Spotlight on Daniel Sparks
This month, we're highlighting the work on one Ohio youth who stands out as a voice for Comprehensive Sex Education. Parma High School junior Daniel Sparks has quickly shown that young people desperately want to receive all the information about sex that they will need to make wise decisions in life.
We first met Daniel at our 2009 Ohio Youth Summit, which trained teens and college students how to speak up about what they believe in. Since then, he has provided testimony to two committees of the Ohio House of Representatives in support of the Ohio Prevention First Act (HB 293) and the Act for Our Children's Future (HB 316).
This week, in addition to testifying before the Ohio House Education Committee, he spoke before the Parma City Schools Board of Education, was interviewed by Cleveland's WCPN radio, and was featured in a column by Plain Dealer Columnist Connie Schultz. Schultz was impressed by Sparks' positive attitude despite being subjected to Parma's abstinence-only program, administered by Operation Keepsake. He understands how this program neglects the real world needs of many Ohioans.
"Operation Keepsake made me question education as a whole," testified Sparks, "for a while they scared us into understanding what could go wrong, they afforded us no information on how things could go right; on how we could prevent an STI; on the effectiveness of contraception; and empowering us with the knowledge to make the right choices before making the wrong ones."
Daniel is also keenly aware of how abstinence-only-until-marriage programs completely ignore the LGBT community. "As a gay student," he asked, "how can I be expected to uphold a standard of abstinence until marriage when I live in a state where I cannot marry?"
We applaud the work of Daniel Sparks, and the countless other teens he inspires to speak out about the real life lessons they need.
Spanks to Senator Tim Grendell for letting the lobbyists lead
Last week, the Ohio Senate adopted Senate Concurrent Resolution 6, which urges the federal government to oppose legislation that increases access to or funding for abortion. Leading up to the vote, we knew that the sponsors of the resolution had very strong feeling about abortion. What we didn’t know was that paid lobbyists for Ohio Right to Life and the Ohio Christian Alliance were pulling the strings – making sponsors Sen. Grendell and Sen. Buehrer virtual puppets.
In his remarks before the vote, Sen. Tim Grendell exposed the reach of anti-choice lobbyists within our legislature.
“I’d also like to thank the Ohio Right to Life, I know Mark is here, Mark Lally for Right to Life, and the Ohio Christian Alliance, who’s represented by Chris Long here today and the many individuals who are tirelessly continuing to speak out for the unborn. In particular, I want to thank Chris Long of the Ohio Christian Alliance for suggesting the resolution in the first place and for urging us to broaden the resolution as the vehicle that the federal government is attempting to use for these purposes more from FOCA to more general legislation.”
Seems as though Sen. Grendell is more interested in the work of the lobbyists as opposed to the work of the people.Read more...
The Other Paper covered the Sex Ed hearing this week...
By Kitty McConnell
It’s a big week for sexual-health education, as the Sex::Tech Conference will convene Friday in San Francisco, the city where all no-nonsense sex-talk seems to begin.
Educators, software developers, students and sexual-health professionals will spend the weekend discussing sex ed in the digital age. The main focus will be on utilizing new technologies in order to better educate youths on STD/HIV prevention and sex as they navigate through competing, often politicized sexual-health information.
The same mission was on the minds of Ohio lawmakers, educators and health professionals Tuesday as the House Committee on Education heard testimony onH.B. 316, also known as the “Act for Our Children’s Future.”
Introducing the bill in December, state Rep. Stephen Slesnick (D-Canton) emphasized the need for revision of the abstinence-based curriculum currently used in Ohio schools.
“This legislation will require that if a school district offers any type of sexual-health education, then it must be comprehensive, medically accurate, age-appropriate and abstinence-inclusive, providing ways to prevent unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS,” said Slesnick.
Seems like a no-brainer. So why is Slesnick introducing this bill as if these were revolutionary concepts rather than a common-sense approach to sex ed?
For those who have yet to read them, current rules on sex ed in public schools read like a Bible-thumping scene straight out of Footloose. Among the problems in the current law that H.B. 316 seeks to address is the omission of GLBT students from the curriculum due to the requirement that students be taught that sexual activity is acceptable only after marriage.
“As a gay student, how can I be expected to uphold a standard of abstinence until marriage when I live in a state where I cannot even marry?” asked Daniel Sparks, a Parma High School junior who testified before the committee in favor of H.B. 316, according to transcripts of proponents’ testimonies that were posted online by Planned Parenthood Affiliates of Central Ohio.
“Right now, my state and school district are allowing myself and countless others to be left out of a curriculum so necessary and so needed.”
Sparks told legislators that the sex-ed portion of his health class was based on the idea that sex before marriage is immoral. He said it was shaped by Operation Keepsake, an organization funded through federal abstinence and family-values grants that believes, according to its website, “in healthy relationships, in sexual restraint and in marriage.”
Sparks testified that his fellow students treated the course as a joke, mainly because they had a hard time thinking about marriage at age 14.
