Georgia State Profile
The Children and Youth Coordinating Council and community-based organizations in Georgia received $10,199,205 in federal funds for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs in Fiscal Year 2007. 1
Since 1989, schools in Georgia have been required to teach sexuality education and sexually transmitted disease (STD)/HIV-prevention education. Local school boards are largely responsible for deciding the specific subjects this education must cover and the grade level in which topics are introduced. However, discussions on certain subjects are mandated by state law, including abstinence, community values, STDs, HIV/AIDS, conception, and the legal consequences of pregnancy. No discussion of condoms or other forms of contraception is required, but such discussions are allowed. The law explains that local boards of education should set standards and that “such standards shall include instruction relating to the handling of peer pressure, the promotion of high self-esteem, local community values, the legal consequences of parenthood, and abstinence from sexual activity as an effective method of prevention of pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and acquired immune deficiency syndrome.” Local school boards are also responsible for determining what is age-appropriate.
Georgia also recommends Quality Core Curriculum Standards and Resources, which suggests health education resources, topics, and curricula for grades K–12.Beginning in sixth grade, health education topics include STDs, HIV, and abstinence. In grades 7–12, health education topics also include pregnancy and STD-prevention methods.
Parents or guardians may remove their children from all or part of sexuality and/or STD/HIV education by sending written notice to the school. This is referred to as an “opt-out” policy.
See the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, 20-2-143.
Prevention First Act Introduced
Senate Resolution 388, also known as the Prevention First Act, was introduced in March 2007. The Prevention First Act was intended to help reduce unintended pregnancy, prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections, and support healthy families by improving women’s health. It would have expanded accessible, preventative healthcare services and education programs. Initiatives would include implementing comprehensive, medically accurate sex education programs that teach about abstinence, contraception, and sexual health to young people. SR 388 went to the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services in March 2007, but failed to move out of the committee.
Retired Educator Protests Book About Rape
March 2007; Clarke County, GA
A retired teacher in Clarke County, GA complained to the school board about a book available in the library because she felt it was inappropriate for students. As a result of her complaints, the school board agreed to restrict access in middle schools. According to the district spokesperson, it is “the first time in years that the school board ruled on a complaint about a book.”2
The book follows a teenage mother and her child, who is a product of rape. The child is eventually murdered during a drive-by-shooting. The retired teacher who started the controversy felt that there are other more appropriate works of literature that can “convey whatever the intended message is.”3
She first complained to middle school administrators who convened a special committee to investigate. The committee voted to keep access to the book as is. The retired instructor then petitioned the district’s media specialist. As a result the book was reviewed by the district’s Library Media Advisory Committee which issued a statement saying that it believe the “violent scenes (particularly a rape)” were too disturbing for young students. It noted, however, that “the depiction… [was] not gratuitous in any way” and that the book had an important message. Ultimately, the committee concluded that the book should be read with an adult. 4
The school board voted that students must obtain written parental consent to borrow the book from the library.
Students Finally Win GSA Lawsuit in White County
In an important win for the students of White County Schools, a federal judge ruled in favor of the high school’s Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) in July 2006, stating that the school district must allow the GSA to meet on campus.
The controversy began in January 2005 when a group of students applied for club recognition. In February of the same year, the school superintendent sent an email to all school employees stating that the administration was opposed to the action, but that the Equal Access Act required the district to allow the club to apply.5
The issue was raised at the next school board meeting, but board members skirted the topic when, just before the meeting, the students decided to change the name of the club to Peers Rising in Diversity Education (PRIDE). The district asserted that the name change required the group to submit a new application for the club.
Soon after the incident, the district sat down to negotiate with the ACLU of Georgia and agreed to “drop their attempts to stop” PRIDE from organizing.6 The superintendent backed away from this promise, however, when he announced a proposal to ban all non-curricular clubs. The next board meeting was again packed with community members, none of whom supported the proposed ban on school clubs. Many students and parents were concerned that banning all clubs would put students applying to college at a disadvantage.
Nonetheless, the superintendent defended the move, saying that the goal was “to make sure we’re focused on our primary mission, which is academics.”7 In June 2005, the committee responsible for reviewing the superintendent’s proposal recommended that extracurricular clubs be eliminated.
In adherence to the new district rule, PRIDE was not allowed to meet on campus during the 2005–06 school year. However, the school still permitted other non-academic clubs, like the Shooting Club, a prayer group, and the Dance Team to convene on school grounds. As a result, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against White County School District for discrimination and for violating the Equal Access Act.
