Over the past seven years, as Michael Reynolds wrote in a Nation cover story last June, George W. Bush’s faith-based Administration has transformed the small-time abstinence-only business into a billion-dollar industry profiting off tax-payer money being spent on ineffective new school curriculums.
“I can’t think of another federal program where so much money was spent without any oversight and to such little effect,” James Wagoner, president of Advocates for Youth, told Reynolds. “It wasn’t that policy-makers didn’t know that abstinence-only didn’t work. In 2000 the Institute of Medicine issued a scathing report on these programs. But they went full steam ahead despite the warning. It’s beyond naïve. It’s immoral.”
Thanks to recent Nation guest blogger Jessica Valenti for alerting me to the story of two eighth grade students in St. Louis who felt the same way and recently tried to protest this naivete and immorality. Other than a local CNN report, Valenti’s website, Feministing.com, was the first–and still one of the only–publications or broadcast operations on or off-line to report on Tori Shoemaker and Cheyenne Byrd’s brave stand against abstinence-only education.
The two students at Louis & Clark Junior High School protested their school’s abstinence-only education program by wearing shirts to school adorned with condoms, reading “Safe Sex or No Sex.” For daring to make a statement, they were suspended for two days from school by the regional superindent, who called the shirts “inappropriate” and a “distraction.” As Valenti adds: “Yes, because a ‘distraction’ in the form of free speech is clearly much worse than spreading dangerous misinformation about sex to teens.”
The CNN video shows the girls to be smart, thoughtful, engaged citizens–just the sort of students our schools should be proud of producing.