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Eighth-Graders In Ohio Public School Allegedly Taught Marriage Prevents STDs

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 9/11/2015 Dana Liebelson

WASHINGTON -- A representative for a faith-based pregnancy center told eighth-graders at a public school in Ohio factually inaccurate information about sexual health, including that marriage prevents sexually transmitted diseases, the American Atheists Legal Center  said on Monday.

A representative for the Pregnancy Care Center of Wayne County made an annual visit to a "Family and Consumer Science" class at Wooster High School around Oct. 28, according to a letter  sent to the school district from the American Atheists and based on a parent complaint.

In addition to information about STDs, the representative allegedly told students that if a girl gets pregnant because of rape or incest, her only option is to put the baby up for adoption. (In fact, in Ohio, medical personnel are required to tell sexual assault victims about emergency contraception.)

The representative also reportedly told students they should not have children until they are married. A student who attended the class was "very confused and upset" by the information, so she confided to her mother, said Amanda Knief, legal and policy director for the the American Atheists. Knief told The Huffington Post the family wished to remain anonymous for privacy reasons.

When contacted by HuffPost, a spokeswoman for the the Pregnancy Care Center said she had not seen the letter. She did not respond to additional follow-up requests for comment. The center notes on its website that it has "taken the abstinence message into Wayne and Holmes County schools for decades" and that "Nearly 3000 students hear the abstinence message yearly, offering a factual and common sense approach to sexuality."

The mother told the atheist organization she went to the school to ask if a health care provider could address the class about STD prevention and alternatives to unwanted pregnancy, but an associate principal declined on the basis that such information would "not be presented to the students," the letter claims.

The associate principals named in the letter, as well as the high school principal, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

It is not clear what other sexual health information, if any, the students received in the class. In Ohio, "venereal disease" curriculums are up to local boards of education. The information provided is also not required to be medically accurate, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

The American Atheists, along with the parent and student who raised the issue, want the school district to allow a non-faith-based health care provider to teach students about STD and pregnancy prevention. They also want the school district to stop allowing Pregnancy Care Center into official school classes "because of the inaccurate and religiously motivated curriculum," the letter says.

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