Elise DeVore Berlan, an attending physician in Nationwide Children's Hospital’s Section of Adolescent Health, testified on behalf of the American Academy of Pediatrics Ohio Chapter. Berlan told the committee that studies have shown abstinence-only programs like those currently required in Ohio’s public-education system are ineffective.
“Alternatively, many studies have demonstrated that comprehensive sex-education programs are effective in delaying onset of sexual activity, reducing number of sexual partners and increasing use of condoms and contraception,” Berlan testified. “Our children and youth deserve medically accurate sex education, so that they may make responsible decisions around sexual activity.”
Ohio’s current sex-ed curriculum defines abstinence as the “only means of prevention and protection that is one hundred percent effective against unwanted pregnancy (and) sexually transmitted diseases,” and omits references to birth control, condoms or other methods of protection.
Ohio law requires that sex-ed programs primarily teach children the “potential physical, psychological, emotional, and social side effects of participating in sexual activity outside of marriage” and of conceiving “out of wedlock.” Adoption is the one option to be emphasized should a student face an unwanted pregnancy.
Under Slesnick’s bill, parents will still be able to opt out of sexual education, but no gay or sexually active students would be left behind, as they are under the current program. H.B. 316 would “stress the value of abstinence education but not to the exclusion of” educating sexually active students about contraception and disease reduction. Information would need to be age-appropriate, objective, medically accurate and free of religious doctrine, according to the proposed law.
The Rev. C. David Morgan of Calvary Presbyterian Church in Canton testified before the House education committee that the bill was a long overdue correction of Ohio’s sex-ed policy. The clergyman gave his blessing to the law, which, he said, would provide students with a comprehensive sexual-health education based on “measurable data rather than the wistful wishes that arise from the fog of misinformation.”
Copyright © 2010 - The Other Paper
Consent is one of the biggest issues never discussed in conversations about sex, whether the talks are happening in classrooms, the bedroom of two adults, or in the back of a station wagon (or your parents’ basement, or under the bleachers…you get the picture).
Let me just say that I think teaching young folks about abstinence is great. Sex is something that should be entered into with full knowledge and consent, and complete awareness of the physical and emotional implications. Teaching people they have the agency and ability to say no to sex is awesome. Teaching people they can be happy, sexual, popular, self-confident people and say no to sex is wonderful. Teaching people they can consent to hand-holding, hugging, kissing, stroking, taking a shirt off, and still say no to sex, that’s empowering.
Abstinence-only programs do none of those things. Abstinence-only is not empowering. Teaching people (women especially) that they’re used, they’re unwanted, they’re disgusting, and even dirty lollipops if they consent to sex outside of marriage is depressing. Discouraging people from open discussion about sexuality and desires through shaming and scare tactics is downright wrong.
How can someone make decisions about to engaging in sexual activity if all the information they have amounts to "sex is bad and 'purity' is good "?
On a visit back home I ran into a 15-year-old friend of my sister’s. When my sis was off talking to a couple of other friends, I was sitting with this girl (let’s call her Tina.) Tina pointed to something in the nearby vicinity and said it was roll-y “like a condom.” I asked her a couple of follow-up questions and it turns out Tina had had sex with two previous boyfriends and now she was known for being a girl who would do that kind of thing, and she didn’t know how to say no. She felt the guys who dated her only asked her out because they knew she had had sex, and she felt obligated to them. I mean, hell, once the wrapper’s off the lollipop, you can’t just shove it back on and say it’s still good. (Disclaimer: I did *not* use that analogy in the conversation with her.)
When I told her that she could say no to the next boy, even though she’d said yes to the first boy, her reaction was gratitude. “No one has ever said that to me before. I’ve never thought of it like that.” Then we talked about her condom use. She had no idea which sexual acts would expose her to STD’s, and no idea that you could use condoms outside of intercourse.
Thanks abstinence-only in Archbold, OH. Bang-up job you’ve done.
When we finished that conversation, Tina was excited that she could say no until she felt ready to engage in sexual acts, and I felt confident that if she did decide to, she’d know how to protect herself from STD’s and pregnancy as best she could. I felt bad knowing not everyone has a friend’s sister they can go to, and not every sister’s friend is like me (let’s face it-I’m hard to compete with).
If we aren’t having full, open and honest conversations about sex, we’re not equipping people with the tools they need to decide in which circumstances they say yes, and in which they say no. We aren’t teaching people the signs to look for to know whether a partner is unable to or has not yet consented (alcohol and drug consumption, mental health issues, age differences, lack of a clear, voluntary and vocal “yes”, etc.).
It’s time to move from a frame of draping sex in sin and shame to one of giving people tools and knowledge; so they feel empowered to say no, so they only engage in sexual acts with fully consenting partners, and so they are capable of protecting themselves from pregnancy and STD’s if they say yes. Come on, Ohio. It’s time.
Jennifer Yoder is a Victim's Services Coordinator for the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence.
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