Usually when a citizens advisory committee is appointed during a controversy, the purpose is to take off some heat and buy some time. The one appointed to evaluate the Shenendehowa School District’s sex education program, after Planned Parenthood last year was given the boot at the behest of a group of parents and others complained, did that. But it did more: It came up with a set of recommendations, adopted by the school board last week, that do a number of good things, not least of which is to open the door again to Planned Parenthood.
Planned Parenthood, which performs abortions, is distrusted by those who oppose the practice, as well as those who believe in abstinence-only education. These are often the same people.
And they are wrong — at least about the abstinence-only part. Hearing the abstinence message is important, but it’s not enough. It also needs to be balanced by the reality that many teens will have sex, and the need to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases if they do.
For two decades students in Shenendehowa had been receiving that balanced message from Planned Parenthood guest lecturers as part of the sex education curriculum — until the district caved in to parental pressure and banned the group. Now they’ll be able to return to classrooms at the discretion of teachers and administrators, and also participate in evening sex education workshops that the advisory committee has recommended.
The district did give the anti-Planned Parenthood parents some things they called for, such as up-to-date statistics about condom use and failure. And if they still don’t want their children to learn about contraception and HIV/AIDS, they will be able to “opt out” of those lessons (although the advisory committee recommends against it). That will deprive their kids of important — perhaps life-changing or even life-saving — information, but not others, as an abstinence-only policy would.