EDUCATION INTERRUPTUS

A SCOTTSDALE PARENTS' GROUP WITH TIES TO PAY ROBERTSON IS MAKING SURE THE SEX-ED CURRICULUM DOESN'T GO ALL THE WAY

For Doyle, those 15 per thousand teenage and preteenage mothers are few enough.

Mike Doyle is certain that Reducing the Risk is part of a larger, subversive agenda designed to undermine family values in America. Many of his allies--people like Phoenix Suns coach Paul Westphal and Westphal's wife, Cindy--concur.

The Westphals are not members of Parents Who Care, but they have a son in the district. Each of them wrote letters urging the Scottsdale board to reject Reducing the Risk as it was originally proposed. Cindy Westphal, who holds a master's degree in education, lambasted proponents of Reducing the Risk as "change agents" bent on creating a "one-world government." Doyle has a more specific culprit in mind. "I do believe that Planned Parenthood is behind it," Doyle says. He can't name any Planned Parenthood infiltrators, but every "tactic" employed by the abstinence-but crowd, he says, is "right out of the Planned Parenthood book on how to achieve your goals." Those goals, according to Doyle: "Get into the PTOs and the PTAs and get on the school council and push the agenda forward. And when anybody objects to it, you ridicule them."

He disappears into a bedroom, returning with a book titled Aborting Planned Parenthood, the back cover of which promises "documented proof of Planned Parenthood's systematic exploitation of teenagers and taxpayers."

Gloria Feldt, executive director of Planned Parenthood of Central and Northern Arizona, acknowledges that her employees have followed the debate in Scottsdale. "Many people call upon us as a resource. That doesn't mean they represent us," she says.

Of people like Doyle, she adds, "They create Planned Parenthood as a devil and then they try to apply the devil concept to anybody who's supportive of sexuality education."

When he speaks of Planned Parenthood, Doyle sounds a lot like his opponents, who, rather than railing against Planned Parenthood or shadowy agents provocateurs, demonize the religious right.

Take Jann Renert and Sue Braga, for example. They met two years ago at Chaparral High School in Scottsdale, which their kids attend. They discovered a mutual interest for countering dangerous religious philosophies they believe are infiltrating public schools.

Although a group named Mainstream Arizona had already been formed to address such concerns, Renert and Braga founded Arizona Citizens Project. It is not incorporated, nor does it have a formal membership; instead, it serves as a clearinghouse for information gathered from around the country.

On a sunny December day in northern Scottsdale, near Pinnacle Peak, Renert is in her home office talking on the phone with a bigwig at the Anti-Defamation League. Huge black binders packed with articles and studies line shelves.

Renert, who is Jewish, devotes her time to church-state issues. Braga, who was raised and educated as a Catholic, focuses on educational issues, such as the movement to create "back to basics" schools, which she sees as problematic, because religion is often involved. She calls religious conservatives "wingers," as in right wingers, and uses phrases like "Biblically correct" with a hint of sarcasm. Renert sat on the sex-education task force that recommended Reducing the Risk. During the months of debate, she was called names like "agnostic, antichrist, atheist," she says. But it wasn't so terrible. In fact, she says, the name-calling galvanized the abstinence-but crowd.

Just as Doyle is correct in assuming that Planned Parenthood is "behind" the abstinence-but movement, so are Renert and Braga when they say that religion drives the abstinence-only debate.

On the other side of the Fashion Square fountain from Jennifer, Jon and Dave, another girl, Carol, is also taking a break from Christmas shopping. Carol's a junior at Horizon High School, but unlike the others--indeed, unlike many Scottsdale teens whom New Times contacted--she knows all about the sex-ed battle; she even knows Reducing the Risk by name.

She learned about it at a youth-group meeting at Scottsdale Bible Church. At the urging of church leaders, Carol attended one of the public meetings in Scottsdale. She thinks parents, not teachers, should teach kids about sex. But because some kids don't have parents to talk to them, Carol thinks there should be a sex-ed program in the schools. She strongly supports an abstinence-only curriculum. Besides, she adds, "Reducing the Risk talks about alternative lifestyles that not everybody is happy with." Like homosexuality.

So is Parents Who Care aligned with the religious right?
Ralph Horlacher, executive director of Parents Who Care, says he's lived in Scottsdale for 20 years and was never called a religious wacko until he joined Parents Who Care. Doyle says, "I don't even go to church, so the religious-right thing is really a crock, all right?"

Doyle concedes that he encouraged Scottsdale Bible Church and a dozen others to tell their members about the sex-ed debate. "To say the churches are behind us--I wish it was true. I wish we could get them more behind us. We have a special committee who do nothing but that, work with the various pastors to try to get them to energize their flock, if you like, to speak out."

Corwin Ellsworth, a former Scottsdale school district principal, heads that committee.

Some of the detractors of Reducing the Risk send a mixed message--they don't belong to the religious right, they say, but they wouldn't mind seeing religion in school. Patti Badenoch was one of two members of the sex-education task force who voted against Reducing the Risk. She thought it made contraception too appealing. She's not a member of Parents Who Care, although she believes Reducing the Risk was "railroaded" through. And she did provide information for Doyle and Charlie Dunlap.

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
0 comments
Sort: Newest | Oldest
 
Loading...