Delta County School Board Rips Off Kids

A slide from Shelly Donahue's "WAIT" program shown at Delta High School

Crucifixes in a slide from Shelly Donahue’s “WAIT” program at Delta High School

The Delta County School Board is violating state and federal laws in order to keep students from getting medically-accurate sex education information, and it seems to be by design.

Last October, the school district hired controversial abstinence-only-before-marriage pontificator Shelly Donahue as a sex education speaker for students. According to students, this was the only “sex education” the Delta County School District provided them, and the school board and district administration apparently consider this an adequate sex education.

Far from it.

For those who aren’t familiar with Shelly Donahue, she is an evangelistic Christian abstinence-only speaker who rakes in government grant funds by giving “WAIT” (“Why Am I Tempted”) training in public schools. Donahue’s website says

“She is passionately committed to Jesus Christ as the ultimate answer to the teen sexual activity problem in America. As a motivational speaker and a leading sex education expert, she is making a significant impact for the Kingdom of God!”

The leading "T" in Donahue's business logo is a crucifix in flames; the logo and cross appear in every slide, regardless if presentations at public schools

The leading “T” in Donahue’s business logo is a flaming crucifix; the logo and cross appeared in every slide in her presentations at Delta schools

In her talks, Donahue dishes out vast amounts of medically inaccurate information to kids and uses broad, simplistic analogies that convey stereotypical images of what boys’ and girls’ personalities are like. She includes liberal doses of religiously-based, guilt-and-shame to frighten students out of having sex before marriage.

Sex ed in Delta County: “Waffles and Spaghetti”?

Donahue is known for antics like holding up a plastic bag full of spaghetti to illustrate how “girls brains are like spaghetti” and a toaster waffle to illustrate how boys’ brains are compartmentalized. She says intercourse is unnecessary for a girl to get pregnant because if a guy gets sperm anywhere near a girls’ vagina, her vagina will turn into a “little Hoover vacuum cleaner,” suck it up and get the girl pregnant. Donahue lets students know, in no uncertain terms, that people who have sex before marriage are somehow damaged or broken. In her talks, she likens women who have sex before marriage to a piece of used packing tape, saying premarital sexual relations ruin women’s ability to bond to a mate. In another bit she likens girls who have had premarital sex to dirty diapers. She tells audiences it is improper for girls to ask boys for their phone numbers, or call or text them because “boys are built to pursue” and women are designed to be pursued.

Her talks at public schools are supposed to be strictly free of religious talk, but in Delta County schools she told students that having sex before marriage “puts them further from God,” and every slide in her presentation bore a crucifix. (All of the slides in her show display the logo of her speaking business, “Tall Truth,” in which the leading “T” is a flaming crucifix.)

Most Delta kids probably accepted Donahue’s drivel uncritically, but to their credit, a few savvy students openly questioned it.

One accomplished 4.0 GPA student who attended Donahue’s October 2015 talk to Delta High School students said it

“…was offensive and degrading to women and was strictly heterosexual. She compared women who had premarital sex to used tape and dirty diapers. She said several other degrading things about sexually active women, women without fathers, and females in general. The information was far from scientific and had underlying religious messages.”

A handful of Delta High students protested at Donahue’s talk by wearing T-shirts that said WAIT stood for “What Asinine, Idiotic Teaching,” and “Real control is birth control.”

Those kids were right.

Donahue and her bag of spahetti

Donahue and her bag of spaghetti

What the Delta County School Board doesn’t seem to understand or is willfully ignoring, is that Shelly Donahue’s program and similar abstinence-only-before-marriage programs are the educational equivalent of snake oil. These programs are based on religious dogma, not sound medical advice.

In Colorado and nationally, there are nonprofit organizations set up solely to fight these degrading, stereotype-promoting, fear-and-shame-based programs like Donahue’s, keep them out of schools and promote the teaching of medically-correct, evidence-based, effective sex education.

