Saturday, February 24, 2007

Sex Education: School or Parent - Who Rules?

(this cartoon originally appeared on Advocates for Youth)

Guest Columnist: Brenda Nixon

Imagine yourself as a ten-year-old blissfully walking to school; kicking pebbles as you go, listening to the birds, thinking about recess, kickball, and what’s in your lunch. Then invading your world booms the authoritative voice of the school counselor, “Ejaculation can happen during sexual intercourse, when the penis is inside the woman’s vagina. It can also happen while a boy is sleeping. This is called a nocturnal emission or ‘wet dream.’”

Explicit? Yes! Make you a little uncomfortable? Perhaps! How do you think it makes a 10-year old feel? This quote is from a curriculum given to children in a coeducation class at Boone Elementary - my daughter’s public school in KC, Missouri. It was told to Laura, then 10, without her having asked and without my knowledge or consent.

My husband, Paul, and I became informed one evening when Laura brought home her permission form in which she scrawled an emphatic, “No!” Asked why, Laura described her embarrassment and disgust at having to sit through the counselor’s comments on “breasts and breastmilk.”

Over dinner, we expanded our questions about the presentation and Laura’s thoughts and feelings. Thinking she had absentmindedly left the permission form in her backpack I asked, “When was it given to you?” Then, Laura’s bombshell reply, “When we were leaving the presentation.” Paul and I realized that our daughter was made uncomfortable in a guidance class she did not request and in which we had no foreknowledge.

So we called the school to learn what was being taught as “guidance curriculum.” After discussions with the counselor and principal, my husband and I informed several parents. They, like us, were unaware of the curriculum and naturally, had strong opinions. Some parents hadn’t even seen a parental permission form. We all met with the counselor, principal, and district’s Director of Personnel to share our concerns.

Many issues surrounded the curriculum and its implementation. We shared our daughter’s embarrassment, asking the counselor to consider a young girl’s feelings. Every parent objected to a coed environment for sexual instruction in elementary school.

One parent disapproved of schools doling out these intimate facts maintaining her right to be her child’s sex educator. The callous disregard for parental rights to informed consent had each parent righteously indignant. We questioned why the “teachable moments” philosophy is not applied to sex education.

I reminded these educators of the “too much too soon” practice of overloading kids with particulars before they are ready. My daughter’s knowledgeable counselor forgot - or never learned - child development. That the frontal lobe of the human brain, which controls reasoning, social conscience, and judgment, develops gradually and isn’t fully functional until the early teens. Therefore, children may get the sex facts but have limited ability to apply them to appropriate behaviors.

It was a tense yet productive confrontation. Reluctantly, these administrators agreed to suspend teaching the curriculum until they canvassed all parents with permission forms. Further, they agreed to release permission forms with a lengthy notice so parents could preview materials and make an informed choice on their child’s participation.

Additionally, the school board, upon hearing of our concerns, began a policy to forever correct this oversight. To adopt a policy that permission forms are given with a standard two-week notice would protect the rights of the parents - who advocate for their children.

Parents, be ever vigilant in protecting your rights. Be knowledgeable of what is going on in your child’s classroom and school. Ask questions, keep up communication with the teacher, attend PTA and school board meetings, and get to know your school administrators.

Always be an advocate for your child. She is depending on you to protect her from unwanted sexual information whether it’s from the public school, the media, or an individual. Children learn better only when they feel safe and comfortable.

As a parent, I encourage you to adopt the prayer of Robert Louis Stevenson, “Give us the strength to encounter that which is to come.”

Editor's Note: As advocates we need to be pro-active and not reactive. Talk to your child before someone else does.

©1999, Brenda Nixon

Brenda Nixon ( is a speaker, author, educator and mom. Her book Parenting Power in the Early Years is available at and her website.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Be Careful Little Eyes What You See

(photo originally posted on

Today's media bombards our children with images and ideas that they are just not equipped to process. It's getting harder and harder to watch what they watch, listen to what they listen to, and play what they play on the computer or video game console. As parents we can stand in the gap by previewing as much as possible those things that their little eyes see and their little ears hear.

I wrestled with bringing the following issue to your attention as it is controversial and somewhat horrifying. But if we're going to stand up for our children, we need to be informed. I want to tell you about a new RPG (role playing game) available for computer that is sweeping the country, both because some people are just plain twisted and others are dangerously curious.

"Super Columbine Massacre RPG!" created by Danny Ledonne, has hit the streets with a game that puts the players in the roles of the Columbine shooters, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, as they shoot up the school.


That is the question of the day. The firestorm surrounding this game has been reported all over the internet and in gaming magazines like GameInformer. My fifteen year old son called this game to my attention as a horrifying example of game developers gone wild. A few years ago, when I spoke to 3 million radio listeners about choosing video games for children, the most violent game quoted was tame in comparison to this one.

