General Articles

Portland Community Saves their Sex Ed

Portland, ME
The Portland School Committee voted unanimously to save the district’s existing sex education program from budget cuts. The interim superintendent had proposed cuts to the fourth and fifth grade program for the eighth consecutive year. Portland is the only district in the Maine with staff positions dedicated to sex education, and the interim superintendent argued that leaving this position vacant would save the district $45,000 in a year in which budget cuts were necessary. [1]  
The proposal from the superintendent would have eliminated the only sexuality educator serving all fourth and fifth graders in the district. Regular classroom teachers would have had to take her place teaching the six-week elementary school program, which offers lessons about the body, reproductive system, puberty, sexual abuse, harassment and sexually transmitted diseases.[2] The Maine Department of Education requires comprehensive sex education to be taught in schools with parental consent, but does not control who teaches it.
At the public hearing about Portland’s sex education, dozens of parents voiced their concern and told the Committee that this is not a program that can be cut. Parents argued that students would loose out on discussing sensitive subjects such as sexual abuse because classroom teachers do not have the proper training.[3] 
Parents and Committee members also noted a previous decision the body made in 2008, amid much controversy, to allow middle school students to access prescription contraceptives at their school-based health clinic. One School Committee member argued that “the committee should not increase access to contraceptives and then reduce access to sex education.” [4] 
The Committee voted 7–0 to keep the existing program and staff.  It’s still looking to reduce spending by approximately $500,000, but has not indicated that any other sexuality education programming or staff is on the chopping block.[5]

[1] Elbert Aull, “Proposed cut renews sex education debate Making a staffing change would save $45,000, but shifting sex ed lessons to other teachers draws fire,” Portland Press Herald, 2 January 2009, accessed on 3 January 2009, <>.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] “Portland Schools Won’t Cut Sex Ed Classes,” WMTW, 22 January 2009, accessed on 3 January 2009, <>.