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Abstinence educator shares message with students countywide

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A speaker who encourages students to put sex on hold until they're married generated controversy last week -- controversy that superintendent Caryn Gibson says was largely put to rest after parents were assured the speaker would not be imposing her religious beliefs on the students.

Shelly Donahue is a former teacher turned abstinence education speaker. She previously shared her WAIT (Why Am I Tempted?) training with students at Delta High School.

Superintendent Caryn Gibson said Donahue has two presentations, one that's faith based and one that's not. It was made clear there could be no biblical references at the school assemblies.

The faith-based presentation was saved for a workshop with parents and pastors.

As a former teacher/coach, Donahue said she fully understands what can and cannot be said in the classroom.

Still, the fact that her talks were supported by a faith-based organization like the Pregnancy Resource Center raised some concerns.

Some parents feel conversations about sex should take place at home; others say abstinence-only education is just not a realistic option and actually leads to more teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.

But handing out condoms is not the answer, Donahue said, because teens simply aren't emotionally, intellectually or physically ready for a sexual relationship.

She wants students to set the bar higher, and that's the message she delivered at all four high schools and at Delta Opportunity School, speaking separately with boys and girls.

"Ms. Donahue wants to help this generation reach their hopes and dreams by honoring themselves and one another," stated a letter sent home to parents. "The goal of this program is to help students learn to make good decisions now and later in life."

Parents were given the option of returning the letter or calling their student's school if they did not wish their children to attend Donahue's presentation.

While a number of parents phoned or emailed the district office with concerns, Gibson said she heard back from students who wish there were more classes dealing with relationships.

It's great for the kids and parents who can make those conversations happen at home, Gibson said, but the fact is sex can be a difficult -- and uncomfortable -- topic.

A facts-based health class that encompasses established educational standards could be worth examining, Gibson said.

At the end of each talk, Donahue handed out her phone number and email address and encouraged the students to check out her blog and her Facebook page. "I want to be a resource," she said.

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