FFRF Warns Delta County School District to End Shelly Donahue’s “Sex Ed” Talks

Donahue with her bag of spaghetti, which she uses to illustrate what girls' brains are like

Donahue with her bag of spaghetti, which she uses to illustrate what girls’ brains are like

The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) has sent a letter (pdf) to the Delta County School District’s attorney warning that Shelly Donahue’s “sex ed” talks in schools there violate laws that prohibit religious proselytizing in public schools and require specific information be included in public schools’ comprehensive sex education courses.

Andrew Seidel, staff attorney with FFRF in Madison, Wisconsin, wrote to Aaron Clay, legal counsel for the Delta County School District 50J in the two-page letter that:

“Shelly Donahue’s biography on her website prominently includes her personal ‘salvation’ story and how she came to accept Jesus and the Holy Spirit into her life. While discussing her relationship with her ex-husband, Ms Donahue writes that ‘I believe that because Dave and I didn’t begin our relationship with a foundation of Biblical purity, we never connected heart-to-heart.’ That belief, and her subsequent desire to ‘fill that hole in [her] heart,’ led Ms. Donahue to develop her abstinence-only program. She also claims that a preacher and divine intervention healed her brain tumors. Finally, she proclaims, ‘I am passionately committed to Jesus Christ as the ultimate answer to ALL things, including teen sex.’ Her sex education program relies on her religiosity, not science, medical training, or specialized knowledge of the subject. Her website includes several videos of her TALL Truth presentations, which feature emphatic references to her religious views, but no discussion of STIs or contraceptives, which are essential, and state-mandated, elements of sex education.”

Seidel points out how easy it is to discern Donahue’s religious agenda from her website, and says that it is “well settled that schools may not advance or promote religion.” He cites several nationally significant legal cases in which rulings have reinforced this legal point.

Seidel wrote that,

“…In this case, it would have taken only a cursory glance at Ms. Donahue’s website to verify her religious agenda. Merely skimming her ‘About’ page reveals her inappropriateness as a speaker on sex education. It is difficult for us to understand how this event could have been approved. Your community undoubtedly possesses many secular experts who have experience, training, certification and/or degrees and would be delighted, usually at no cost to the district, to discuss the topic of sex education before your student body, and whose presence would not raise constitutional red flags.”

Screen Shot 2016-08-12 at 3.13.12 PM

The logo of Donahue’s speaking business contains a religious cross in place of the leading “T” in “Tall”

FFRF’s attorney asked the Delta County School District to “refrain from sponsoring inappropriate and unconstitutional assemblies in the future” and “ensure no future assemblies are held by outside groups that contain an underlying proselytizing message or agenda.” The group’s attorney also specified that the District should not invite Shelly Donahue back to speak again, and requested to be notified in writing of the steps the District will take to remedy the problem.

In an April 1, 2016 article in the Daily Sentinel, Delta County School District Assistant Superintendent Kurt Clay said Shelly Donahue has been giving her presentations to Delta County students “for at least the last decade.”

Seidel also asked for an update from the school district’s attorney about the matter of Cidney Fisk’s grades being docked for speaking out on “issues like those raised in this letter.”

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NOTE: Aaron Clay, the District’s lawyer, and Kurt Clay, the assistant superintendent, are brothers.

16 comments for “FFRF Warns Delta County School District to End Shelly Donahue’s “Sex Ed” Talks

  1. Frustrated Reader
    August 16, 2016 at 9:20 pm

    I really wish the supposed facts were researched and proven to be true prior to publishing them in a blog. Readers continue to be misled…disappointing from all angles.

    • Anne Landman
      August 20, 2016 at 9:23 am

      I included a link to a PDF of the letter from FFRF so readers can verify that all the quotes taken from it are accurate. I also supplied a link to the Daily Sentinel article I cited, so readers can likewise verify statements I cited were actually contained in that published newpaper article. There is nothing in this blot that cannot be verified.

      • Frustrated Reader
        August 22, 2016 at 8:28 pm

        I’m pretty sure Aaron and Kurt Clay are not brothers. Disputed…

        • Anne Landman
          August 24, 2016 at 6:12 pm

          I’m pretty sure they are. Several different people in Delta have told me this is the case, and no one has said that it is not the case. The two both share the same last name, both were raised in Hotchkiss, the population of Hotchkiss is less than 1,000 people and they both went to Hotchkiss High School…

          • Frustrated Reader
            August 25, 2016 at 9:40 pm

            Does not equate they are brothers. Many people have the same last name. Relation, yes. Brothers, no. Proven fact.

  2. Jan
    August 13, 2016 at 1:28 pm

    Get her out of our schools!! Good work, Anne, in bringing this story to us.

    • Anne Landman
      August 13, 2016 at 4:28 pm

      Thank you! I thought people should know what has been going on…

      • Cynthia
        August 15, 2016 at 7:29 am

        Who cares what she writes on her own webpage. She has that right. Your intentions show no Love or Compassion. Your just letting the World know hoe inhuman you are.

        • Scott
          August 15, 2016 at 3:38 pm

          Inhuman is letting teenagers think what she tells them is all there is. Not to mention illegal, being a violation of church and state.

        • Anne Landman
          August 15, 2016 at 4:24 pm

          Cynthia, what she writes on her web page, specifically her biosketch, is important because it shows clearly that she is really a Christian missionary, and not a medical or health professional, which would be important for someone who is hired by the school to teach a health-related curriculum.

  3. Naomi
    August 13, 2016 at 10:00 am

    I’m so glad someone is getting her out and exposing what is really going on!

  4. Joanna Engman
    August 12, 2016 at 8:52 pm

    Wow. The Delta Pregnancy Resource Center is just another “crisis pregnancy cente CPC” that tours itself as a medical clinic; but in truth provide nothing but anti-abortion rhetoric and false medical information to unsuspecting, vulnerable women. And yup, Christian fundies all the way. Ms. Donahue is completely unqualified-it is no wonder that Delta county has one of the highest (if not the highest) rates of teenage pregnancy, not to mention high levels of poverty and low high school graduation rates.
    In filing a lawsuit FFRF is not only making a stance against sex shaming abstainance programs, but taking a
    stand for young women’s health. Kudos to them!

    • Anne Landman
      August 12, 2016 at 10:30 pm

      Hi Joanna, FFRF isn’t filing a lawsuit *yet,* but is giving the Delta school district a chance to start complying with the law and providing their students with comprehensive, medically-factual sex ed instead of Donahue’s drivel. The school system has been put on notice that Ms. Donahue’s presentations are not only inappropriate, but are not compliant with state and federal laws.

      Now we’ll see what they do.

      If the school system continues to bring her in, they could very well draw a lawsuit.

  5. Craig Mason
    August 12, 2016 at 4:09 pm

    Shelly needs to be stopped at ALL public schools. Her Facebook page notes a list of other schools where she goes to deliver her absolute nonsense. She must be stopped. Spread the word. Find out where she’s going and who is paying her.

    • Anne Landman
      August 12, 2016 at 8:13 pm

      In Delta County, she was funded by a Christian ministry called the Delta Pregnancy Resource Center. She got $2,000.

  6. August 12, 2016 at 3:42 pm

    Good on the FFRF!!!

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