Schools Need to Do Their Homework on Sex Ed

Wednesday, March 29, 2017
The Kennewick School District’s board meeting this March 22 was packed with community members eager to express their views on the District’s plan to hire a speaker on personal relationships for a mandatory school day. The speaker, Brad Henning, was set to offer a seminar “on the differences between men and women in communication styles, likes, dislikes, hopes, desires, needs, moods” along with “nine reasons to postpone sex until marriage.”[1]
The ACLU-WA was concerned that the presentation relies on false stereotypes about gender and promotes a view that holds women accountable for men’s sexual behavior.  For example, at a recent presentation in Arizona, Mr. Henning reportedly told girls that they should “make sure they do not turn on a guy by dressing or acting in a way that unleashes a guy’s God-given sexual urges.” [2]  And, in a video linked from his website entitled “If you don’t understand this, don’t date!,” Mr. Henning tells girls, “Every single date you go on, you’re training that guy . . . if he learns that he can get sex from you because you gave it to him, he just learned a system, and he’ll repeat it with the next girl he gets.  . .. So, girls, guys are becoming jerks because girls aren’t standing up to them . . . . girls are the ones that are training the guys.”[3]
The ACLU wrote a letter to the Kennewick School District questioning whether the proposed presentation was inclusive for LGBTQ students or medically and scientifically accurate. We pointed out that under Washington’s Healthy Youth Act (RCW 28A.300.575), every school that offers sexual health education must ensure that the education is medically and scientifically accurate and appropriate for students regardless of gender, race, disability status, or sexual orientation. And, under the law, sexual health education includes the development of meaningful relationships.[4]
Community members, including mental health professionals, doctors, survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence, and clergy, raised similar concerns.  Nevertheless, the Kennewick School District board voted 3-2 to keep the speaker.
However, faced with a controversy, the speaker withdrew from the event the following day, citing his desire to preserve civility in the community.  The incident highlights why it’s so important for schools to critically analyze how they provide sexual health education.
[1]Descriptions of Available Presentations.
[2] Michele Nelson, PHS assembly warns girls not to provoke “uncontrollable” boys, Payson Roundup (October 4, 2016), at
[4] WAC 392-410-140(2)(Iv)-(v).
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