Staff and Wire Reports
BETHANY, Oklahoma -- For the first time in more than a decade, the federal government is funding sex education programs that aren't based solely on abstinence, but they're not just about handing out condoms, either.
Beginning this school year, a five-year, $375 million grant is being divided among 28 programs that have been proven to lower the pregnancy rate among participants, no matter their focus. About half the programs aim to boost teens' academics and get them involved in extracurricular activities.
Advocates believe this "above the waist" approach gives kids the tools to help them succeed in school and make better life decisions, especially about sex.
But abstinence advocates said the programs are misguided and worry 169 abstinence programs nationwide will lose funding as a result.
"We're talking about character, this is not just an abstinence program alone where we talk about sex, but we talk about abstinence, so they have that conversation about pressure that they're under and what happens in that program is that oh you're under pressure too," said Mike Jestes, Oklahoma Family Policy Council.
The Bethany-based program K. E. E. P. (Kids Eagerly Endorsing Purity) said their funding ended nearly a year and a half ago on their abstinence education program, but they continue to teach it by relying on private funds to keep it going.
"We've had to do more strategic planning for our 9th-graders and juniors in high school, but we haven't had a significant cut," said Jestes, who is also the Director of K.E.E.P. "We had to be creative in arranging the schedules to accommodate our students."
The program has been very effective at the Putnam City Academy, according to a former school official.
"It was effective in talking to students about how to be respectful to each other than using what they're used to," said Janet Oden, retired principal of the alternative school.
Oden said they've had a high graduation rate. Many students stayed in school and the discipline with the students has also improved with the programs.
"The program gave us a platform to talk to kids about respect, boundaries and trust; the students are very open to real talk," Oden said. "We've found that this had affected the climate and culture of our school by giving us a common language to use among our students and staff."
Abstinence programs will still receive a $50 million annual federal grant that requires states to provide matching funds.