LIVERPOOL CENTRAL SCHOOLS
January 22, the Liverpool School Board not only did not break ties with New Hope Family Services, they decided to invite them into their third middle school. The board invited New Hope representatives to the board meeting. Seven people came. They were given time to speak–approximately 20 minutes, then answer questions and provide as much defense as necessary to get their points across. Caitlin was not given equal time, nor allowed to speak/ask questions.
January 16, concerned parents were informed that New Hope Instruction is on the board agenda for Jan. 22 meeting.
January 15, Caitlin and other concerned parents received an email from the board to say they were adding the topic to a future agendy for further discussion.
On January 8, 2018, Liverpool parent, Caitlin Coulombe, spoke at the Liverpool Central School District. The result of her efforts is TBD.
TEXT FROM BOARD PRESENTATION ON JANUARY 8, 2018
My name is Caitlin Coulombe and my eldest son Mason is currently enrolled in Chestnut Hill Middle School. We were recently made aware as part of the Health curriculum, New Hope Family Services will be presenting a program on Abstinence. I am here today because it took over a month of contacting the school before my concerns were addressed, and when I was finally called back, the response was quite dismissive.
As I’m sure you are all aware, New Hope is a Christian organization that offers several different services to the community including Abstinence Education outreach. Following the media attention they received when the Baldwinsville Central School district cut ties with them, New Hope released a statement via their website which says “Real Love Respects is specifically designed for the public school system with no mention of religion or religious material.”
I take issue with this statement, and the continued use of this organization in our schools. This is because simply removing the overtly religious content does not mean that they are not promoting a religious agenda. In the same message New Hope states that the foremost objective of Real Love Respects is to educate the dangers of “premarital sex.” While this statement sounds relatively benign on the surface, the fact is, that the concept of “waiting until marriage” is a religious ideal. Not one that all families in your district share. Statistics are showing the adults are waiting later and later to marry. This especially applies to college-educated adults. Many of my peers have been in long-term committed relationships for over a decade with no intention of getting married. It is naive to believe that these adults are abstaining from sexual activity, and neglectful to push such unrealistic theologically driven ideals on our children.
By idealizing religious concepts like “waiting until marriage” and the “purity” of virginity, you are attaching a sense of shame to any premarital sexual activity. You are simultaneously invalidating the rest of the curriculum discussing sexual health – because no matter what, by engaging in sexual activity, they’re already doing something “wrong”.
At such a delicate time in our children’s lives – we should not be shaming them for anything, especially for exploring their most basic biological urges. Making sexual activity shameful makes it secretive, and making sex secretive is what makes it the most dangerous. This is because embarrassed children will not go to their parents or other trusted adults for advice, to procure contraceptives, or to seek medical attention. Idealizing waiting until marriage also places a badge of dishonor onto each one of your students born out of wedlock.
I hope it goes without saying – I am not promoting sexual activity in minors. I sincerely hope that my children do not engage in sexual activity until they are in long-term committed relationships. I also fully believe that abstinence should be taught as the best and preferred method of birth control, and STI prevention. But this is not the mission of New Hope Family Services. The first line of their mission statement says “New Hope Family Services seeks to be Christ’s hands extended to offer help and hope..” Spreading the word of Jesus Christ is their primary mission, and their Real Love Respects program was specifically designed as a way to spread that word in a public school setting.
Please understand that this not an attack on religion. I was raised the south, in a Southern Baptist family. While I do not formally participate in any, I have a deep respect for the beliefs and traditions of all religions. But these beliefs have no place in our public schools, and there is no reason that a religious organization should be presenting medical information to our students. We have highly competent teachers who are fully capable of presenting abstinence information without underlying motives.