On July 14, 2006, over a year after the dispute started, the court decided that PRIDE has the right to meet on campus. In December 2006, the district and the ACLU settled the second phase of the lawsuit. According to the proposed settlement, the district must pay legal fees to the ACLU and damages to the plaintiffs. More importantly, White County schools must implement an anti-bullying program with at least a 90 percent student participation rate.8
DeKalb County, Georgia
The Georgia Children and Youth Coordinating Council received $1,467,206 in federal Title V Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Funding in Fiscal Year 2007. The Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage grant requires states to provide three state-raised dollars or the equivalent in services for every four federal dollars received. The state match may be provided in part or in full by local groups. Georgia provides a portion of the match through direct state revenues. In addition, each sub-grantee is required to match 30 percent of its grant amount through in-kind services or direct funds.
In Georgia, the Children and Youth Coordinating Council (CYCC) receives the Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage funds. It uses some of the funding for a website (http://www.everybodysnotdoingit.com). The site provides information for youth and parents. On a page titled “Factsheet 2: Sex Changes Everything,” the site discusses the possible consequences to pre-martial sex:
The ‘emotional’ STD: Hard to treat and just as damaging. According to Dr. Meeker (Dr. Meg Meeker, M.D.,Epidemic: Raising Great Teens in a Toxic Sexual Culture) the dangers of intercourse and oral sex are not only physical. Dr. Meeker sees patients–both boys and girls–who, due to sexual activity, feel used, abused and depressed. Depression, says Dr. Meeker, is more elusive to treat than an STD, and it can also cause permanent damage.10
Dr. Meeker is a National Advisory Board Member at the Medical Institute for Sexual Health (MISH), an abstinence-only-until-marriage provider. Through her books and other materials, Dr. Meeker promotes gender stereotypes as fact.11 For example, on her blog Dr. Meeker describes the father-daughter relationship:
When a girl is little, her dad is her primary male love relationship. When he gives her something as a man, she learns lessons about men, setting a template in those early years on her heart about what to expect, to think, to feel, and know about men from there on out, affecting even her relationship to God, because Christ is a man.12
The site also contains false and misleading information regarding condoms, claiming that they are not effective in preventing STDs.13 According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), when used consistently and correctly condoms can reduce the transmission of many STDs including HIV, gonorrhea, Chlamydia, genital herpes, and syphilis. 14
CYCC distributes most of the Title V Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Funding to 19 sub-grantees. The sub-grantees use a variety of curricula, including ASPIRE: Live your life. Be free, Choosing the Best LIFE, Choosing the Best PATH, Sex Respect, and WAIT (Why Am I Tempted) Training.
SIECUS reviewed ASPIRE and found that it is based on one set of values and opinions— that marriage should be everyone’s ultimate goal and that sex outside of marriage is wrong— which it tries to pass off as universally held truths. In an effort to convince students that these opinions are facts, the curriculum provides incomplete and biased information, promotes fear and shame, and undermines young people’s confidence in their own decision-making abilities. For example, students are asked which life decision—college, career, or marriage—will have the most impact on their life. The answer is marriage because “College is for a few years, and you may have a number of careers. But marriage is for life.”
SIECUS reviewed WAIT Training and found that it contains little medical or biological information and almost no information about STDs, including HIV/AIDS. Instead, it contains information and statistics about marriage, many of which are outdated and not supported by scientific research. It also contains messages of fear and shame and biased views of gender, sexual orientation, and family type. For example, WAIT Training explains, “men sexually are like microwaves and women sexually are like crockpots….A woman is stimulated more by touch and romantic words. She is far more attracted by a man’s personality while a man is stimulated by sight. A man is usually less discriminating about those to whom he is physically attracted.”
SIECUS also reviewed Sex Respect, which is used by the Housing Authority of Tifton with youth who live in or near public housing.15The curriculumrelies on messages of fear and shame, inaccurate and misleading information, and biased views of marriage, sexual orientation, and family structure. According to Sex Respect, “there is no way to have premarital sex without hurting someone.” Sex Respect implies that young people who become sexually active lack values, self-esteem, and principles: “Many young teens who have been brought up with principles and values may have already decided they want to save sex for marriage.” The curriculum is also not appropriate for public funding, as it remains patently religious. For example, Sex Respect uses Biblical language in giving young people dating advice: “Set ending time for your date before you go out. Be home on time. Don’t invite your date in. Lead yourselves not into temptation.”16(See the CBAE and AFLA section for more information on the Choosing the Best series.)
