, a Washington-based group. Members of the coalition are FRC, Concerned Women for America, Focus on the Family, National Abstinence Clearinghouse, Eagle Forum, Christian Coalition and Traditional Values Coalition.

The coalition called for Congress to approve the $135 million in federal funds proposed by President Bush for abstinence education in 2003. Recent General Accounting Office research estimated "comprehensive sex education" received at least $219 million from the federal government in 1998.

"We have spent billions of tax dollars promoting the 'safe-sex' myth," Focus on the Family President James Dobson said in a written statement. "In return, we continue to see numerous epidemics that plague our nation, as well as an alarming erosion of values. Congress should consider the will of parents over the agendas of organizations that profit from teen sex and commit to funding programs that promote abstinence until marriage."

The SIECUS guidelines recommend teaching about masturbation and intercourse to children 5 to 8 years old. They also suggest children 9 to 12 be taught "[h]omosexual love relationships can be as satisfying as heterosexual relationships." Seventy-one percent of parents disapproved of the teaching of that concept.

The survey results may be found on the Internet at www.whatparentsthink.com.


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