General Articles

School Board Suspends Sex Education Program After Speaker Answers Question about Oral Sex

Howell, MI
The Board of Education in Howell, MI voted 6–1 on October 13th to suspend the district’s Baby Think It Over program until the district can revisit and clarify its sex education guidelines. The decision came after a guest speaker from Planned Parenthood broached the subject of oral sex in response to a student’s question about the purpose of a cherry-flavored condom. The speaker was leading a discussion about contraception in a freshmen class.
The school board’s current policy allows for the Baby Think It Over program to be presented in child development and psychology classes. Guest speakers from Planned Parenthood are approved to lead the classes and talk about abstinence and contraception, however, the policy does not specify what types of contraception can be mentioned, how to respond to students’ questions, or whether or not oral sex can be discussed.[1]  The board’s vice president argued that “cherry-flavored condoms and oral sex are not approved [topics].”[2]
The Board of Education says it wants to make sure that the district is in compliance with a 2004 state law which mandates that all sex education material be reviewed by an advisory council and the public and approved by the school board. Failure to comply could result in the district forfeiting one percent of its total school aid, which amounts to $640,000.[3]
After the board voted to suspend the program, the superintendent asked the board’s Sex Education Advisory Council to more explicitly define what topics can be covered in the curriculum so that teachers, guest speakers, and parents know precisely what will be discussed. In addition, the board’s vice president asked her fellow board members to review the makeup of the district’s Advisory Council membership to ensure that half of the members are parents who have children in the district and that it includes students, educators, local clergy, and community health professionals (both of which are required by state law).[4]
The board plans to meet again this Fall to discuss recommendations. SIECUS will continue to monitor the situation.

[1] Lisa Roose-Church, “Reproductive health program suspended,” Livingston Daily Press and Argus, 15 October 2008, accessed 21 October 2008, <>.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Valerie Olander, “Howell halts sex education program: It will look over its guidelines after guest instructor’s teaching lead to forbidden topic,” The Detroit News, 14 October 2008, accessed 21 October 2008, <>.

[4] Ibid.