With real security camera footage, news footage, and the killers personal diaries and other writings, this game turns the knife in the already fatally wounded souls who gave their lives that day and their families. My outrage was hard to contain.

But I have to do as I prescribe. Make sure I know the opposing point of view before I spout off about my own opinion. My opinion must be based on evidence and the only way to get that evidence is to do my homework. If you want to do your homework too, you can read for yourself what the game developers say about their product. Discernment comes after careful investigation. In order to stand firm for your child, take the time to know your opposition.

My personal opinion is that there is no place for this product, no matter how artfully the developers tried to convey their message. It is not necessary to see through the eyes of these killers in order to understand what happened and why. I'd rather focus on how God triumphed that day instead.

Friday, February 02, 2007

The Buzz and Hum of Life

Welcome to Guest Columnist: Patricia Lorenz
Buzz, buzz, buzz…hum, hum, hum. Buzz, buzz, buzz…hum, hum, hum. The sound is rhythmic, never ending. It's a soft sound, pleasant. Reminds me of the ebb and flow of waves crashing into rocks and then quietly returning back to sea. But this sound is even softer than that. This sound could be the background for relaxation tapes of the living earth.

This buzz-hum is the sound of four fluids being pumped into my son Andrew's veins. The buzzing isn't as soothing as the hum, but nevertheless, at times is has the power to lure both of us towards slumber in his hospital room.

This young man is supposed to be hyped and careening through his last four weeks of his senior year in high school. He's supposed to be bragging to me about how many hits he got in PE softball today. Writing that last essay for English class. Or rattling off his list of graduation gift requests. Getting the brakes fixed on his motorcycle.

Instead this 18-year-old, 6'3" skinny drink of water is lying still with three IV poles lined up like soldiers next to his bed pumping antibiotics, steroids, a saline solution and red blood cells into his left arm. Ulcerative Colitis eats at his intestines like an infidel who tears into town to do nothing but wreck havoc.

Doctors, nurses and lab technicians poke and prod and stick needles and various plastic and metal things into his body. Granted, they do it lovingly and with tremendous compassion, but they still do it.

I watch, wait and do typical Mom things…rub his back, feed him ice chips, chatter about the real world, fluff his pillow, go on clutter patrol in his room and ask enough questions so I understand what's being done to my youngest child.

For the first three days I'm so calm and serene I amaze myself. During a particularly quiet moment while reading a magazine I read a quote by Sam J. Ervin Jr. Religious faith is not a storm cellar to which men and women can flee for refuge from the storms of life. It is, instead, an inner spiritual strength which enables them to face those storms with hope and serenity.

Of course, I say to myself, I am filled with hope and serenity. Otherwise how can I profess to be a woman of faith? Feeling quite smug with myself, I bask in my serenity, proud of my tower of strength attitude.

By the end of day four my son is cranky. Four days without food or water punctuated with pain and constant intrusions into his personal space, have left him unable to put any social skill programs into his body's computer. He's running on two cylinders instead of eight so he snaps at me, complains about everything, declares that he's sick of visitors and phone calls and in the end reduces me to tears. I'm not such pillar after all.

That night, still in my son's room, I whimper to our pastor, Father Tom, who has come for a visit. "What's wrong with me? I'm losing it. Where's my serenity? Doesn't my faith guarantee serenity?"

"Nonsense," he says. "You can't be in the same room with someone 18 hours a day for four days without losing it. Happily married couples can't even do it when they're perfectly healthy. You need to get out of here. Go for a walk. Take care of you for awhile. I'll stay."

I leave, afraid that if I don't I'll burst into loud shaking sobs. I head for my friend Betsy's house where we walk, talk (mostly me blathering about the whole week with all its gruesome details) and finish off the visit with brownies and hugs.

Two hours later I'm back in my son's room. Our pastor leaves, the last poking, prodding and injections are completed for the day and once again, I've settled into a chair next to the IV pumps.

Buzz, buzz, buzz. Hum, hum, hum. As I listen I begin to understand more about faith. I learn that it's there and that it flows like medicine through an IV, sure and steady. Sometimes it buzzes. Sometimes it hums. For now, the humming lulls me to sleep.

Editor's Note: How can you step aside, even briefly, to take care of your own needs, so that you will continue to have the strength to stand for your child?

Patricia Lorenz is an art-of-living writer and speaker, the author of seven books, co-author of Chicken Soup for the Tea Lover's Soul and Chicken Soup for the Chocolate Lover's Soul, (to be released in October 2007), the top contributing writer for Chicken Soup books in the country with stories in 30 of them, a contributing writer for 17 Daily Guideposts books, and the author of over 400 articles and stories. To hire her as a speaker contact her at or