Programs Like Donahue’s are Proven Not to Work, and Even Do Harm

There is no evidence that abstinence-before-marriage programs produce results to justify their existence. Federal studies confirm this. A significant body of research, including a 2007 meta-study that examined 13 previous studies involving almost 16,000 youth, showed these programs are flat-out ineffective. They don’t increase rates of sexual abstinence, they don’t delay the initiation of sexual behavior or reduce the number of sexual partners. They don’t even have any effect on rates of sexually-transmitted diseases or infections. And states that require abstinence-only-before-marriage “sex ed” to be taught in schools are the states with the highest teen pregnancy rates.

What’s more, abstinence-only-before-marriage programs like Donahue’s are harmful.

Why?

Delta County School Board Vice President Ron Germann

Delta County School Board Vice President Ron Germann

Because they intentionally withhold very important information about contraceptives from students. They perpetuate gender and sexual stereotypes, blame women for men’s sexual aggression, and stigmatize women who are sexually active. They portray men as unable to control their own sexual urges and place an unfair and unrealistic burden of purity and chastity on young women. They completely ignore gay, lesbian and transgender sexuality. Programs like Donahue’s send biased, heteronormative statements and messages of intolerance to students.

Delta Schools: “Laws? What Laws?”

Colorado is one of only thirteen states (pdf) that mandate the teaching of medically-accurate sex education in public schools.

Under Colorado law (pdf), public schools don’t have to teach sex ed, but if they do, they are required give students evidence-based, scientifically and medically accurate information. They MUST include instruction on the use, function, side effects and availability of all methods of contraception. They must teach students about emergency contraception, sexually-transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS. They must teach students how to avoid making unwanted verbal and physical sexual advances, and how drug and alcohol use can affect personal decision-making. They also must also consider other cultures and sexual orientations, and respect these differences in their curriculum. The law also gives parents the ability to opt their children out of such a presentation.

These are legal requirements, not options or choices, and these requirements pertain to every single public school in the state, regardless of location, or where a school system gets its funding for sexual education. If any Colorado public school district decides to teach sexual education, it MUST adhere to these requirements.

But not the Delta School District. Instead, they are intentionally blocking kids from getting state mandated information, and culpability falls squarely on the school board.

Living in a World of 50 Years Ago

Delta School Board President Tammy Smith, who is responsible for assuring the school district obeys all applicable state and federal laws

Delta School Board President Tammy Smith, who is responsible for assuring the school district obeys all applicable state and federal laws

Delta County School Board members — Tammy Smith, Ron Germann, Pete Blair, Jan Tuin and Jill Jurca — have refused to respond to questions about the legality of what they are doing in the schools in Delta. They are living in a world of yesterday, and appear to be intentionally withholding crucial information from students. They are ripping off Delta kids and disobeying state and federal laws — an unsavory way for a school board to act, and a bad message to send to kids.

Cute analogies about how boys are like microwave ovens and girls are like crock pots are fine if you don’t want kids to have any of  the factual knowledge they need to stay safe in the world, be able to delay unwanted pregnancies or deal effectively with moving into adulthood. Abstinence-only-before-marriage programs like Donahue’s, when implemented alone as Delta schools are doing, violate students’ legal right under Colorado law to get a comprehensive, reality-based sex education. If parents don’t want their kids to have this information, that is their choice. They can legally opt their kids out of an adequate program, but as long as the District does teach sex ed, it is it’s legal responsibility to provide an adequate program that complies with state standards.

Repeatedly violating the separation of church and state, as Delta schools have is bad enough, but a public school district that intentionally withholds legally required information from its students, and violates federal and state laws to do it is beyond appalling, and more fitting of a third world country than the United States.

Let’s hope the American Civil Liberties Union, the Freedom From Religion Foundation and other national organizations take notice, and decisive action to turn this rogue school district around. It’s very clear that the District is not going to correct these problems on its own.

27 comments for “Delta County School Board Rips Off Kids

  1. Michael Thorne
    July 20, 2016 at 7:41 am

    Good post. However, the whole thing is rendered less credible by your apparent ignorance of the simple difference between a cross and a crucifix. Personally, I believe neither should be used in public school educational materials except to educate students about what these symbols mean to those who use them. However, your own credibility suffers when you repeatedly refer to a simple cross as a crucifix.

