Keeping Abstinence in Rhode Island

Via Dave Talan’s email-based RI Republican newsletter comes this worthy appeal:

I’m writing on behalf of Heritage of Rhode Island. Heritage is a Warwick-based non-profit that is concluding the execution of a three-year Federal abstinence education grant. During this time, Heritage has reached across the State with the message that abstinence outside of marriage is the healthiest choice an adolescent can make. Additionally, Heritage has worked with parents, teachers and faith community and civic leaders, equipping them with the skills and resources necessary to help their children avoid risky behaviors.
Heritage is in the process of reapplying for an abstinence education grant, and is seeking letters of support. Of particular help would be letters from educators, faith community and civic leaders who would be interested in bringing Heritage’s programming into their community. Letters are needed within the next two weeks.
Heritage is the only agency in Rhode Island fulfilling this component of the President’s domestic agenda – any support you could provide would be greatly appreciated.
For more information about Heritage of Rhode Island, you can visit their website at www.HeritageRI.org, or call the office at 401.921.2993 and ask for Executive Director, Chris Plante. An updated site should be going live very soon!
Thanks for considering this request,
Jeremy Brodeur
Heritage of Rhode Island
Member, Board of Directors
JIBrodeur@hotmail.com

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WJF
WJF
14 years ago

Here are some details.
They need letters ASAP “in support of Heritage’s Community Based Abstinence Education” grant application. The addressee should be:
Mr. Stanley Koustaal, Ph. D.
Acting Director Abstinence Education
Family and Youth Services Bureau
118 Q Street, NE
Washington, DC 20002-2131.
The letter should be delivered to Heritage of RI (c/o Chris Plante – chris.plante@heritageri.org – Executive Director, Heritage of Rhode Island, 46 Kilvert Street, Warwick, RI 02886) by April 18, 2007 to be included in the application package.
Other letters will be needed for a second application, due June 1, that should be addressed to:
To Whom It May Concern
WilDon Solutions
Office of Grants Management Operations Center
1515 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 310
Arlington, Virginia 22209

TR
TR
14 years ago

In light of the release of Mathematica’s long-awaited research report showing that abstinence-only-until-marriage programs do not delay teen sex, nor alter behavior, perhaps it is time to stop funding programs like Heritage. This study is the only long-term controlled study that has been done in the 10 years of funding to the tune of 1.5 billion.
Support the REAL Act, and give kids access to healthcare and information that is essential to their wellbeing.

Chris Plante
14 years ago

While TR asks a valid question, there are several reasons to continue funding abstinence education and to be very concerned about the REAL Act. 1. The Mathematica study, while rigorous, only reviewed four, very early (1997/98 era) abstinence programs. The field now boasts over 700 different types of programs. The field and its methodology has matured greatly over the past decade, developing more and more effective programs that are committed to continuing rigorous research and evaluation along the way. 2. The study did not find any negative impacts of the abstinence education programs. Rather, it showed, as most would admit that a discreet shot of abstinence education in Junior High is not enough to change behaviors over the long term. Abstinence is a hard choice. Like any other hard but healthy behavioral choice (diet, smoking, exercise), the maintenance of that choice requires effort and support from the surrounding community. 3. Regarding the REAL Act, other attempts to create “abstinence-first” or “abstinence-based” models have resulted in creating programs that are no more than condom education programs tacking on “abstinence” to gain access to another funding stream. (http://www.heritage.org/Research/Abstinence/abstinencereport.cfm). 4. Heritage of Rhode Island has never called for the RI Dept. of Education, or our schools, to stop teaching kids about condoms and other forms of reproductive health. Heritage’s mission here is to see abstinence taught clearly, intentionally, and unapologetically to our State’s teenagers as their healthiest choice. Our State’s sex education program can rightly be termed “risk-reduction” programming; we advocate telling our children that they can actually “avoid the risk” altogether. A message sorely lacking in our classrooms and academic culture. When parents approach Heritage livid that their middle school child is receiving information about condoms, when teenagers cannot tell Heritage if they have ever been taught about abstinence, and when RI… Read more »

TR
TR
14 years ago

While TR asks a valid question… Actually, Mr. Plant I asked no question at all. I made the statement that in light of what the Mathematica research concluded, we should rethink funding of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. 1. The Mathematica study, while rigorous, only reviewed four, very early (1997/98 era) abstinence programs. The field now boasts over 700 different types of programs. The field and its methodology has matured greatly over the past decade, developing more and more effective programs that are committed to continuing rigorous research and evaluation along the way. In reality, 11 programs were initially chosen for review. 7 of these had to be excluded because they were “unable to support rigorous impact study of program effectiveness.” Incidentally, Mr. Plante, has Heritage had any component of its program evaluated? Either here in RI or in SC? By this question, I do mean a rigorous evaluation, by a non-biased research firm? Further, those 700 programs that you “boast” of have been in effect since 2000, and share most, if not all of the same common curriculum topics that they did then. Changes that may have occured would be in the way of correcting inaccuracies, or distortions that were being touted as factual. (These problems have not been entirely eliminated, but that would be a different topic for a different day.)If I am incorrect, could you please share what goals have changed since 2000? 2. The study did not find any negative impacts of the abstinence education programs. You’re correct, but neither did they show any positive impacts in the areas of delayed activity, use of contraception, or long-term attitude or behavior impacts. Rather, it showed, as most would admit that a discreet shot of abstinence education in Junior High is not enough to change behaviors over the long term. Here… Read more »

