Liverpool, NY board expands role of religion-based sex education despite parent protests
Jan. 24, 2018–The Liverpool Central Public Schools board this week moved to expand its use of an anti-abortion Christian ministry to teach abstinence-based sex education lessons to middle school students despite complaints by parents. MORE 
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Jan. 24, 2018, Open Letter to Liverpool Superintendent & Board of Education
from Gina Tonello

I’m shocked and disappointed that you failed to ask some very basic and important questions of New Hope at the Jan. 22, Liverpool Board of Education meeting regarding New Hope Family Services’ continued relationship: MORE

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THE MISSION
We believe that children in 2018 deserve and have a basic human right to non-judgmental, complete, accurate, science-based and age-appropriate sexuality education outside of the home. Our number one goal is to convince our public schools to no longer invite New Hope Family Services to collaborate in health class curriculum.

THE ARGUMENT
CNY parents in these school districts are concerned: LaFayette, Onondaga Central, Marcellus, West Genesee, Fabius-Pompey, Liverpool, Westhill, Chittenango and Jordan-Elbridge. New Hope Family Services, an anti-abortion agency, is being invited yearly to give sex-ed presentations in these schools, which often do not give parents the option to op-out or even notify them the presentation will happen.

According to their website, representatives of the pro-life conservative Christian ministry New Hope Family Services have been invited to present their abstinence education program, Real Love Respects, to area school districts for more than 18 years, reaching more than 44,000 students.

Upon hearing of New Hope’s approach in November 2017, however, the Baldwinsville Central School District school board immediately ended the practice of inviting New Hope to district classrooms, and announced it would have health teachers lead these discussions. This is a move we strongly support because public school teachers in New York state are vetted, qualified and certified. They’re also accountable.

Though New Hope purports to be issue-neutral, it’s actually a faith-based agency that teaches our children through a Christian bias with shame-based techniques. New Hope’s presenters tell teens that engaging in pre-marital sex is wrong, a religious ideal – not a fact – that promotes shame. Statistics show that 97 percent of Americans have pre-marital sex, and abstinence-only education does not work.

In this audio, recorded in a Baldwinsville, N.Y., public high school health classroom in November 2017, New Hope educators, the Rev. Jeremiah and a volunteer named Diane, teach teens that their virginity is a “gift you save your whole life” and once given away, is equivalent to a chewed piece of gum. Science-based sex educators call this common religious-based lesson “shaming.” (Note that the discussion is over a woman’s virginity as a opposed to a man’s virginity.)

Hear more of the lessons given to Baldwinsville students here: [Full recording] Parents of the teens who heard this lesson received no prior notification about the New Hope presentation. Baldwinsville and other school districts’ policies state that parents have the right to have their children opt out, but parents can’t opt out of a lesson they don’t know is happening under a policy they don’t know exists.

New Hope is openly driven by Christian teachings, stating on its website, “We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word Of God.” That should not be the basis for modern sex education, particularly in our tax-funded public schools.

Faith-based organizations like New Hope aggressively and systematically use sex education classes as a way to bring their religious teachings into public schools. They often offer their services for free (like New Hope) and establish long-term relationships with teachers, who invite them to their classrooms to tackle what can be an uncomfortable topic.

The organization claims to cover “most” of the NYS mandated health curriculum. Unfortunately, just because they purport to cover it, doesn’t mean they don’t present it in a religious-biased way. For instance, they talk about birth control options, but they focus on the negatives and failings of birth control. A regular part of their lesson is to encourage students to sign a purity agreement. If teens sign it, they get a ring to wear around school. (We have not seen this purity agreement or the chewed gum virginity lessons in the NYS Curriculum as of January 2018.)

Moreover, New York State’s Youth Sexual Health Plan’s top goal, (p. 6), is to “promote continuity and consistency of evidence-based and medically accurate health education across the State.” New Hope’s curriculum does not meet this goal because it does not present an evidence-based program. They provide what they themselves term an abstinence-based program. Multiple studies have repeatedly proven that this type of program is not only ineffective, but can do more harm than good.

According to the ACLU, “Under the federal Constitution and state law, schools may teach sexual abstinence and contraception; whether and how schools teach these sensitive subjects is a matter of educational policy. However, these may not be taught as religious tenets.”

We believe, as they do, that “public schools should not be in the business of promoting particular religious beliefs or activities, and they should protect children from being coerced by others to accept religious (or anti-religious) beliefs.”

Join us and help put our public schools on the right path to evidence-based sex education.

[New Hope’s 2017 1099 form, which provides some information about their otherwise unpublished list of board members.]