    • Gwen S.
      April 13, 2016 at 10:39 am

      You really had to dig deep for that one, didn’t you, Laurie? The “news” article above is five years old! It’s really very old news to trash the well-documented, medically and scientifically accurate sexual risk avoidance programs like that which guest speaker, Ms. Donahue, taught in Delta County schools last Fall. In order to be certified to teach the truth with which she educates students highly effectively all over the world, she was required to pass a rigorous national test……..far more rigorous than the old “sex ed” programs, which have to pass NOTHING to be taught.

  2. Gwen
    April 11, 2016 at 4:52 pm

    The article on this blog is absurd. The arguments against Ms. Donahue’s presentations are obviously pulled from an old biased article printed many years ago. They are as inaccurate then as they are now…….and taken completely out of context. The author has quite obviously never met Ms. Donahue nor witnessed any of her thousands of presentations over a multitude of years, or she would not make such rash generalizations and assumptions which bear no resemblance to what is true. Further, Ms. Donahue receives absolutely no funding from the federal nor the state government. Her funding comes entirely from private sources. She has no connection whatsoever with any governmental entity.

    Because I had heard such praise for Ms. Donahue on a nation-wide basis, I made it a habit to be in the audience on numerous occasions when she has talked with parents, grandparents, and any other interested adults about this topic as she was about to present the next day to students in public schools…..and in 48 different states around our country, over a period of at least two decades. She makes no religious references whatsoever in these situations. The facts speak for themselves, for truth stands on its own very successfully. Her analogies with spaghetti and waffles are a simple application of a much more complicated subject. Ask any doctoral candidate in psychology; he or she will tell you that they are brilliant practical comparisons. Ask any doctor about the analogy with microwaves and crock pots; he or she will agree that these are actually quite practical descriptions of something far more complex. And all you need to do is sit in the back of the room when she’s teaching in public school classrooms or assemblies to hear that her presentations are entirely secular.

    Ms. Donahue has taught this topic all over the world for over twenty years. You have no idea how fortunate that Delta County is to have acquired her expertise for presentations to the students in this district! There is absolutely no one more expert, more well-informed, more well-educated on the topic, more personally concerned with young people, who is so very clearly understandable to teens, than she is! She has an ability to walk into a room with young persons and immediately establish rapport with them! They love her! And, after living in their teen culture every day, which cultural influence usually goes against what parents have taught, those teens are so relieved to hear the truth from an expert like this, spoken in a language they can fully comprehend and apply to their lives!

    By the way, Ms. Donahue is fully cognizant of Colorado state regulations regarding sex education, and her presentations meet all requirements.

    Wake up and smell the coffee! The teen culture in our country is a mess! Messages which contradict parents surround teens every day! And along comes an expert willing to stand up for what the kids know to be true! They quickly relate to her and warm to her wisdom. And their lives are so much better off for the new knowledge they acquire from Ms. Donahue.

    Ms. Donahue is awesome! I so wish that we could get her into our own school district! You have no idea how fortunate you are in Colorado’s Delta County!

    Gwen S.

    • Steve
      April 11, 2016 at 9:31 pm

      So do you believe men are exalted over women? Do you believe it is the women’s responsibility not to tempt the men into sexual activity? She apparently does. At least this is what teens are getting from her presentation. The Delta High School newspaper indicated she reflects this erroneous bias. And it is not psychological accurate.

    • Anne Landman
      April 13, 2016 at 9:54 am

      Dear Gwen,

      The reports on the contents of Ms. Donahue’s talks at Delta Schools were reported by students who attended them, and documented them, during the week of October 26, 2015, and parents who attended Ms. Donahue’s pre-talk for parents, arranged by the district.

