Chastity, abstinence endorsed by parents

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 3, 2004

Recently released results of a poll conducted by Zogby International and commissioned by Focus on the Family indicate that a vast majority of parents support abstinence education for their children.

Of 1,004 parents surveyed, 96 percent said abstinence is best for teens, according to a news release from Family Research Council summarizing the results of the poll. And 91 percent said that the best choice is for sexual activity to be linked to love, intimacy and commitment.

The state of Alabama requires abstinence-only instruction in the public schools, and the Abstinence-Only Education Program of the Alabama Department of Public Health has received funding from Title V of the Social Security Act.

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While all schools are required to deliver the abstinence-only message in their curriculum, some are now contracting with Sex and Family Education Inc. (S.A.f.E.) to provide it.

S.A.f.E. is a project of Save-A-Life, and is part of the program of the Pregnancy Resource Center, located at 218 Union St.

Marion Frasier, who is abstinence coordinator of the center and who is certified in abstinence education, has recently completed a one-week course at Southside High School.

She and volunteers have also taught a course at Keith High School this academic year and led a similar program for the elementary grades at Morgan Academy.

Last year the focus was on the Selma City and Dallas County middle schools. S.A.f.E. tailors its programs to age groups being served &045; from elementary through seniors in high school &045; and also offers programs for other community groups and organizations, including churches.

Frasier, who has a master’s degree in counseling and who

previously served as a juvenile probation officer and as a youth and family therapist at Cahaba Center for Mental Health, is enthusiastic about her work. &uot;We’re fighting an uphill battle (teaching abstinence to teens), but we are seeing progress. We’re tenacious,&uot; she said.

S.A.f.E. curriculum is founded on the conviction that if teens are given accurate information that, contrary to the expectations of many adults, they can and do make responsible additions.

A major problem in contemporary American culture, Frasier said, are the media, which are a wasteland when it comes to advocacy of sexual abstinence.

The curriculum comes at the complex issue of sexuality from many angles &045; love and relationships, risks, health, making choices, defensive strategies.

It is designed, in age-appropriate ways, to provide students with a comprehensive understanding of human sexuality and the tools that are needed to make good decisions.

Frasier emphasized that students are told, &uot;We’re not here to tell you what to do you, but to give you good information so that you can make your own decisions responsibly.&uot;

Frasier provided statistics on recent studies indicating that courses such as the ones she and her volunteers teach do result in behavioral changes in patterns of youth sexual activity.

For example, one study done in 2003 under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in seven schools found a 50-60 percent reduction in sexual activity among students surveyed.

And another, by Northwestern University of 3,000 students, showed a 58 percent reduction in recently sexually active students over a one-year period.

These studies and a number of others counter the long-held belief that students cannot be dissuaded from the path of sexual activity and, therefore, simply need to be taught about the physical aspects of sex and how to have &uot;safe sex.&uot;

For Frasier &uot;safe sex&uot; is an oxymoron, pointing out the longstanding 10-15 percent failure rate of condoms, and the increasing prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases &045; some 25 in number, and quoting a variety of statistics from the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta indicating the prevalence of STDs among the teen population.

Frasier said the reactions from students who have had the course are almost entirely positive or very positive. Comments from Southside students included, &uot;Wonderful course,&uot; &uot;No one had said I was special before,&uot; &uot;Thanks for telling the truth.&uot;

In the past she said, some students have asked, &uot;Why didn’t you come earlier?&uot; acknowledging their own sexual activity and regrets about it.

Frasier said such students often take information gained from the program to a younger sibling or friend.

The curriculum which has been around for about 30 years, according to Frasier, was first used in churches, but then altered so that it would be appropriate to public schools.

Since the 1980s, she said, the curriculum has been used in the Birmingham Public Schools.

For further information, contact the Pregnancy Resource Center, 218 Union St., or call (334) 875-8900.