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Parents, Health Researchers Urge School Board to Adopt Comprehensive Curriculum

Pittsburgh, PA

A group of 15 students, parents, and health researchers urged the Pittsburgh School Board to modify its abstinence-only curriculum to include discussions about contraception.

According to the city’s curriculum supervisor for health and physical education, Pittsburgh’s current abstinence-only-until-marriage curriculum addresses AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases, but does not include the discussion of contraception.1 The supervisor argued that this abstinence-only approach reflects Pittsburgh’s “conservative mentality.”2 She noted that teachers are directed to answer questions about contraception if students ask them, but admitted that “there is room for improvement” in the curriculum.3

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health have now teamed with parents, students, and other Pittsburgh residents to make that improvement a reality. The group spoke at the school board’s April 16 meeting, pleading for a comprehensive approach to sexuality education.

“It is our duty to prepare them for these situations,” asserted one doctoral student.4  A parent at the meeting agreed, arguing that the school district “does students a disservice” by emphasizing abstinence at the expense of comprehensive discussions of contraception.5 The parent argued that abstinence-based programs do not reduce the rate of sexual activity, and insisted that it is “better for students to get factual information from their teachers than possibly inaccurate information from friends.”6

School board officials also heard from high school students themselves. “It’s okay to talk about abstinence, but let’s make sure it’s more than that” said one Pittsburgh High School senior. He added that some of his friends had become parents “long before they wanted to be.”7

The school board did not make any conclusive changes to the curriculum at the April 16 meeting. SIECUS will continue to monitor this situation.


  1. Joe Smydo, “Some want contraception taught in city’s schools,” Pittsburgh Post Gazette, 17 April 2007, accessed 18 April 2007,
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid.