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After Reexamination, Kelso, WA Decides Against Abstinence-Only

The Kelso, WA school board began reviewing its sexuality and HIV/AIDS education policy more than a year ago and decided in March 2006 that students deserved more comprehensive information about both abstinence and contraception. Kelso School Board President, Mike Hass announced, “this is the continuation of the direction we set a year ago. We think this will improve the safety of our kids from a [sexually transmitted disease] standpoint. It’s going to be a good thing for Kelso.”1

Specifically, the school district was using an adapted version of the state-approved KNOW HIV/STD Prevention Curriculum that addresses sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) including HIV/AIDS, but had been modified to include little information about contraception. Board members and health professionals were concerned that the abstinence-only-until-marriage approach was failing as Cowlitz County STD rates continued to rise.2

When the policy first came up for review, some abstinence-only-until-marriage advocates from the local crisis pregnancy center attended board meetings and workshops, arguing that teaching about contraceptives was “aiming low.”3 Yet the board eventually decided to follow Washington ‘s new state guidelines for sexuality education instead. The voluntary Guidelines for Sexual Health and Disease Prevention developed by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Department of Health promote abstinence but also include information on contraception, disease prevention, decision-making skills, and access to health care.

Now that the board has mandated following these guidelines, school staff will begin working to develop a curriculum that meets these standards. Upon completion, the materials will come before the board for approval and be made available to parents for review. Parents will also continue to have the option of removing their children from any lessons.


  1. Hope Anderson, “Kelso Votes to Abandon Abstinence-Only Policy,” The Daily News (WA), 15 March 2006, accessed 17 March 2006, <>.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Hope Anderson, “Kelso Mulls Teaching Beyond Abstinence,” The Daily News (WA), 11 January 2005.