LEADERSHIP MONTGOMERY - Legacy Class - "connecting"
LEGACY CLASS XXXII PROJECT TEAM FOUR
STOP TEACH DETER
CHAIR PERSON: Barbara Wells
TEAM MEMBERS: Dr. Shantay Bolton, Jackie Davis, Melissia Carter-Duncan, Katya Gill, Robert Granfeldt and Clay Henley
THEMATIC AREA: Health and Criminal Justice Prevention
DATES OF IMPLEMENTATION: We were not able to implement the project as planned.
DURATION OF THE PROJECT: We worked toward implementation from August of 2015 through March of 2016.
PROJECT LOCATION: The project was designed to be presented in all 8 high schools in the Montgomery Public School System.
FINAL PROJECT DESCRIPTION:
Our area has disproportionately high rates of sexually transmitted infections. Statistics show that young people make up a large percentage of the infected population especially for HIV infections. Moreover, recent events highlight the prevalence of young people using electronic devices to make and distribute sexual images. This activity can result in life changing consequences. Not only can such conduct, like other sexual activity with underage persons, result in incarceration, but also such offenses can result in an individual having to comply with the restrictions placed on registered sex offenders for the rest of their lives. Knowledge is empowering. We hoped that this project might help the students better evaluate the potential adverse consequences of certain behaviors and decide to avoid such behaviors.
The project was designed to replicate a successful educational program implemented in Bibb County to help inform high school students in the 11th and 12th grades about the potential legal consequences, social, and health consequences of certain sexual behaviors. The goal was to provide information about the risk of exposure to sexually transmitted diseases; the consequences of teen pregnancy; the laws applicable to underage sexual activity; the laws applicable to sexting; and the adverse consequences of acquiring a sex offender label. Another goal of the project was to help better inform students so they can make better choices and to empower them with language to resist activities they have decided to avoid.
Although initially, we were encouraged by the willingness of various persons with DHR and local law enforcement agencies to be involved with implementing an educational program like the one implemented in Bibb County, support evaporated when it became clear that Montgomery Public Schools would not allow the sessions without sending home specific permission slips and that the content of the presentation must emphasize certain information. The Alabama Code § 16-40A-2 (1975) sets forth a list of points of emphasis that must be included in any program in public schools in Alabama that touch on sex education or sexually transmitted diseases. Programs must only address abstinence and cannot discuss the use of prophylactics to prevent disease or pregnancy. This statute also specifically states that any program of this type must have as a special point of emphasis the following statement: “homosexuality is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public and that homosexual conduct is a criminal offense under the laws of the state.” Our group had serious concerns about the inclusion of such a statement being harmful to students. Our presenters did not wish to have the contents of their presentations dictated to them and did not like the idea of permission slips being sent home prior to the presentations.
After discovering the statute and encountering the resulting problems, our group conferred and decided that we did not want to proceed with the project. It did not seem like it would have been possible to implement it, even if we had wanted to do so. We wrote to the Superintendent of Montgomery Public Schools, to our contact at DHR, and to the law enforcement officials who had been considering serving as presenters of the project.
After realizing that we were not going forward, we discussed ways to try to address the statute that had created the obstacle to our project. It seemed very unlikely to us that the legislature would be interested in repealing this statute. After some research, we discovered that the Southern Poverty Law Center has a nationwide initiative dedicated to protecting and advancing the rights, dignity and freedom of the LGBT community in the Deep South, removing barriers to equality, and protecting LGBT children from harassment in school. We wrote to and met with attorneys from the Southern Poverty Law Center to discuss a potential challenge to this law.
MEDIA OUTLETS CONTACTED:
No media outlets were contacted, although Robert Granfeldt may consider future Montgomery Advertiser pieces supporting change.
WHO WAS SERVED AND HOW MANY PEOPLE BENEFITED?
The officials of the Montgomery Public School System learned about an Alabama statute of which they were seemingly unaware, despite the fact that the statute dictates what can be said in conjunction with educational programs touching on human reproduction. The students who were also intended beneficiaries of the project received no benefit.
OTHER AGENCIES AND GROUPS WHO WERE INVOLVED:
We gathered information from independent research, conversations with Bibb County DHR, and the Bibb County Sheriff. We solicited and received information from the Office of the United States Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama, the State of Alabama Department of Public Health, and the Montgomery County Department of Human Resources. We solicited assistance from the Montgomery Police Department and the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office. We met with administrative officials from the Montgomery Public Schools.
VISION FOR THE FUTURE OF THE PROJECT: Absent legislative reform or judicial action on the Alabama Code section, there is no meaningful way to address the public health crisis or the perils of students’ engaging in other sexual activity without being willing to put on an abstinence only presentation that includes a condemnation of students who identify as LGBT unless the Montgomery Public School System is willing to knowingly defy the state statute.
WILL THIS BE AN ONGOING PROJECT OR WILL IT BE A ONE-TIME PROJECT? One-time project, given barriers
DESCRIBE EXACTLY HOW YOUR PROJECT WAS IMPLEMENTED: The project was not implemented.
HOW MANY VOLUNTEER HOURS WERE DEVOTED TO THIS PROJECT? The total number of volunteer hours spent on this project totaled approximately 85 hours.