An abstinence-only-until-marriage curriculum produced by Heritage of Rhode Island is being reconsidered by Rhode Island officials for the Woonsocket and Warwick school districts. The curriculum was originally banned last spring after a complaint was filed by the Rhode Island affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union which pointed out that the program contained religious material and did not meet the state’s sexuality education standards. The Rhode Island Department of Education reviewed the material and found the curriculum did not include the required instruction on condom use or information on the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases.1
State Education Commissioner Peter McWalters, however, announced in a December memo to the school superintendents that he had recently approved a revised version of Heritage of Rhode Island’s curriculum. The revised curriculum emphasizes the group’s belief that sexual behavior should be saved for marriage. Chris Plante, Heritage of Rhode Island’s executive director, explained that the disputed materials had been removed from the curriculum. The group revised a handout about the effectiveness of condoms and eliminated another handout that was written by a conservative Christian policy group.2
SIECUS reviewed one of the curricula created by Heritage of Rhode Island’s parent organization, Heritage Community Services of South Carolina, and found that it seeks to instill fear and shame in young people, leaves out critical sexual health information, and presents biases and stereotypes as fact. The materials fail to include information on sexuality-related topics such as sexually transmitted diseases, condoms, contraception, sexual orientation, and pregnancy options. Instead the materials rely on biased information to scare and shame young people into abstaining from sexual behavior.3
- Abstinence Curriculum Approved for Two Rhode Island School Districts, (4 December 2006), accessed 18 December 2006, <http://www.citizenlink.org/clbriefs/A000003304.cfm>.
- “R.I. education officials approve abstinence education program”, The Boston Globe, 4 December 2006, accessed 12 December 2006, <http://www.boston.com/news/local/rhode_island/articles/2006/12/04/
- Rhode Island Department of Education Takes Stand Against Abstinence-Only Program, SIECUS (April 2006), <http://www.siecus.org/policy/PUpdates/pdate0240.html>.