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Oregon Adolescent Sexuality Conference Cancelled Amid Controversy

In November 2014, a local news station in Portland, Oregon began reporting on the annual Adolescent Sexuality Conference (ASC) held in Seaside, Oregon. The well-established and highly regarded conference has been taking place for 30 years, and the Steering Committee for the 2015 conference was a collaboration between the following agencies: the Cascade AIDS Project, the School of Social Work at Portland State University, Great Expectations, the Insights Teen Parent Program, the Oregon Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Task Force, the Oregon Department of Education, the Oregon Health Authority Adolescent and School Health Program, the Oregon Health Authority HIV/STD/TB Program, the Oregon Health Authority Office of Client & Community Services, the Oregon Teen Pregnancy Task Force, Planned Parenthood of the Columbia-Willamette, Planned Parenthood of Southwestern Oregon, the Venereal Disease Action Committee, and the Working to Institutionalize Sex Education (WISE) initiative in Oregon. The ASC’s goal is to “address a broad range of issues that influence how adolescents deal with their sexuality.”[1]

Fueled by a newly formed group opposed to the conference known as Parent's Rights in Education, the news station KOIN reported that “inappropriate information” had been distributed at the conference, including information on pornographic web pages, methamphetamines, and engaging in sexual activities by using technology and the internet. The Oregon Teen Pregnancy Task Force Board maintained that the materials passed out at the conference are “dedicated to preventing teen pregnancy, preventing STDs and also developing healthy relationships.”[2]

The news station reported on November 18, 2014 that a local parent (and Director of Parents Rights in Education) shared several pamphlets with them. These pamphlets had been available at a vendor table during a previous year’s conference, and included one titled “Dry Humping Saves Lives,” and another titled “How to Get Your Groove on Fluid Free.” Over the next few months, the news station published a number of follow up reports on the ASC including unfounded claims of alleged criminal activity and misuse of state taxpayer dollars, as well as proposals for the Oregon House of Representatives Education Committee to investigate the conference.[3] No further information on these claims have become available. The reports about the conference were not widely reported on by other news outlets; however, an Oregon Health Authority spokesman defended the conference by saying, “The conference aligns with our goals around youth using accurate information and well-developed skills to make thoughtful choices about relationships and sexual health.”[4]

In an extended response to the controversy, the ASC website shared their thoughts on the news coverage of the conference leading up to its cancellation. The website stated that it was unfortunate that the news station “took conference material out of context, spliced in pictures of a pornographic nature that were not shown at the conference into their report, and used fear and shame in their reporting.”[5] On March 9, 2015, the Oregon Teen Pregnancy Task Force Board announced that the 2015 conference would be canceled. The announcement stated that “for over 30 years the ASC has provided valuable content and discussion to inform and engage public educators, health professionals, parents and youth. Our mission continues to be focused on facilitating communication and awareness on all facets of healthy sexuality for youth in our community. While we remain clear in our vision, we feel current conditions have shifted the setting and our ability to offer open, safe and honest conversations about sexuality. Additionally, we value our longtime relationship with our hosts in the Seaside community. We cannot, in good conscience, hold a conference when we believe conference participants and our Seaside partners may be put in uncomfortable or unpleasant situations.”[6]

The Oregon Teen Pregnancy Task Force Board has stated that they “remain dedicated to our mission and will carefully consider how to continue to meet that mission in a positive, respectful manner.”[7]

 

[1]“FAQ,” Adolescent Sexuality Conference, accessed May 4, 2015, http://oregon-asc.org/faq/.

[2] Carla Castano, “Does sex ed conference for students go too far?,” Koin.com, November 18, 2015, accessed April 28, 2015, http://koin.com/2014/11/18/does-sex-ed-conference-for-students-go-too-far/.

[3] Carla Castano, “Sheriff wants to shut down Sex Conference,” Koin.com, November 21, 2015, accessed April 28, 2015, http://koin.com/2014/11/21/sheriff-wants-to-shut-down-sex-conference/.

[4] Kathy Aney, “Canceled sexuality conference painted as perverse,” East Oregonian, March 12, 201,5 accessed May 4, 2015, http://www.eastoregonian.com/eo/local-news/20150312/canceled-sexuality-conference-painted-as-perverse.

[5] “Response to Recent KOIN News Coverage of Conference, ” Adolescent Sexuality Conference, December 3, 2015, accessed April 28, 2015, http://oregon-asc.org/response-to-recent-koin-news-coverage-of-conference/.

[6] “The ASC Canceled,” Adolescent Sexuality Conference, March 9, 2015, accessed April 28, 2015,  http://oregon-asc.org/the-asc-canceled/.

[7] Ibid.

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