Last year I wrote an open letter to the Mesa Public School District expressing my dismay over the decision to teach abstinence-based sex ed. Because of the blog post, a girl I went to high school with, whose husband sits on the board for MPS, reached out to me asking if I would be willing to be appointed to a committee being formed to review and update the videos shown in the sex ed curriculum. Apparently the videos they are currently using haven’t been updated in decades, and in order to do so, a committee must be formed, and a quorum achieved, before they are sent to the board for approval.
Obviously, this did not sound like a party. It seems pretty evident the only people who offer to sit on a committees like this have strong opinions about sex ed. And seeing as how we live in good old Mesa, AZ, home of the largest population of LDS outside of Salt Lake City, my guess was this committee was going to be comprised of mostly people who would disagree with everything about my sex-positive, sailor-mouthed, blue-haired, refusing to wear my wedding ring even though I’m married, persona. I was clearly being sent as a sacrificial lamb to slaughter. Unfortunately, I’d put my big mouth out there, so I had little choice but to agree.
The first meeting was about a month ago. I was a couple of minutes late and felt like a jackass. The organizers, a man and woman who travel around and teach all of the sex ed classes for the entire district, distributed two folders to each of us, one with the guidelines and videos for 7th graders, and one for the 9th graders.
Briefly, we discussed the fact that the guidelines are not up for debate, our job was simply to watch the videos (about 3 and a half hours worth, in total) that have been proposed for use to replace the old ones, and hopefully approve them at the next meeting, so they could be delivered to the board for final approval and be used in the schools as soon as possible. The videos had already been edited to remove anything the instructors thought was over the top (keep in mind these are videos made for the expressed purpose of educating children about sex), but we were instructed to make note of anything we found to be inappropriate or offensive.
I glanced through the MPS official guidelines, and stopped short at number 9:
The terms abortion, birth control (contraceptives), homosexuality, and masturbation may be defined but not discussed.
Me: Uh, who set these guidelines?
Instructor: The guidelines have been around for about 30 years.
Blonde lady also on the committee: Most of the guidelines are state mandated.
Off we were sent, with instructions to watch all the videos and reconvene in three weeks. I drove home convinced this was going to be nothing but an exercise in frustration and futility.
Two weeks and five days later, I popped the videos into the DVD player. These are some of the notes I took:
- The florescent plastic blow-up furniture in this video really makes me feel like it’s hip to be abstinent.
- Sexting will destroy any possible hope you have at happiness in the future, if you even have a future, you miserable, godless wretch. Got it.
- Wait, 80% of teen pregnancies are “unintended”?? So… then 20% are intended?!
- Maybe if “Matt” had ever been taught how to use birth control he wouldn’t have been SO SHOCKED his girlfriend got pregnant. (Dear Matt, you’re not a genius.)
- Everything about teenagers’ bodies and hormones are saying “We want to have sex,” and everything the school, their teachers, and parents are saying is, “This is the worst thing for you ever.” How can that not be completely confusing for them?
- This is just a poorly produced episode of 16 and Pregnant. Why can’t they watch that? At least they can find Janelle’s mug shots on TMZ and know it’s true.
- I seriously cannot believe there is literally no information about condoms or birth control.
- After watching 3+ hours of STI and pregnancy fear-mongering, and teens testifying about abusive relationships and how sexting ruined their lives, I think I’m scared abstinent, too.
- Aw, the blonde, perfect-skinned abstinent couple is cute. They’re like a more attractive version of Sue from The Middle and her gay BFF before he realized they should ‘just be friends’. It’s weird we know these details about their lack of sex life. Do people like this realize that announcing their ‘sexual purity’ means at some point in their lives they’ll have to publicly admit they’re ‘sexually impure’? I feel like they may not have thought this completely through.
- With this sex-ed program, we’re not equipping them for life, we’re just trying (and generally failing) to shield them until they’re no longer our problem.
(Come back tomorrow for Part II…)