Teaching About Sexuality

By Kathleen Vail

Week after week, Kim Wilkinson voiced the same complaint to the Sarasota County School Board: Planned Parenthood representatives were speaking in county classrooms. Parents, she told the board, were not aware that their children were hearing lectures from an organization that provides contraceptives and performs abortions.

Board member Laura Benson didn’t know about Planned Parenthood’s participation in the district’s sex education program, and it bothered her that other parents didn’t know, either. “Generally one parent doesn’t cause the board to change policy, but she brought up a good point,” Benson says.

Benson proposed a policy in the fall of 2004 that required teachers in the sex education program to be school employees or county health department staff. “We limited speakers to capable people within our school system and government,” she says.

About 300 people attended the meeting in which the board voted on the policy; nearly 100 signed up to speak. “It set off the firestorm you’d expect,” Benson says. “It became not about having sex education taught by school nurses. It became the Planned Parenthood war. It was out of hand.”

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