Louisiana State Profile
The Governor’s Program on Abstinence and community-based organizations in Louisiana received $2,610,045 in federal funds for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs in Fiscal Year 2007. 1
Louisiana Sexuality Education Law and Policy
Louisiana does not require schools to offer sexuality or sexually transmitted disease (STD)/HIV education, but schools are permitted to offer it after sixth grade. State law mandates that sexuality education cannot be offered in kindergarten through sixth grade, except in Orleans Parish, which may offer sexuality education in the third grade and above. Schools must provide this education “regardless of the student’s grade level” if the student is parenting or pregnant.
Louisiana law defines sexuality education as:
[T]he dissemination of factual biological or pathological information that is related to the human reproduction system (sic) and may include the study of sexually transmitted disease, pregnancy, childbirth, puberty, menstruation, and menopause, as well as the dissemination of factual information about parental responsibilities under the child support laws of the state.
The education must be integrated into “an existing course study such as biology, science, physical hygiene, or physical education.” It cannot include “religious beliefs, practices in human sexuality, nor the subjective moral and ethical judgments of the instructor or other persons. Students shall not be tested, quizzed, or surveyed about their personal or family beliefs or practices in sex, morality, or religion.”
Classes may not include “any sexually explicit materials depicting male or female homosexual activity.” They also may not in “any way counsel or advocate abortion.” In addition, this education must emphasize that:
Louisiana also requires that all public high schools that offer home economics classes must also provide “parenthood education,” which must includes the topics of family living and community relationships, the consequences of the lack of adequate prenatal care, home management, and the responsibilities of parenthood.
In addition, Louisiana now requires adoption awareness be included in any health education or appropriate class. This includes instruction on “the benefits of adoption for families wishing to add a child, for potential adoptees, and for persons who are pregnant or who have a child for whom they are unable to care.”
According to the Louisiana Handbook for School Administrators, students must be taught “the principle modes by which communicable diseases, including, but not limited to, HIV infection, are spread and the best methods for the restriction and prevention of these diseases.”
Parents or guardians may remove their children from sexuality education and/or STD/HIV education classes. This is referred to as an “opt-out” policy.
See Louisiana Revised Statutes 17:263, 17:279, 17:281, and Louisiana Handbook for School Administrators- Bulletin 741.
Bill Includes Adoption Awareness in Health Education
Senate Bill 111, introduced in March 2006, requires the inclusion of adoption awareness in any health education or appropriate class. This means that instruction on “the benefits of adoption for families wishing to add a child, for potential adoptees, and for persons who are pregnant or who have a child for whom they are unable to care.” The bill passed in June 2006 and is now law.
SIECUS is not aware of any recent events regarding sexuality education in Louisiana.
Louisiana’s Youth: Statistical Information of Note
New Orleans, Louisiana2
The Governor’s Program on Abstinence (GPA) in Louisiana received $1,283,563 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. Louisiana’s Abstinence Director, Gail Dignam, refused to provide SIECUS with information on the match amount or how it is made up. However, in several places on the GPA’s website, the program is described as free to the state.3 This implies the match is made through in-kind services.
In Louisiana, the GPA controls the Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage dollars. This is the only abstinence-only-until-marriage program in the country run by the state’s executive branch.4 The program consists of several parts:
Louisiana’s GPA has been controversial since its inception, in part, for its reliance on blatantly religious messages. In 2002, the ACLU filed suit against the GPA claiming that it violated the constitutional separation of church and state by using federal and state abstinence-only-until-marriage funds to convey religious messages and advance religion. Later that year, the two parties reached a settlement. As part of the settlement, the GPA must review lessons and curricula prior to their use and must post a statement on its website and all promotional materials that reads:
The GPA is a health and education program committed to promoting and publicizing the benefits of abstinence. Under limits imposed by the Constitution, the GPA’s funds may not be used for activities, events or materials that include religious messages or otherwise promote or advance religion.5
In a November 17, 2004 letter to the Louisiana Governor’s Program on Abstinence (GPA), however, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) identified numerous violations this settlement.6
For example, in a section entitled “Ask the Experts,” a young woman asks how she should convince her friend to remain a virgin. The GPA’s “expert” responds, “Tell your friend that abstaining from sex until entering a loving marriage will give her the freedom to achieve (sic) true self-esteem–to be really, truly, ‘cool’ in God’s eyes as well as yours and mine.”7
