PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — A handful of parents are fuming over a sex ed course being taught in their children’s school and the religious group that's teaching it.
Mona Mangat, the mom of an 8th-grader at Thurgood Marshall Middle School in Pinellas County, Florida, said she and other parents are “angry about this, upset about this and trying to figure out how this is possible.”
Mangat knew one thing for sure: Her daughter would opt out of a sex ed course being taught Thursday by the Christian faith-based group More2Life.
“It’s shocking when you find out that faith-based groups are providing this information in schools. I had no idea. I thought that was not allowed in the United States, but I guess I was wrong," she explained.
Mangat said she worries the curriculum is biased especially since the group is linked to a pro-life crisis pregnancy center in Largo called New Life Solutions. The More2Life group focuses on abstinence in their presentation to schools.
In one presentation they told students, “Sex is like fire. It's safe in its proper context like a committed marriage, just like it's safe in a fireplace.”
In another, while speaking about the high rate of STDs, a leader told students, "Have you ever played duck, duck, goose? Now it's like duck, duck, chlamydia."
Scripps station WFTS in Tampa took parents' concerns straight to Jason Dorr, the director of More2Life, who said their program does not discuss religion.
"Our message is completely a health message,” Dorr explained.
Dorr added, in line with Florida rules, they encourage abstaining from sex before marriage. The organization has spent 19 years talking to students about the consequences of STDs and teen pregnancy.
“We always make this clear: We are not here to tell you what to do. This is an option for your life and we want to present that to you so you can make your own choices," Dorr added. “We are teaching them to have a healthy life and reach their goals without the consequences that can affect their future, so it's adding to what they're already learning at home.”
Dorr also said 95 percent of teachers give them high ratings and highly recommend their program to other classrooms.
Mangat is fighting to get the program out of schools and swapped out for one that focuses purely on facts.
“The choice to have sex is intensely personal. You have to have complete information to make that decision," Mangat added.
The Pinellas County School district said students are able to opt out of the presentations. They are also currently reviewing the More2Life content to make sure it’s appropriate.