AUSTIN, Texas -- As Congress and states reconsider funding for abstinence-only programs, the largest study ever of what is taught in sexuality education classes reveals that abstinence programs are plagued with factual errors, use shame and fear to teach about sexuality and actively discourage the use of condoms to protect against pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
The report from the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund - Just Say Don't Know: Sexuality Education in Texas Public Schools - focused on the state that receives more federal abstinence dollars than any other and that has one of the highest teen birthrates in the nation.
"Texas is failing families when it comes to sexuality education," said David Wiley, who co-authored the report with fellow Texas State professor Kelly Wilson. "Our classrooms are perpetuating a conspiracy of silence that robs young people of the reliable information they need to make responsible life decisions."
Wiley and Wilson worked with researchers to analyze thousands of pages of curriculum materials, policies and other documents from nearly all of the more than 1,000 school districts in Texas, the poster child of the abstinence-only movement.
The study found that more than 96 percent of Texas districts teach teens nothing about responsible pregnancy and disease prevention except abstinence, TFN Education Fund President Kathy Miller said.
"Like most parents, I provide the moral and ethical guidance my children need on this sensitive subject," Miller said. "I also want sexuality education programs to encourage abstinence. But we must stop burying our heads in the sand about high teen birth and STD rates and make sure young people get the medically accurate information they need to protect their health and their futures."
Among the report's findings:
* 41 percent of Texas districts use abstinence-only materials with factual errors.
* Abstinence programs recklessly discourage the use of condoms by insisting that they are ineffective in preventing pregnancy and STDs.
* Shame- and fear-based instruction is common and equates sex with anti-social behaviors, disease and death.
* Instruction often promotes stereotypes and biases, including the promotion of rigid and outdated gender roles.
* Some public schools use religious instruction to promote sexual abstinence.
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