According to the ACLU’s letter, the website also refers readers to scripture in linked articles and includes summaries of articles that advance religion. For example, an article by the American Life League is included in the website’s “Library.” The article states, “the condom’s biggest flaw is that those using it to prevent the conception of another human being are offending God.” It continues, “Furthermore, each and every act of marital intercourse must be both unitive (sic) and open to procreation. Any action, including condom use, which has as its purpose to render procreation impossible is intrinsically evil.”8
Joe Cook, executive director of ACLU of Louisiana, explained at the time, “The GPA has not only failed to correct the error of its ways, but in the past two years it has gone out of its way to use taxpayer money to layer religious content on religious content. It is time for the GPA to be held accountable to the Constitution and to its own legal agreements. If it fails to do so, we’ll see them in court for round two.”9
In early December 2004, then-Governor Kathleen Blanco (D) rejected the ACLU’s claims and said that the program is in compliance with the federal settlement. In a written statement she said, “I hope that the ACLU would agree that among the many voices in this debate are those whose deep faith in God prompts them to discuss this issue from a Biblical perspective. This is a perspective that I and most Louisiana citizens strongly share.”10
Much of the information that the ACLU commented on in its 2004 letter remains up on the site including the advice suggesting that a young woman stays “ ‘cool’ in God’s eyes.”11 Another letter of advice on the website shows the GPA’s biases against abortion. In answer to the question, “Is abortion murder?,” the GPA’s website provides dictionary definitions of abortion, murder, embryo, and fetus. Though the site does acknowledge that abortion is not a crime in the United States, it implies that abortion does meet the criteria for murder because “According to the definitions, an embryo or fetus is a person because it is human and is an individual, never-to-be-repeated being.”12
The GPA site also lists several individuals who are part of the GPA Speakers Bureau and available to Louisiana schools. One of these individuals, Pam Stenzel, is national abstinence-only-until-marriage speaker who travels to high schools around the country. SIECUS reviewed Stenzel’s video “Sex Still Has a Price Tag,” in which she 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.”13
Another speaker listed as a resource is Dr. W. “Al” Krotoski. He is described as “a leader in the ban on partial birth abortions.” According to the GPA, Dr. Krotoski is available to speak to students on the following topics: “Stem Cell Research, Cloning, Life in the Womb, and Partial Birth Abortion.”14
Community-Based Abstinence Education (CBAE) and Adolescent Family Life Act (AFLA) Grantees
There are three CBAE grantees in Louisiana: The Church United for Community Development, Operation Turn Around, and Quad Area Community Action Agency, Inc. There are no AFLA grantees in Louisiana.
The Church United for Community Development uses its CBAE funds to conduct an abstinence-only-until-marriage program in Donaldsonville in Ascension Parish and in the Melrose East area of Baton Rouge, and plans to expand to other communities.15 The program “will offer 30 young people at each site the opportunity to participate in recreation activities, computer classes, tutoring and special activities such as studio production.”16
The program use Why kNOw, a popular abstinence-only-until-marriage curriculum created by a crisis pregnancy center in Tennessee. SIECUS reviewed Why kNOw and found that it offers limited information about important topics in human sexuality such as puberty, anatomy, and human reproduction, and no information about sexual orientation and gender identity. The information that is included is outdated, inaccurate, and misleading. In addition, Why kNOw relies on negative messages, distorts information, and presents biased views on gender, marriage, family structure, sexual orientation, and pregnancy options. For example, the curriculum tells students that the tradition of lifting the veil shows that “the groom [is] the only man allowed to uncover the bride,” and demonstrates “her respect for him by illustrating that she [has] not allowed any other man to lay claim to her.”17
Reverend Charles Sims of Know Your Bible Ministries (KYBM), which operates Operation Turn Around, stated that the mission of the program is “to provide abstinence education, leadership, character development, and adolescent risk behavior intervention against drugs, alcohol, sex and violence for the purpose of preparing young people and young adults to make healthy choices while pursuing their dreams to become self-sufficient leaders in their families, schools, communities, faith-based [lives] and careers.”18 Operation Turn Around hosted the Motivations, Inc.’s presentation “Real Love…The Power of Choices / Abstinence Until Marriage” in two school assemblies and a community church event attended by 1,500 youth.19
In 2007, KYBM/Operation Turn Around was audited by Louisiana’s Office of State Inspector General because of allegations that KYBM misspent federal funds.20 The audit concluded that KYBM may not be a true non-profit organization due to the inactivity of its board and “the manner in which Mr. Sims exerts complete control over the organization and its finances.”21 The audit also showed that funds were not properly accounted for by KYBM / Operation Turn Around.22
Quad Area Community Action Agency, Inc describes itself as an organization that “continues to wage war on poverty by protecting and improving the quality of lives of the low income through services of education, training, advocacy, and recreation.”23
Federal and State Funding for Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs in FY 2007