Sex ed: Will talk of condoms be banned if state wins $3.2 million abstinence education grant?

The Republican-heavy state Board of Education is going after a $3.2 million abstinence-only education grant that Governor Bill Ritter's administration passed up in favor of a $3.9 million grant that pays for sex ed that teaches kids about birth control, too. So... if Colorado wins the grant, will school districts that favor contraceptive-based (read: realistic) sex ed be forced to throw out all those bananas and condoms?

No, says Colorado Department of Education spokesman Mark Stevens. A 2007 state law says that while abstinence-only education is good, it can't be the only thing taught in schools. And the state's new academic content standards require schools seeking accreditation to meet specific health education standards, which include stuff about sex.

Plus, Stevens says, participation in the programs provided by the abstinence-only grant would be voluntary. Districts such as Denver Public Schools, which recently passed a sex ed resolution ensuring kids "have access to science-based, comprehensive, medically-accurate, culturally relevant, and age-appropriate sexuality education," could choose not to take the money -- or choose to take it and use it to supplement their other curriculum.

"The grant provides more resources for abstinence instruction," Stevens says. "It doesn't mean you have to cancel out all the other instruction."

But if there are districts that decide to cancel sex ed altogether, not to worry. Schoolchildren are always welcome to check out the blogs here at for informative, relevant and age-appropriate sex ed materials, such as our recent Show & Tell blog post, "Gratuitous Randomness: Fish That Resemble Penises."

More from our Education archive: "Denver public schools debate how to teach kids to avoid the clap."

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Melanie Asmar is a staff writer for Westword. She joined the paper in 2009 and has won awards for her stories about education, immigration and epic legal battles. Got a tip? She'd love to hear it.
Contact: Melanie Asmar