Parents voice concern over Amnion in West Chester
Published: Thursday, March 03, 2011
By SARA MOSQUEDA-FERNANDEZ, Staff Writer
WEST GOSHEN — More West Chester Area School District parents voiced concerns Monday night about the Amnion program that middle schools are scheduled to host this month.
During the district board meeting, several parents voiced distress over eighth-grade students being scheduled to participate in Amnion’s RealEd4u program. This marks the second consecutive meeting where parents addressed the school board on this topic.
“Amnion is a faith-based, fundamentalist, evangelical Christian group that has no place in our publicly funded schools,” parent Dianne T. Herrin said Monday. “WCASD families have a diverse array of belief systems, religious faiths, and non-religious values — many of which differ from those of Amnion.”
Herrin and other district parents read from prepared statements that listed a number of complaints against the “relationship education” program, including that “abstinence-only education is ineffective” and cited four research documents for support, including data from the Centers for Disease Control. Those documents were presented to the board.
Residents were also concerned about possible discriminatory, psychological or socially damaging effects the program might have on children by stressing abstinence-only until marriage.
“This is the same sex education program being pushed by a fundamentalist anti-abortion group that was turned down by the Downingtown School Board,” said the Rev. Ralph Mero, a Unitarian Universalist minister.
In January, the Downingtown Area School District voted to not use RealEd4u, opting instead to teach its physical education classes using current district textbooks.
Amnion has issued a statement of faith on its website that was adapted from the National Association of Evangelicals’ statement of faith, but the group argues that it refrains from being “preachy, religious, or condemning.” On the group’s website, it identifies itself as a “life-affirming resource for women, men and families encountering the issues of unintentional pregnancy” and aims to “promote pre-marital sexual abstinence.” The RealEdu4u program is a free service offered by Amnion to schools. It has crisis centers in Kennett Square and Upper Darby.
Parents at the meeting questioned the board as to why Amnion was brought in to teach their children and the method in which families were notified of the program’s implementation.
“The parental notification letter does not disclose that Amnion is a fundamentalist, evangelical Christian organization, nor does it even state that Amnion is a religious group,” said Herrin.
Parents requested that the board open the issue to discussion at the next education committee meeting, and that the matter be resolved before the end of the month.
The school board did not respond to the parents during the meeting since these statements were made during the time allotted for public comments.
In a phone interview later, Herrin said, “I want the district to know that we love (them). We care a lot about the school district and that’s why we’re doing this.”