Justin Katz
14 years ago

Boy, TR, you’re certainly not going for the assumption-of-goodwill bonus. What’s your personal investment, I wonder. How about some disclosure?
I haven’t the time (yet) to delve into much of your comment (e.g., I’ve downloaded but have not read the full Mathematica report), but I will say this: You’re a bit loose — almost to the point of self-incrimination — with your charge of intellectual dishonesty. Regarding the “discrete shot” comment, I believe Mr. Plante was referring to Mathematica’s own suggestion (from its synopsis) that “Targeting youth at young ages may not be sufficient.” Expanding: “the findings provide no information on the effects programs might have if they were implemented in high school or began at earlier ages but continued through high school.” This strikes me as a recommendation that programs be tweaked, not abandoned.
As for the rest, I’d say it’s your integrity that comes into question, as evidenced by statements such as this:

It is also unfair and inappropriate for you to label normal human sexual desires as animalistic, or to suggest that people who engage in sexual activity before your desired timeline have a lack of self-control, or that they are somehow lesser people.

In case, in your drive to reach the sex-ed classroom, you missed that lesson in biology, we human beings are, indeed, animals, Mr. (or Ms.) Ross. What is supposed to set us apart is our ability to control — and to channel — our urges. You may disagree that abstinence is the healthiest choice for adolescents. Fine. Argue your point. But I believe that what Chris was alluding to — and it’s something that I’ll confirm as a recipient of safe-sex education — is the presentation that teaches children that abstaining from sex is unrealistic.

TR
TR
14 years ago

What’s your personal investment, I wonder. How about some disclosure? My personal investment, Justin, would be the same as most other taxpayers – to the tune of 1.5 billion for failed programming. I also have a sincere desire to see continued decreases in teen pregnancy rates. Therefore, groups that advocate giving teens mis-information on the efficacy rates of birth control leave a bitter taste in my mouth. It also makes me question intent, and yes, integrity. I haven’t the time (yet) to delve into much of your comment (e.g., I’ve downloaded but have not read the full Mathematica report) Might I suggest you go ahead and read the report? You might even want to check out the 1st Year Impact report, and the Interim report. Perhaps your comments will be based more on what you know at that point. Re: My charge of intellectual dishonesty – You are correct that it was in regard to the “discrete shot of abstinence education” comment, as well as Mr.Plante’s seeming attempt to diminish the findings of this report by stating that “only four programs were evaluated.” Mr. Plante knows very well that these programs that were evaluated were not based on a “dose” of abstinence-only education. They were chosen based on relative intensity of duration as a major factor. I also believe that there was initially a fifth program to be included in the study. Maybe Mr. Plante could tell you more about that particluar program, and its ultimate exclusion. As for the rest, I’d say it’s your integrity that comes into question… How so, Mr. Katz? In case, in your drive to reach the sex-ed classroom, you missed that lesson in biology, we human beings are, indeed, animals Very good, Mr. Katz. Clap clap. Perhaps you should have Mr. Plante attend your… Read more »

justin Katz
14 years ago

Well, TRoss, you’re a particularly interested average citizen to have read that report so intently. That’s a good thing, I suppose, but having read a number of such documents and participated in a number of these discussions, it seems to me that your emphasis on Mathematica’s findings presumes a bit too much. When it comes down to it, the most that one can claim on its basis is that having a little more than half of a school’s students participate in an abstinence program during their tweens is not sufficient to differentiate their behavior from that of their peers during their teens.
Choices about sexual behavior are at least as much, probably more (especially among teenagers), a matter of cultural influence as informed personal health assessment, and indeed, not just STDs and pregnancies have gone down among teenagers, but sexual activity, as well. Abstinence is not the choice they tend to make, of late, in large part because adults’ stands tends to be that they won’t be able to make it.

DRettmann
DRettmann
14 years ago

I would prefer accurate comprehensive sex ed, that includes presentation of information about gender, gender identity, sexual/affectional orientation, reproduction, contraception, STDs, safe sex practices, and that abstinence is the best way of remaining STD free.
However, abstinence only programs are being promoted by fundamentalist “christian” organizations that are trying to indoctrinate young people with their interpretation of their religious faith tenets.
And that has no place in public schools.

Justin Katz
14 years ago

DRettmann,
I’m not sure what evidence you would cite for your claims, but as I’ve noted in the past, some of the studies that seek to prove the problems of abstinence curricula are themselves problematic (mostly for being ideological).
Regarding the Christian fundamentalist comment specifically, my gut sense is that it would prove to be an ipso facto thing, whereby supporters of such curricula are Christian fundamentalists by definition.
And as for the place of religion in school, well, that’s a whole ‘nother topic.

DRettmann
DRettmann
14 years ago

Yes, teaching religion faith tenets in public schools IS a whole ‘nother topic. And it’s a simple discussion. One word, and that word is “No”.
The connections of ab-only sex ed promoters to the fundamentalist Religious Right “christians” is well known.
Here’s just one link for info.
http://www.theocracywatch.org/abstinence_only_sex_education.htm

TR
TR
14 years ago

Perhaps that topic would generate some traffic. It could even be linked to all the “research” that you’ve done on the subject, Justin.
Justin, have you ever seen Heritage’s curriculum? I’m just wondering why it is you’d defend them so fiercely without actually knowing?

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