Liverpool Expands New Hope Lessons

Jan. 24, 2018

Liverpool board expands role of religion-based sex education despite parent protests
Liverpool, NY–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.
Superintendent Dr. Mark Potter invited members of new New Hope Family Services to attend the district’s Jan. 22 meeting to speak about its sex education program, which the district has used for 16 years. The superintendent invited the group after Liverpool parent Caitlin Coulombe and others voiced their concerns earlier this month about New Hope’s religious-based methods they believe shame young men and women and isolate families that do not conform to theologically-based ideals.

“When you attach this sense of shame to any premarital sexual activity, you are only making it more dangerous for our youth,” said Coulombe, a member of Stop the Shaming, a Central New York parent group aimed at promoting un-biased science-based sex education in public schools. “Embarrassed children will not go to their parents or other trusted adults for advice, to procure contraceptives, or to seek medical attention.” 

New Hope’s representatives told the board they discourage premarital sex and promote abstinence as the best choice for young adults, despite the fact that men and women are getting married later than ever, and abstinence has proven only marginally effective in preventing unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted disease.
“Unlike our district’s teachers, New Hope’s volunteer speakers are not certified or trained to provide balanced and realistic information to our children,” Coulombe said. “The board’s actions this week expose thousands of children to dated, unrealistic, and theologically-driven expectations.
In Baldwinsville, the school board barred New Hope from appearing in classes after it learned the organization’s volunteers encouraged students to sign “purity agreements” and wear “purity rings,” and used a skit to compare a student’s virginity to a piece of gum that, once chewed, is no longer appealing.
Monday night, New Hope representatives told the Liverpool board that they do not feel a need to provide extensive information on contraception because their focus is on abstinence.  

“These aren’t science-based ideas, they’re religious ones, and they have no place in public school classrooms,” said Gina Tonello, founder of Stop the Shaming. “New Hope’s approach is harmful and unnecessary. Liverpool teachers, who are certified and accountable, should teach these important subjects, not outside religious volunteers.”

An estimated 550 students hear New Hope’s faith-based lessons each year in Liverpool alone. Although several board members insisted the districts offers parents the option to opt out of New Hope’s abstinence-based program, district parents say they have never received any notification of an opt-out option.

Stop the Shaming is comprised of a group of CNY parents demanding science-based sexuality education. It’s mission is to convince our public schools to no longer invite New Hope Family Services to collaborate in health class curriculum.