Parents and former students of the Gwinnett County school system are fighting back against their district’s “abstinence-only” sex ed curriculum due to the material’s inappropriate content and lack of information about contraception.
The curriculum, called “Choosing The Best,” is the same awful curriculum students from Monroe County’s sole public high school fought last year. In both Monroe and Gwinnett counties, “crisis pregnancy centers” are tasked with teaching the sex ed curriculum. Crisis pregnancy centers are the anti-abortion, fake health clinics that seek to shame pregnant people for pursuing abortion.
Around the nation, these centers have been criticized for lying about the risks of having an abortion and using other deceptive tactics to deter people from making that choice. CPCs do not value providing people accurate, medically sound information, and are willing to lie to prevent people from making choices they disagree with.
As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports, students receive damaging messages about sex and no information about how to appropriately use contraception or navigate consent under the “Choosing The Best” program.
Kristen Rawls, 19, who graduated from Gwinnett’s Brookwood High in 2016, took sex ed as a freshman and didn’t find it helpful. She said she wanted to learn more about how STDs are contracted, about birth control and condoms and sexual consent. Rawls said she was offended by a lesson that compared virginity to a flower and told students “no one wants a flower who has no petals.”
“As a 14-year-old girl at the time, I cannot express the amount of damage this did to me…I still think about these words every time I meet someone who I might like,” she said.
Whether or not someone has sex in the context of a marriage (presumably between two straight, cisgender people in the eyes of the “Choosing the Best” curriculum) they deserve to have medically accurate information about their sexual and reproductive health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention evaluated the sex education curriculums used in Georgia’s middle and high schools back in 2014 and found that only 14 percent provide students with information about how to correctly use a condom, and only a third even talked about the important of condom usage in reducing the risks for unintended pregnancy or STD transmission.
An anti-choice news site picked up the story unfolding in Gwinnett County, repeatedly highlighting how “very hurt and appalled” the woman who presented the abstinence-only curriculum, Jennifer McCullough, was that students and parents are concerned about the content.
As that story notes, students and parents are concerned that the “presentation was insensitive to victims of sexual abuse, as well as sexually active and LGBTQ teens.” These are valid concerns that deserve to be addressed.
Just to be clear, this is the kind of non-information, sex-shaming “education” that is done within the “Choosing the Best” curriculum (via a very thorough ThinkProgress article on sex ed in public schools).
Students deserve access to quality, medically accurate information about their sexual health, including information that is respectful of LGBTQ students and survivors of sexual assault.
McCullough’s hurt feelings do nothing for the 178,000 students in Gwinnett’s public schools who are not being equipped with the information and tools they need to make good decisions about sex, whenever it is they choose to become sexually active. If the crisis pregnancy center running the sex ed program won’t take the concerns of students and parents seriously, then Gwinnett County needs to find a new provider.