Smart parents ask questions...

Mary McLellan
August 21, 2012
Reproduced with Permission

At the beginning of a new school year, parents are inundated with paperwork and forms to sign for their child. Parents should look for permission forms regarding the types of sex education that will be taught to their children in middle or high school. Some notifications are sent home at the beginning of the year rather than before the actual sex education class begins.

These notifications are usually active or passive permission. Active permission means that in order for your child to participate in any sex education class, a parent must actively sign a form allowing it. Passive permission means that a signature is not required, and your child will participate in sex education unless you specifically sign the form stating that you do not want your child to participate. You may never see a passive permission form if your child does not give it to you. The principal usually decides which type of form will be used at your school.

Passive permission is very popular because it does not require a parent's signature, and more students can be enrolled into sex education. Again, parents may never know about the classes, much less the content of those classes.

Regardless of the type of permission form provided, you should ask every year what will be taught in sex education classes at your child's school. Is it abstinence-until-marriage, abstinence until they "feel ready", or abstinence-plus contraception and Safe Sex techniques? You will not know what type of sex education is being promoted to your child and their peers unless you ask to see for yourself the curriculum/program and talk to the teacher to determine if their perspective matches your values.

Parents need to ask specific questions about the impact of the selected sex education. Many public school textbooks or sex education programs have little research to show impact on sexual behavior. Or, if there is research, it is so narrowly focused on a subgroup, that it cannot be applied to the general population in your school. Some programs have only been used in clinical or after-school programs, not in classroom settings, yet your school may have chosen to use the program in the classroom without any evidence that it will be effective in that setting.

Questions parents should ask:

Parents can write a letter at the beginning of a school year telling the school administrators which type of sex education is acceptable for their child. Be aware that some sex education is being integrated across subjects so that sex may be addressed in classes such as math, English and science without your knowledge.

The good news is that national CDC data [] for the past 2 years indicates that more and more students 17 years and younger are saying "NO to SEX." Plus, students that abstain from all sexual activity throughout high school are more likely to achieve their academic goals [] compared with those who are sexually active, regardless of contraception use.

Are you willing to ask your school administrators these hard questions so that your children and their friends are protected from sexual messages that violate your values and/or downplay the risks of sexual activity?

If yes, when?

Mary S. McLellan, M.S.
Advocacy/Healthy Family Formation Coalition
Heritage Community Services
1757 Clements Ferry Road
Charleston, SC 29492-7720

Office: (843)654-7740 ext.122
Mobile Phone: (843)813-2353
Fax: (843)654-7747