Washington DC State Profile
The Department of Health and community-based organizations in Washington, DC received $1,140,331 in federal funds for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs in Fiscal Year 2007. 1
Washington, DC Sexuality Education Law and Policy
Washington, DC regulations state that District public schools must provide comprehensive school health education, including instruction on human sexuality and reproduction. The instruction must be age-appropriate and taught in grades pre-kindergarten through 12.
This instruction must include information on the human body, intercourse, contraception, HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases (Sths), pregnancy, abortion, childbirth, sexual orientation, decision-making skills regarding parenting and sexuality, and awareness and prevention of rape and sexual assault.
The Chancellor of District of Columbia Public Schools is charged with ensuring that sexuality education is taught in schools and that students have a minimum proficiency in this area. Accordingly, the chancellor must provide systematic teacher training and staff development activities for health and physical education instructors. A list of all instructional materials for student and teacher training must be included in the list of textbooks submitted annually to the District Board of Education. The Board of Education must approve these materials.
Parents or guardians may submit a written note to the principal to remove their children from sexuality education and/or Sth/HIV education classes. This is referred to as an “opt-out” policy.
See District of Columbia Municipal Regulations Sections 2304 and 2305.
Legislation to Extend Anti-Discrimination Laws
DC Bill 330, introduced in July 2007, would amend the district’s nondiscrimination statutes to include gender identity or expression as a protected category from unlawful discrimination. The bill was sent to the Council Committee on Workforce Development and Government Operations on July 10, 2007.
Bill Creates HPV Education Campaign
DC Bill 330, introduced in January 2007, establishes a public education campaign meant to raise awareness about the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), HPV’s relationship with cervical cancer, and the availability of an HPV vaccine. It also establishes a vaccination program for female students entering grade six, and requires the Department of Health to track implementation.2 The bill passed and was assigned Law Number 10 on July 12, 2007.
Beleaguered DC School System Passes Health Standards
Shortly after receiving a “D” for its response to the AIDS crisis on a report card put together by an independent advocacy group, the D.C. State Board of Education unanimously passed new health and physical education standards that lay the groundwork for comprehensive sexuality education.
The D.C. State Board of Education announced in August 2007 that it would begin seeking public input on the new standards, which are intended to re-focus the school system’s efforts on preventing HIV/AIDS, other STDs, and teen pregnancy among students. The standards cover students in pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade and were developed with help from national health standards groups.3
The guidelines cover sexual orientation and gender identity in middle school, calling for sixth graders to be taught, “People, regardless of biological sex, gender, ability, sexual orientation, gender identity and culture, have sexual feelings and the need for love, affection and physical intimacy.” Eighth graders would hear the definition of sexual orientation and learn that some people are sexually or romantically attracted to people of the same gender.4
At a State Board of Education hearing in November 2007, community members turned out to share their opinions on the standards. Representatives of organizations like MetroTeenAIDS, which works with young people at risk for or infected with HIV, Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), and Children’s National Medical Center all testified in favor of the standards. Young people also advocated for the additional information included in the new standards.
There was some criticism, however. One local pastor expressed concern over the information on methods of contraception, saying that focusing on contraception was similar to giving approval to sexual activity. A second pastor opposed the discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity. “It doesn’t take an advanced degree in anatomy or physiology to know that the human body is not designed for this deviation from the natural order of things,” he said.5
Despite some disagreements, in January 2008, the board voted to approve the standards. Schools in the District of Columbia will begin using pre-packaged programs that achieve the goals set by the standards in fall 2008. School administrators are also in the process of the creating the city’s own program that should be ready in late 2009.
The Washington, DC Department of Health received $142,008 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. In Washington, DC the match is matched by in-kind funds from the District.
The Washington, DC Department of Health, Maternal and Child Health Division uses these funds to administer the “I’m Worth the Wait” campaign, which consists of a peer education program, a media campaign, school-based abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, group mentoring, and a theater troupe.
The I’m Worth the Wait program targets young people ages 8–12 and “emphasizes that premarital sexual activity puts youth at risk for unintended pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases (such as HIV/AIDS), and other negative life outcomes. The curriculum is realistic and culturally sensitive for African-American and English-speaking Hispanic youth living in the District of Columbia.”7
The DC Department of Health planned an evaluation of the “I’m Worth the Wait” campaign; however, it was not completed.
Community-Based Abstinence Education (CBAE) and Adolescent Family Life Act (AFLA) Grantees
There are two CBAE grantees in Washington, DC: Best Friends Foundation and Youth Organizations United to Rise Community Center. There is one AFLA grantee in Washington, DC: National Organization of Concerned Black Men.
The Best Friends Foundation runs two abstinence-only-until-marriage programs: Best Friends for young women and Best Men for young men.8 Best Friends is an abstinence-only-until-marriage program that goes from sixth through twelfth grade. In ninth grade, girls enter the “Diamond Girls Leadership program.” All Diamond Girls are required to participate in either the Diamond Girls Jazz Choir or the Performance Dance Troupe.9
The Best Men program claims to have 1,000 participants, and besides abstinence-only-until-marriage programming, includes fitness and extracurricular activities.10
Federal and State Funding for Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs in FY 2007
Washington, D.C. Organizations that Support Comprehensive Sexuality Education
Washington, D.C. Organizations that Oppose Comprehensive Sexuality Education