Rhode Island Bans Abstinence-Only Sex Education from Schools

By Melanie Arter | July 7, 2008 | 8:05 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - Rhode Island has banned an abstinence-only-until-marriage program from public schools, saying the program violates students' rights, embraces sexist stereotypes, and isolates homosexual teens.

Education Commissioner Peter McWalters issued a directive last week in a letter to schools ordering them not to use the program or the associated materials. He said classes taught by Heritage of Rhode Island were never approved by state officials and his office would create a panel to review the HIV/AIDS curricula of all schools in the state.

"We've known for some time that abstinence-only is bad science, bad policy, and a blatant violation of medical ethics and basic human rights," said James Wagoner, president of Advocates for Youth, in a statement.

The group is dedicated to creating programs and advocating for policies that help young people make informed and responsible decisions about their reproductive and sexual health.

"And as more people find out what is being taught and what is being censored in these ineffective programs, more and more of these 'stay pure or we don't care about you' programs will be banned from public schools," Wagoner said.

"Enough is enough. For too long these abstinence-only programs have operated without a hint of oversight," added Wagoner. "At least at the state level, this trend is changing, and public health officials couldn't be more pleased."

Wagoner called on Congress to issue an immediate moratorium on federal funding for abstinence-only programs. "It is a national scandal that we have already spent over $1.1 billion of taxpayers' dollars on programs that don't work and that censor vital public health information for young people.

"It is time to restore sanity and common sense to our public health policy," concluded Wagoner.

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