Several Fonda-Fultonville school district residents on Tuesday criticized the use of a Planned Parenthood educator to conduct sex education classes for seventh- and eighth-graders beginning today.
Point of view
Read Mark Robarge's view as a parent of sex education in the schools in his blog, "Off the Beaten Path," by clicking here.
The parents said they had collected 163 signatures of residents opposing the introduction of Planned Parenthood materials or organization-developed instruction in the school.
The group developed a Web site, www.notinourschool.com, which lists financial earnings of Planned Parenthood and other details of the organization.
Deborah Young said she started researching Planned Parenthood education guidelines and found passages that suggested masturbation is a source of pleasure.
“I went in, I could not believe what I saw,” Young said.
Arlene Whittingham said she did research as well and found educational materials directed to children between the ages of 5 and 8 which indicate that girls and boys have body parts that feel good when touched.
Whittingham said she found it “quite unconscionable” that an organization could suggest sharing such information with school students.
The district held a special meeting last month for parents to outline presentations for seventh and eighth grade this year and to announce a sex education curriculum will be developed over the summer.
Officials at the time said several program possibilities were reviewed and they chose Planned Parenthood’s program.
Opponents are suggesting the selection was steered by administrators and failed to include a broader array of possible choices.
The incidence of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease prompted school officials to consider implementing a program to cover topics like the repercussions of sexual activity, types of birth control and sexually transmitted diseases.
State Health Department statistics show Montgomery County has a birth rate of 42.4 per 1,000 among 15- to 19-year-olds between 2002 and 2004.
That rate was surpassed in New York state only in the Bronx, which logged a rate of 53.5 teens per 1,000 giving birth.
Dr. Michael Rochet, a physician, said the school district should search for alternatives for Planned Parenthood programming because he believes the instruction will facilitate curiosity among students.
“It will lead to more sexual activity,” he said.
Rochet said he wants parents and educators to get together and work on a program for the coming school year that can be molded to the community’s needs, as opposed to taking on programming of an organization that’s already developed.
“We don’t have to follow everybody else. Let’s lead the pack,” Rochet said.
In an effort to ensure parents would have a say in their children’s participation, the district issued forms so that parents could decide to have their children excluded from the instruction.
District Superintendent James Hoffman said among seventh-graders, parents of 30 students out of a total of about 105 students have opted out of instruction. In the eighth grade, of more than 90 students, parents of six opted out, he said.
Hoffman said district officials are aware of the parents’ concern. He said the Planned Parenthood educator was told not to mention abortion or abortion rights.
A teacher will be directed to start developing a new curriculum during the summertime, Hoffman said.