A new study by the University of Minnesota found that parents around the state favor a comprehensive approach to sexual education, as opposed to one that stresses abstinence only.
"I think this makes it really clear that parents are looking to the schools to be leaders in this area," said Brigid Riley, the executive director of MOAPPP, the Minnesota Organization of Adolescent Pregnancy, Prevention and Parenting.
"I think parents are challenged by what to share and when to share it," Riley told KARE 11, "And I think they do look to the schools to help them in that important role."
The study, headed by the U's Marla Eisenberg and published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, found that 89 percent of parents polled favored a broad approach to sex ed. Only 10 percent of those polled favored a curriculum based on abstinence only.
The University's Prevention Research Center surveyed 1,605 parents by telephone from September 2006 through March 2007. Every parent surveyed had at least one child between the ages of five and 18.
They were asked to way in on an array of sex ed topics, and asked how early in school life those areas should be introduced. Overall support varied by topic, ranging from a high of 98 percent for reproductive anatomy to 63 percent for abortion education.
Support for education on sexually transmitted infections was 94 percent, for pregnancy prevention was 91 percent, and for sexual orientation was 66 percent.
"So if people are concerned about whether a school should implement this kind of curriculum," Riley told KARE 11, "The schools need to hear that yes, parents are in favor of this sort of education."
Long battle at the Capitol
Riley, and other supporters of comprehensive sex ed, have been appearing at the State Capitol for the past nine years trying to persuade lawmakers to establish a statewide curriculum as part of health classes.
Bills are in the hopper once again in the House and Senate in 2008. A threat of a veto from Governor Pawlenty led legislators to take sex ed provisions out of a larger bill last year, according to Riley.
The strongest opposition has come from the Minnesota Family Council. The director of that organization, Tom Pritchard, told KARE 11 News Thursday he was not impressed with the U's new study.
Pritchard cited a different study, done by Zogby International on behalf of the National Abstinence Education Association, which showed parents prefer abstinence education over sex education by a two-to-one margin.
He asserted that sex education "aggressively pushes condoms and contraceptives and gives only lip service to abstinence."
Pritchard pointed to a federally-funded study released in May 2007 by the Sagamore Institute for Policy Research, a conservative think tank in Indiana. The study, requested by two Republican US Senators, reviewed the language used in nine sex education curricula.
The researchers reached the conclusion that the language used in those courses would tend to increase the use of condoms temporarily, but wouldn't delay a student's entry into sexual activity.
MOAPPP's Riley counters that many scientific studies of teenagers have come to an opposite conclusion about the efficacy of sex education.
"Comprehensive sexuality education actually encourages young people to wait longer to start being sexually active," Riley told KARE.
"When they do become sexually active they're more likely to use contraceptives and condoms. And they have fewer partners."
She noted 81 percent of the parents surveyed by the U of M agreed with the statement that taking a sex ed class doesn't make a youth more likely to engage in sex.
(Copyright 2008 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)