Federally funded abstinence-only programs exist in all fifty states and this research could have been conducted in any of them. We chose Texas as the case study for this report because a substantial share of federal abstinence-only funding goes to support programs in that state, and Texas has actively promoted abstinence-only programs statewide. Texas' programs also command nationwide influence.3
Human Rights Watch conducted research for this report in Texas in April and May 2002. We made additional contacts with key informants both before and after this period by telephone or electronic mail from New York.
Human Rights Watch conducted face-to-face interviews with the directors and several staff members of four Texas-based federally funded abstinence-only programs, face-to-face and telephone interviews with teachers, counselors, administrators and students connected with these programs, and face-to-face interviews with school officials both in districts that had adopted the federally funded abstinence-only programs and in one district that had opted out of the program.
In addition, Human Rights Watch conducted face-to-face and/or telephone interviews with representatives from state and federal health and education agencies and nongovernmental health and education service providers that work on HIV/AIDS, abstinence education and adolescent health issues in Texas and nationwide as well as Texas-based academics who study these issues. Human Rights Watch also interviewed representatives of lesbian and gay organizations located in communities that have federally funded abstinence-only programs and sexuality educators who work outside of federally funded abstinence-only programs.
Most of the in-person interviews with adults took place at their respective work sites (offices or classrooms), although some adults were interviewed in places away from their work sites to protect their anonymity. Children were interviewed in public settings (such as a book store and a convention center), except for two children who were interviewed in a private setting. The interviews were generally open-ended and covered many aspects of the issue. The names of all children have been changed to protect their privacy.4 In addition, we did not name school district employees (teachers and counselors) when they requested anonymity.
3 Two of Texas' programs (McCAP and Fort Bend Alert, Inc.) were chosen to be among the eleven participants in the congressionally mandated evaluation of abstinence-only programs presently underway. See Mathematica Policy Research Institute, Inc., The Evaluation of Abstinence Education Programs Funded Under Title V Section 510: Interim Report (2002) (prepared under contract with U.S. DHHS). Dr. Joe McIlhaney, the president of the Medical Institute for Sexual Health in Austin, Texas, was one of three people who testified in Congress in April 2002 with respect to reauthorization of abstinence-only legislation and is on the President's Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS. Scott & White's Sex Education Program produces curriculum materials that are used nationwide.
4 In this report, the word "child" refers to anyone under the age of eighteen. The Convention on the Rights of the Child defines children as "Every human being under the age of eighteen years unless, under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier." Convention on the Rights of the Child, art. 1.