Other Title V sub-grantees also promote a religious message. Stand Up Again Outreach’s mission is to “provide solutions that counteract issues that are keeping individuals from reaching their God given destiny.”17 The organization runs a program titled, “Abstinence: A New Revolution.”18
Community-Based Abstinence Education (CBAE) and Adolescent Family Life Act (AFLA) Grantees
There are twelve CBAE grantees in Georgia: The Boys and Girls Club of Bulloch County, Carrollton Housing Authority, Choosing the Best, Inc., Communities in Schools Augusta-Richmond County, Inc., Crowned for Victory, Inc., East Central Georgia Consortium, Friends of Cobb County Commission on Children and Youth, Future Foundation, Metro Atlantic Youth for Christ, Inc., SAGE Communications Services, Inc., Turner County Board of Education, and Wholistic Stress Control Institute, Inc.. There are five AFLA grantees in Georgia: Augusta Partnership for Children, Inc., Emory University, Heritage Community Services (receives two grants), Morehouse School of Medicine–Health Promotion Resource Center, and Wheeler County Board of Education.
The Boys and Girls Club of Bulloch County runs the abstinence-only-until-marriage program “SMART Moves (Skills Mastery and Resistance Training),” which “uses a team approach involving Club staff, peer leaders, parents, and community representatives” to address the “problems of drug and alcohol use and premature sexual activity.”19
Communities in Schools Augusta-Richmond County, Inc. uses its CBAE funds for the “Choose Success Abstinence Campaign.”20 Youth in the organization’s abstinence-only-until-marriage program create slide-shows and poster campaigns that are then displayed in public places such as movie theaters and airports. One young person involved in the program described it by saying, “Communities in Schools teaches about the real world and how to abstain from evil.”21
Choosing the Best, Inc. has created several abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula, including Choosing the Best WAY, Choosing the Best PATH, Choosing the Best LIFE, Choosing the Best JOURNEY, and Choosing the Best SOULMATE, and Cómo escoger lo major EL CAMINO.
SIECUS reviewed Choosing the Best PATH and found that it provides endless information on the negative consequences of premarital sexual activity and utilizes a variety of tactics to suggest that teens should feel guilty, embarrassed, and ashamed of sexual behavior. For example, Choosing the Best PATH asks students: “How does being sexually active as a teen affect how a person feels about himself or herself?” The suggested answer is, “Can feel sad about losing virginity, loss of self-respect, blames self for getting pregnant or contracting an STD.” It goes on to say, “Sexual activity also can lead to the trashing of a person’s reputation, resulting in the loss of friends.”22
SIECUS also reviewed Choosing the Best LIFE and found that it names numerous physical and psychological consequences of premarital sexual activity, suggests that sexually active teens will never have happy futures, and implies that only teens with low self-esteem and poor judgment become sexually active. For example, Choosing the Best LIFE states, “Relationships often lower the self-respect of both partners—one feeling used, the other feeling like the user. Emotional pain can cause a downward spiral leading to intense feelings of lack of worthlessness.”23
Choosing the Best, Inc. uses its CBAE grant to fund teacher trainings, parent programs, and peer leader trainings for 16 school districts throughout Georgia.24 Choosing the Best claims to have reached 70,000 students during the 2006–07 school year.25
Choosing the Best, Inc. is a well-connected organization headed by Bruce Cook, who was appointed by the Georgia governor in 2003 to lead the Board of the Department of Human Resources, but stepped down in 2005. The board oversees and sets policy for the Georgia Department of Human Resources (DHR). Some of the projects that the Board oversees include teen pregnancy prevention and family planning services.
