A Parent’s Outraged Tweets Topple Abstinence Class

After a mom and researcher live-tweets a scientifically inaccurate sex-ed class, the school board votes for change

Jul 16, 2015 at 1:57 PM ET

All it took to dismantle a high school’s long-running abstinence-only program were some viral tweets from an outraged parent.

This week, the school board in East Lansing, Michigan, voted to scrap the series of abstinence classes run for 18 years by the organization Sexually Mature Aware Responsible Teens, or SMART. The move comes after Alice Dreger, a sex researcher and mother of a high school student in the district, sat in on a class and live-tweeted her outraged observations in April. She described the teacher’s many dubious claims—including a story about a condom box in which every single condom had a hole in it and the assertion that “safe sex is kind of a misnomer.” Dreger also described a dice-rolling exercise that resulted in the entire class being “pregnant.” Before long, her tweets went viral.

Following the school board’s decision, sex education in the district will be taught by trained teachers, as opposed to outside contractors. It remains to be seen just how much of an improvement this will be, but Dreger, who is a professor at the Feinberg School of Medicine of Northwestern University, is celebrating the decision.

“Not only were they misleading our kids about the importance and effectiveness of condoms, they were slut-shaming our girls with stories of how ‘the girl who says ‘no’ is the girl you want,'” she tells Vocativ. “We need scientifically accurate, respectful sex ed that teaches how sex can be a positive, responsible experience, not right-wing shame fests in our public classrooms.”

Although the school board has not directly credited the change to Dreger’s tweets, she doesn’t doubt that it’s what inspired the decision. “I have now heard from many parents who tell me they complained about SMART coming to our schools—complaints spanning 20 years!” she tells Vocativ. “I am shocked my tweets are what it took to stop this. It speaks to the power of social media as an agent of change, but also speaks to the importance of progressive parents going to classrooms to see what’s really being taught and to tell other parents.”