Sexual education can help teen-agers make healthy choices...


October 24, 1999

Sexual education can help teen-agers make healthy choices

Tony Snow's column "Sex education policy promotes promiscuity" (Opinion Commentary, Oct. 18) was brimming with myths and misinformation. Contrary to Mr. Snow's diatribe, sexuality education is an invaluable way of helping young people avoid sexual risk-taking that can lead to pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.

According to a study from the Centers for Disease Control, 66 percent of high school students have intercourse before they graduate.

Comprehensive sexuality education can give young people a clear picture of the risks and consequences of unprotected intercourse and empower them to make responsible choices.

Numerous studies show that a balanced approach, combining abstinence with safer sex messages is the most effective way to guide young people to healthy decisions. There is no evidence that "abstinence-only" programs help teen-agers.

Mr Snow's allegation that sexuality education programs weaken family ties is just wrong. A recent poll found that 67 percent of teens who had talked openly with a parent about sex would speak to a parent first if they were considering beginning a relationship.

Unfortunately, frank talk and sexuality education is lacking across the country. Thirteen states don't require schools to provide any sexuality education and only five percent of American students receive age-appropriate sex education throughout their public school careers.

This lack of sexuality education may explain why the our teen pregnancy and abortion rates are the highest among all industrialized nations.

The encouraging news is that 85 percent of American adults recognize the need for sexuality education in schools.

Unlike Mr. Snow, these parents recognize that a small investment in sexuality education can offer guidance that can last a lifetime.

Roberta G. Antoniotti Baltimore

The writer is president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Maryland.

Who is Tony Snow and what sources did he use for a column so full of inaccuracies and absurd accusations?

The sexuality education curricula Mr. Snow mentioned have been evaluated, and found effective in reducing risky behaviors associated with HIV, sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancy.

I've been been trained to train others in these programs. I've never seen the sorts of examples Mr. Snow cited.

I was never trained "to humiliate students who believe in abstinence," nor would I train others in this disrespectful and irresponsible approach.

Abstinence is the safest decision for adolescents, but refusing unprotected intercourse is another important message we need to stress to help young people make safe and healthy decisions.

Mr. Snow says such programs keep parents in the dark. But the "Reducing the Risk" curriculum offers detailed steps for securing parental permission and keeping them informed. Students in the program have reported increased parent/child communication on sexuality issues.

Mr. Snow wrote, "Never mind that abstinence education is far more successful at reducing pregnancy." What proof does he have of this claim?

I know of no abstinence-only curriculum that has been proven effective. But the more comprehensive approach has been proven to postpone initiation of sexual intercourse and increase protective practices among sexually active youth.

The Sun is the major paper for a city that has some of the nation's worst statistics on sexually transmitted diseases, HIV and teen pregnancy. I urge it to get the facts about these programs' effectiveness.

Nancy Hudson Ellicott City

Rep. Cummings' behavior doesn't reflect district . . .

I was greatly offended by The Sun's article on Rep. Elijah E. Cummings' financial woes ("As Cummings rose, financial problems grew," Oct. 17).

I live in Mr. Cunnings district. I do not have children out of wedlock; I do not drive an uninsured vehicle; I do not have $7,000 of credit cards bills and I certainly know that paying my taxes is a "priority."

This man no more represents me, or anyone I know, than the man in the moon.

Mary R. Jones Catonsville

. . . but are his finances a matter of public concern?

I am wondering why The Sun's article about Rep. Elijah Cummings' finances was written or published ("As Cummings rose, financial problems grew," Oct. 17).

Like many others, I am not interested in Mr. Cummings' personal finances -- only in the job he's doing in Washington.

Is there so little going on in the Baltimore area that The Sun has to stoop to such low levels of journalism?

The local newspaper is just another reason not to be proud of the city that doesn't read.

Wenda Royster Baltimore

Would someone please tell me why The Sun finds it necessary to research the finances of every black public official or potential office holder in Maryland?

I'm almost sure that white office holders have perfect credit and have never been late paying any bills. This is evident because The Sun has never reported negative information on them.

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