      Anne

  3. James Colfer
    April 11, 2016 at 12:23 pm

    Shelly Donahue is one of the most magnificent women I have ever known. She has
    witnessed too many broken hearted, damaged girls who have had less than good experiences with sex at an early age. Pregnancy, abortions, venereal disease etc. The one thing she does not do is teach kids how to put on a condom on a cucumber, as many so called sex ed teachers teach. I have heard her presentations more than once to both parents and school aged children. She gives them nothing but absolute truths about sexuality. Why are there seemingly so many who seem threatened, angry or offended by hearing the truth. I am so happy that the schools are including abstinence programs in the curricula. Who has ever been hurt by practicing abstinence before marriage?

    • Anne Landman
      April 13, 2016 at 9:56 am

      No doubt she is a charismatic public speaker, but she perpetuates sexual stereotypes, fails to address topics required by the state like contraception and STDs and STIs, and relies on guilt and shame messages in telling students about sexuality. Not good. Indeed, bad.

  4. Brenda Baecker
    April 10, 2016 at 5:09 pm

    Wow, how slanted. I am a certified WAIT Trainer and was certified by Shelly. I became involved because it was information the kids were NOT receiving. (I have worked with teens for over 25 years) The program is more about building character and becoming a person of character. I lead the program for 4 years in several schools and yes, in some church youth programs as well. God was only introduced when in a Christian environment. It was presented secular, as per the law, when in government institutions. I have always, and I am sure Shelly does as well, started my program with approaching the intelligence of the students. I would say, “Stats change. My information could be out dated. If it is, please, by all means, let me know.” Kids today are wise and educated and will look up the information. They have challenged my statements only to find the stats were correct.

    I am certified to facilitate 3 other relationship programs and much of Shelly’s information crosses-over. It on comes from years of research and is used by great educators and professional such as Dr. Gary Smally, Dr. Scott Stanley out of CU, and much of the medical info has come from the CDC and Health and Human Resources Departments.

    WHY NOT? Why not educate our youth on the many different options and views of sexuality? Sex has become an activity more than an expression of love. I taught this class for many years as a married woman who had married her high school sweetheart. Now, I am divorced and in the dating world after 30 years. I am very grateful for the information I received in these workshops. This info is something many adults need to hear as well as our youth. It’s good information to help all of us make wise choices while in the dating world. Religion has nothing to do with it – it’s just good solid information. I would encourage the parents to go with your students, have open discussions and help your children choose the right path for them.

    You can teach your children all about birth control and safe sex, but honestly, is sex safe today? Even as an adult in the dating world, men have lied to me about partners, STDs, etc. I can not tell you the number of times I have felt like, “Wow, dodged a bullet there.” 1 in 3 people, not teens, people, have Herpes. Are they lying about it? Do they even know they have it? Many don’t. I have three children and all were conceived while using birth control. I directed a pregnancy center for many years. Most positive test, were using birth control.

    WAIT Training is an amazing program that helps kids hear the other side of the coin. I see no harm in teaching our youth both sides and allowing them to make an educated decision. Slanted education is not education, it is brain washing. If someone would like to present birth control and the concept of safe sex to my children, feel free. I will teach them my view and in the end, they will adopt what is correct for them. If someone wants to expose my children to another faith, or the idea of no faith, go ahead. The choice is theirs, not mine. Why be threatened by someone that offers a different prospective. I will end with this, if you feel anything she said was incorrect, google it and share the information.

    • Anne Landman
      April 24, 2016 at 4:26 pm

      Brenda, there isn’t “another side” when it comes to standard biology and medically-correct information. Students have a right (under Colorado law, no less) to medically-accurate information about STDs, all kinds of contraceptives and their use and side effects. It is a legal requirement that if a school district chooses to teach sex ed, they must include specific information on these topics. The only reasons Ms. Donahue’s program is “threatening” is because when given in the absence of factually correct sex ed information, it violates students’ rights to accurate, factually correct information, as well as violating state law mandating the content of sex ed instruction in ALL public schools in the state.

  5. Tim
    April 10, 2016 at 4:39 pm

    Gee this the main topic of for delta county school you’ll a bunch of dumbasses working in this district . If i was still in the area you’ll get a unpleasant advice from me . to the cedarage school and the school board

    • Jim
      April 11, 2016 at 7:57 pm

      One only has to read your reply to know a dumb ass.

