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Santa Ana School Board Rejects Abstinence-Only Curriculum

Trustees vote down sex education program on the recommendation of district staff. Game Plan doesn't meet state requirements, they say.

May 15, 2003|Denise M. Bonilla | Times Staff Writer

In the latest battle over Santa Ana Unified's sex education policy, the school board voted late Tuesday to reject an abstinence-only curriculum, saying it did not meet state requirements.

The 3 to 2 vote against Game Plan, an abstinence-centered curriculum the board had been considering since last fall, capped a contentious night.

"It's a good plan and I believe in abstinence," board member Sal Tinajero said. "But I believe there is a need to give knowledge because knowledge is power."

Tinajero was referring to shortcomings in the curriculum as outlined by district staff. If Game Plan was adopted, staff said, there would have to be supplemental materials on HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases, among other issues.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday May 21, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 2 inches; 66 words Type of Material: Correction
Abstinence curriculum -- An article in the Orange County edition of Thursday's California section incorrectly suggested that an abstinence-only sex education curriculum rejected by the Santa Ana Unified School District would have replaced the current curriculum. In fact, it would have supplemented the current program. A sub-headline in the story incorrectly reported that district staff members had recommended rejection of the supplementary curriculum. They endorsed it.

Santa Ana currently has a program that some critics say is not uniform or accurate. "I won't support this until there is a comprehensive plan," board member John Palacio said. "Game Plan, by itself, is not a comprehensive plan."

Game Plan was developed by Project Reality, an Illinois-based nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing abstinence-centered programs in schools.

The curriculum consists of an eight-chapter workbook that stresses marriage before sex. Game Plan does not discuss use of contraceptives or provide resources for students who choose not to abstain.

The plan was heavily promoted by board President Rosemarie Avila, and her vote was supported by member Rob Richardson.

Before the meeting, Avila said the plan offered more information on abstinence than other curriculums she had evaluated. "It's a more realistic view of what's out there," Avila said.

Beatriz Salas, 40, a Santa Ana mother of three and a vocal supporter of Game Plan, said she hopes to organize other parents to protest the board's decision at the next meeting. She said Santa Ana's largely Latino population is more conservative and needs a curriculum that addresses that.

"Game Plan teaches responsibility beyond sex education," she said. "We are religious people; we don't want [our kids] exposed to sex."

Opponents of Game Plan said they will press ahead with asking the board to form a committee to examine the current curriculum. They said a more effective program would be abstinence-based but also include information on condom use and relationship issues.

Sex education "goes way beyond abstinence-only," said resident Orleda Roa, 38, who spoke out against Game Plan. "There is so much more to sex that these kids need to know."

During the long and often tense meeting attended by hundreds of residents, more than 90 speakers signed up to speak.

The meeting was preceded by a rally orchestrated by Game Plan supporters.

Carrying signs and wearing T-shirts urging abstinence, Game Plan enthusiasts heavily outnumbered their opponents, representatives from Campfire USA's Speak Out program and Planned Parenthood, as well as parents.

The debate over sex education in Santa Ana schools has been simmering. In 2001, a group of Speak Out teens approached the board and, citing the city's high teen pregnancy rate -- more than 3,000 teen births in 2000 -- asked the district to alter its curriculum to include more information on contraceptive use and relationship issues.

"The reality is, whether they like it or not, abstinence is not a choice all teens will make," said Speak Out member Fabiola Pascual, 18, at Tuesday's meeting. "[The district] needs to go more in depth to give information to teens not abstaining who want to make healthy decisions."

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