ACLU of New Mexico Cries Foul Over Rio Rancho Abstinence-Only Sex Education Policy

Affiliate: ACLU of New Mexico
February 27, 2007 12:00 am

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RIO RANCHO, NM – The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico raised objections on Tuesday to the participation of Rio Rancho School Board member Kathy Jackson in a January 22 vote not to offer alternatives to the district’s abstinence-only sex education curriculum. According to the New Mexico Secretary of State Office website, Jackson currently is a registered lobbyist for Best Choices Educational Services, Inc., the organization that contracts with the district to provide abstinence-only teaching. Jackson’s husband and Rio Rancho Mayor Keith Jackson also lobbies for Best Choices.

“There is an appearance of impropriety when a school board member votes for a policy that is going to benefit the corporation for which she works,” said ACLU Executive Director Peter Simonson. “When Jackson cast that vote, was she thinking like a school board member or like a lobbyist? Whose interests was she intending to serve? The citizens of Rio Rancho deserve to know when factors like this might be motivating the vote of a school board member, especially on such a sensitive issue as sex education.”

According to the ACLU, the school board decision is especially momentous because it rejects a requirement by the New Mexico Department of Public Education to offer a comprehensive curriculum when teaching secondary students about sex education.

The board’s vote also rejected recommendations by the district’s School Health Advisory Council, made up of 25 to 30 principals, nurses, counselors, parents and teachers. The ACLU is investigating legal strategies to challenge the board decision.

“The school board could have voted to give families options about the kind of sex education their children receive. Instead they voted to prescribe certain teachings based on a narrow set of moral assumptions that not all of the families in Rio Rancho share. Now we see that their vote may have been imprudent as well as dismissive of the diversity in Rio Rancho,” said Simonson.

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