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From John West Jr., associate professor of political science at Seattle Pacific University:

I read with interest your article about sex education in Federal Way Public Schools (Nov. 6, “Talk of safe sex delayed until ninth grade”). I found it disappointing. It seemed to be written almost wholly from the point of view of Planned Parenthood and the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS). While these are important organizations, they represent only one side of the public debate over sex education, and their views are controversial and disputed. Your readers would have benefitted had you also interviewed experts from such groups as the National Coalition on Abstinence, the Family Research Council and the Heritage Foundation.

Contrary to claims made by Planned Parenthood and SIECUS, genuine abstinence education is not “dangerous and irresponsible,” but good public policy. A growing number of studies confirm that abstinence programs work to reduce teen sexual activity, while the comprehensive safe sex education advocated by Planned Parenthood and SIECUS does not.

In reality, the safe sex approach is neither physically safe nor emotionally beneficial for children and teens. Published research clearly shows that condoms provide unreliable protection against many STDs, including HIV. Thus, telling students that condom use will prevent them from getting STDs is a factually inaccurate and potentially lethal message. Moreover, the costs of teenage sexual activity go far beyond the physical. Studies indicate that teens who have sex are at a higher risk for a host of emotional and social problems.

For a more detailed discussion of some of the above points, I encourage you to read “The Effectiveness of Abstinence Education Programs in Reducing Sexual Activity Among Youth,” by Robert Rector, senior research fellow in domestic and economic policy studies at The Heritage Foundation.

My undergraduate degree was in journalism, so I understand how challenging it can be to write on a variety of topics in a short amount of time. However, it is especially important for reporters to cover both sides of controversial issues fairly. I hope that you will write a followup article that will interview those who support the idea of abstinence education and who are critical of the approach advocated by Planned Parenthood and SIECUS.

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