  6. Sharon
    April 10, 2016 at 1:56 pm

    Anne, Thank you for posting your commentary and enlightening information to those of us who don’t know. Since the school board is clearly breaking laws, to what authorities do they answer? How do we as parents help to correct these absurdities?

    • Laurie
      April 11, 2016 at 9:12 am

      Register complaints with school board, and go to state health department. Delta schools are completely guilty of sharing biased non medically correct sexual education. It is a crime! Almost as bad as pray the gay away. Shame on Delta county

  7. Hannah F
    April 10, 2016 at 9:48 am

    This article is completely inaccurate. Yes Donahue is a christian, but the topic of religion and christianity was scarce and non existent in her presentation, unless you count her logo as shoving religion into people’s faces, thats your deal. She brought information to light that students would have never been able to hear if it wasn’t for her presentation, useful information that was factual and unbiased. It seems the people that are so critical of the school district can’t be satisfied with anything. The analogies she made were used because students can’t always wrap their minds around stuff and analogies are the best tools to help them understand, they weren’t ofensive, they were factual. Some things are hard to hear, and being offended by them just shows maybe some weren’t ready to hear it. Needless to say, the presentation did it’s job and that’s all that we can ask of the school district.

    • Anne Landman
      April 10, 2016 at 12:32 pm

      Hannah, thanks for your comments, but I think you’re selling students short. They are capable of understanding a more realistic and accurate portrayal of human sexuality than waffles, noodles and crock pots. And it isn’t just illegal to omit telling students about things like contraceptives and STDs, it shortchanges the students and puts them behind their peers in learning.

      You are also letting both the District and Donahue off the hook too easily. Any mention of God or presentation of religious symbology in a talk in a public school is out of bounds, violates the First Amendment and students’ rights to be free of religious coercion in a public school. And this wasn’t the first or only proselytizing incident parents have reported. Teachers bible-quoting students in class, bible giveaways during class time aided by teachers, youth pastors on campus, bible studies led by a teacher in his classroom immediately before the start of school with free doughnuts…the list is long and growing.

    • Regie
      April 10, 2016 at 9:06 pm

      Something can be either scarce or nonexistent, not both. And equating a woman’s brain to a bag of spaghetti is not a creative analogy, it’s just foolish and uninformed.

      Also, you have a completely inaccurate understanding of the word “unbiased.”

  8. Laurie
    April 10, 2016 at 9:28 am

    The true problem is they are not sharing medically, scientifically, biologically correct information for our youth!! Rural areas in Colorado have a 12% higher HIV infection rate then the urban area. No religion should be present when sharing education about sex. What an outdated uneducated community that is and why it is so dysfunctional. Shame on the adults carrying this message to young people in this community.

  9. Steve Leighton
    April 10, 2016 at 9:16 am

    Donahue’s message is billed by the district as a factual informational session. They do indicate parents can have students opt out. Remembering what our older children went through when attending Delta High School as well as looking at Donahue’s website, we animatedly chose to have our daughter opt out of the session when it was presented at Paonia High School. However, she was one of the only ones…probably due to how it was billed by the district. All her friends were horrified by the presentation. The district has gotten away with this for years. Something needs to be done.

    • Anne Landman
      April 10, 2016 at 12:35 pm

      Thank you, Steve. It sounds like you, your daughter and her friends get what is going on here. The Delta County School District seems to be acting like a rogue school district when it comes to mixing religion and public education. Unfortunately, there is little to no oversight of local school districts by the state and the only ways to change it are 1) public pressure, 2) Recall school board members or elect new ones, 3) Lawsuits or threats of lawsuits by parents and students in the District.

  10. Bill Sanders
    April 9, 2016 at 11:27 pm

    The only thing I saw missing was the handing out of promise rings.

  11. April 9, 2016 at 5:30 pm

    Turn the screws some more – you betcha – they need to be!

    Many will feel picked on again.

    What is so hard to understand about fairly simple rules and wordage concerning this?

    When jeebus drives the thought process one is easily blinded to the truth.

    That is not a pass to teh stupid.

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