Students in schools across Tennessee may be receiving sex education ridden with factually dubious claims.
A recent sex education presentation at Hillsboro High School in Nashville contained arguably questionable statements, according to audio obtained by the Tennessean. Speakers from a nonprofit group said there’s a new sexually transmitted disease as deadly as AIDS and that having sex with eight partners is the health equivalent of drinking spit from everyone in the classroom.
Joi Wasill, the founder of the nonprofit group Decisions, Choices and Options, and Beth Cox, a Sumner County School Board member involved in the group, also told students that medical textbooks say that life begins at conception and that many STDs make women barren, the report notes.
Of the nonprofit's presentation, which is given to students in 50 high schools across the state, Vanderbilt assistant professor Dr. Mary Romano said the claims were “not necessarily untrue, but they were taken out of context," according to the local outlet WSMV-TV.
Romano, of Vanderbilt's Children's Hospital, noted that most medical textbooks do not discuss when life begins, STDs only make you barren if they are left untreated, and drinking spit and having sex potentially lead to entirely different health issues, according to the Tennessean. (In addition, experts have previously said that it is not fair to compare the “deadly” antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea strain the group referenced to AIDS.)
"Obviously, a curriculum like this employs scare tactics," Romano told local outlet WSMV-TV. "There are things where we'd like to think we can scare them out of doing: drinking and driving, substance use, texting and driving. I think what we've shown is telling teens, 'Here are all the awful things that can happen to you,' doesn't seem to change their behaviors."
However, Wasill disputes the claim that her group used "scare tactics."
“The presentation was not excerpted correctly, it was an hour and half presentation … the local reports were completely inaccurate representations of what we do,” Wasill told The Huffington Post.
On Choices, Decisions, and Options' website, the organization states its purpose is to “provide education for teens and the adults who care about them, regarding the decisions that come along with teen pregnancy.” Wasill said the organization's 90-minute presentations “consist of data from CDC in Atlanta, the National Institute of Health, health textbooks for state of Tennessee” and several other reputable health groups.
Joseph Bass, a communications specialist for Metro Nashville Public Schools, told HuffPost that members of the school's community do not seem to be upset about the presentation.
"Despite the fact that three articles have been written about the organization’s presentation, we have received zero complaints," Bass said.
Choices, Decisions, and Options is one of many groups authorized to give sex education presentations in Tennessee.