May 31, 2008 — To the editor:
Your May 16 article, "Little Falls school board discusses character education program," omits that Care Net, the organization proposing the program, defines its mission as "presenting the gospel of our Lord to women with crisis pregnancies." In other words, its true mission is preventing abortion. Unfortunately, we know that such groups often use coercive and deceptive tactics in pursuing their mission. The board of education should reject the program proposed by this organization.
Building character is an important function of the public schools. But the school board should choose a program that is based on evidence, not ideology -- one that both trains our students to be responsible citizens and empowers them to grow into healthy adults.
Based on Care Net's mission, and on the description in your article, we can only assume that the proposed "character building" program is an "abstinence-only-until-marriage" program. Abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, which often rely on religious messages, scientific inaccuracies and scare tactics, censor vital information students need to guard against pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.
Research, including a 2007 national study commissioned by Congress, has shown that such programs are ineffective. The state Department of Health acknowledged as much last year when it rejected millions of dollars in federal abstinence-only funding and diverted state matching funds to teen pregnancy prevention programs.
The concensus among health experts and the public is that age-appropriate, medically accurate, comprehensive sex education at all grade levels is essential for arming young people with the information they need to make healthy choices, including the choice to remain abstinent.
Director, Reproductive Rights Project of the New York Civil Liberties Union