Mission America

Christian Commentary on the Culture

Why Don't All OH Schools Follow the Law and Teach Abstinence?

Linda Harvey

We are very blessed in the state of Ohio to have a law that requires public schools to teach that abstinence until marriage is the standard for sexuality, and steer students away from early sexual activity. Ohio Revised Code 3313.6011 has been a law since 1999, but the problem is that until two years ago, the education bureaucracy in Ohio was not keeping tabs on this.

The good news is that some lawmakers two years ago tightened up the law and now, all the school systems in Ohio are audited for their compliance with teaching abstinence and the serious consequences of teen sexual activity. Since that change, the 611 school districts in Ohio have been required to report what they teach. So what have we learned?

We just took a look at the latest audit results about Ohio sex education instruction reported by the Ohio Department of Education and Workforce. Are school districts teaching students material that authentically emphasizes abstinence until marriage? The ODEW reports that 607 out of the 611 school districts were compliant with this law in the 2022-23 school year. So we should all feel very comfortable, right?

Well hold on just a minute, because when you look at the details, it becomes very obvious that no, many districts are not compliant and are flagrantly so. And worse, the ODEW is letting them get away with it.

So we did our own analysis based on what school districts revealed and found that approximately 200 schools clearly teach the required abstinence message. We are very thankful that these schools are conveying the beneficial message about healthy relationships to hundreds of thousands of the state's adolescents. 

Other schools may be teaching a sexual risk avoidance message, but we don't know for sure. Many school districts did not give enough details in the audit to validate abstinence teaching. Some have inhouse programs that were not disclosed in the report. Others use outside speakers and textbooks that cannot be verified.

The bad news is that over 50 districts are flagrantly non-compliant and are teaching the often obscene, condom-based programs that fall under the category of “comprehensive sex education.” These programs leave students with the clear impression that sex that is “protected” is normal, even for middle school students, and that the consequences are probably manageable. This is a reckless approach and violates the spirit of the Ohio law.

Such programs also teach students to respect the idea of same sex relationships and that changing one’s gender is possible. Most of these curricula also treat anal sex as a valid sexual behavior that can become relatively “safe” with condom use. This is a medically inaccurate and dangerous message, but it’s covered to satisfy the demands of “LGBTQ” voices that believe this is “inclusive.”

Don’t our children deserve responsible instruction? Wouldn’t the truth be a better idea?

Just because some lessons sprinkle in a few mentions of “abstinence” along the way, does not mean that they meet the requirements of the law. Examining curricula like “Get Real,” “Reducing the Risk,” or “Draw the Line/Respect the Line” shows an over-arching message that does not communicate abstinence-until-marriage but teaches adolescents to go ahead with sexual activity in all directions “when they are ready” as long as they have “protection.”

There is a provision of the law that allows schools to teach something else than strictly abstinence, but to do so, the schools need to notify parents and get their written permission. Some of the schools did notify parents but the Ohio Department of Education and Workforce did not ask whether they received written permission.

The ODEW did a poor job executing the audit and holding schools accountable to follow the requirements of the law. This needs to improve.

And here’s the bottom line on passive “notification” vs. required written permission. If most parents were thoroughly informed and knew their eighth graders were going to be learning how to put condoms on a plastic model in class, do you think they would sign off? I don’t think most would.

So we have a long way to go, and we will keep reporting the truth. Hopefully, the standards will become clearer and parents will express their opinions to their local schools.

Watch for our detailed analysis, coming out shortly.