Through his position, Cook worked to cut family planning and teen pregnancy prevention programs. Under his watch, the Board of Human Resources proposed cutting approximately $4.7 million from the Fiscal Years 2004 and 2005 budgets for the Adolescent Health and Youth Development Program (AYHD), which included teen pregnancy prevention. The cuts would have closed 39 Teen Centers around the state, which provide a number of important services to young people, including distributing contraception and providing information on preventing pregnancy. Under the new plan, five of these centers would have been reopened as part of a pilot program to explore new methods of pregnancy prevention, which critics speculated would have had an abstinence-only focus. This proposed cut would have also led to a loss of $1.2 million dedicated to family planning, meaning that approximately 64,000 women in Georgia would have lost access to these services.26
According to the board, the cuts were proposed because the programs lacked “measurable results.”27
Critics speculated that these proposed cuts were partly due to Cook’s strong abstinence-only philosophy. Ultimately, Cook stepped down amid allegations that he used his position at the DHR to promote his own company’s programs in Georgia schools. Cook denied these allegations and defended his decision to step down, saying he believes he accomplished his mission of providing leadership during a transition in DHR.28
Another CBAE grantee, Crowned for Victory, Inc., conducts the abstinence-only-until-marriage program “What Do I Think?” in Noxubee County.29 In a program announcement, the organization states, “The provisions of educating children early on the importance of abstinence education will provide a vehicle to reduce social problems, poverty, and domestic violence and reduce out-of-wedlock pregnancies, drug abuse and delinquent and criminal behavior among youth.” 30
Friends of Cobb County Commission on Children and Youth calls its abstinence-only-until-marriage “The Real Majority.”31 The Real Majority encourages young people to “Make a Pledge” to remain abstinent until marriage, stating that:
Research has found that under certain conditions these pledges may help some adolescents delay sexual intercourse. When they work, pledges help this select group of adolescents delay the onset of sexual intercourse for an average of 18 months—far short of marriage. Researchers found that pledges only worked when taken by a small group of students. Pledges taken by a whole class were ineffective. More importantly, the studies also found that those young people who took a pledge were one-third less likely to use contraception when they did become sexually active than their peers who had not pledged. These teens are therefore more vulnerable to the risks of unprotected sexual activity such as unintended pregnancy and STDs, including HIV/AIDS. Further research has confirmed that although some students who take pledges delay intercourse, ultimately they are equally as likely to contract an STD as their non-pledging peers. The study also found that STD rates were higher in communities where a significant proportion (over 20 percent) of the young people had taken virginity pledges.33
Heritage Community Services is a Title V sub-grantee and receives two AFLA grants. Heritage Community Services, a South Carolina-based organization offers extensive abstinence-only-until-marriage programs within Georgia. The organization has created several curricula for abstinence-only-until-marriage-programs including Heritage Keepers Abstinence Education and Heritage Keepers Life Skills Education. SIECUS reviewed Heritage Keepers, Abstinence Education I and found that itcontains very little information about important topics in human sexuality such as puberty, anatomy, and sexual behavior. Even topics that are frequently discussed in detail in other abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, such as condoms and STDs, receive very little mention. Instead, the curriculum devotes most of its lessons to the importance of marriage and abstinence before marriage. It relies on messages of fear and shame and promotes biased views of gender, marriage, and pregnancy options. For example, the curriculum tells students “Males are more sight orientated whereas females are more touch orientated. This is why girls need to be careful with what they wear, because males are looking! The girl might be thinking fashion, while the boy is thinking sex. For this reason, girls have a responsibility to wear modest clothing that doesn’t invite lustful thoughts.”34
These sentiments are echoed on the organization’s website for teens. One article on the “Teen Pulse” section of Heritage Community Service’s website advises young people, “What many people don’t realize is that those who abstain from sexual activity outside of marriage are protecting themselves physically, financially, and emotionally by waiting until someone loves them enough to make a real commitment to them and to their future children.”35
The Real Majority has a “What is Abstinence?” section on its website with the transcript from a lengthy interview between its staff and Pam Stenzel, a well-known abstinence-only-until-marriage speaker. In the interview, Ms. Stenzel states, “if we’re going to be medically correct, we cannot say condoms are safe.”36 SIECUS reviewed her video “Sex Still Has a Price Tag,” in which Stenzel delivers two 40-plus-minute monologues to a studio audience of high school students. She uses a preacher’s cadence and often yells at her audience in attempts to emphasize her points. Stenzel focuses on unintended pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and other negative outcomes of sex such as emotional pain and the inability to bond. Her presentation relies on fear, promotes shame, and mandates decisions for young people. For example, Stenzel tells her audience “If you forget everything else I told you today, and you can only remember one thing, this is what I want you to hear. If you have sex outside of one permanent monogamous—and monogamy does not mean one at a time—that means one partner who has only been with you—if you have sex outside of that context, you will pay.”37
Metro Atlantic Youth for Christ, Inc. runs the outreach program Holistic Education for the Advancement of Teens (H.E.A.T.), which focuses on “abstinence, character education, life strategies, marriage prep, mentoring, and teen parents.”38 H.E.A.T.’s abstinence-only-until-marriage program, Adolescent Parents Promoting Abstinence Project (A.P.P.A.), is described as a nine-month, “character-based abstinence education program conducted in local schools, and after-school programs throughout Dekalb, and Gwinnett Counties.”39 A.P.P.A. uses the Choosing the Best curricula and brings in teen parents who serve as peer instructors speaking to students about the “physical, emotional, and financial consequences of sex outside of marriage” including “depression and poverty.”40
Federal and State Funding for Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs in FY 2007