For Immediate Release: Contact: Christina Clark Okarmus, ACASH
September 30, 2023 [email protected], 334-265-8004
Montgomery, Ala. — In May 2023 the Alabama Campaign for Adolescent Sexual Health (ACASH) was invited to participate in the Trussville High School health fair. At the health fair ACASH provided materials related to STIs, HIV, and pregnancy prevention, as well as materials that were specific to the health and wellbeing of LGBTQ youth. Following the health fair ACASH’s executive director, Christina Clark Okarmus, was contacted by Trussville City Schools Superintendent, Dr. Patrick Martin. Dr. Martin was troubled by the inclusion of LGBTQ materials as they were not specifically disclosed on a form asking what materials would be provided at the health fair.
“It was at this point that I apologized to Dr. Martin for not explicitly stating that LGBTQ materials would be shared, but I also explained that serving LGBTQ youth is integral to sexual health work. In fact, the National Sex Education Standards establish LGBTQ-inclusivity in all discussions of sex education. Dr. Martin said that because of the backlash from parents we would not be invited to participate in the health fair in 2024,” said Clark Okarmus.
ACASH did not “lie” or intentionally mislead the school about its materials, as stated in a recent 1819 News article. ACASH’s policy on affirming and supporting LGBTQ students is very prominent on its website. The exact excerpt from the form submitted to Trussville High School is below:
“Briefly describe your exhibit and any material or give- aways:
“The Alabama Campaign provides access to the most up-to-date research and information currently available in the field of adolescent sexual health. Access to this information is an important priority and one we believe will assist Alabama communities in their efforts to champion healthy adolescent development. We have stickers, pins, and pens to give away and we have brochures on lots of topics related to health. Some of the topics of our brochures include: How to make healthy decisions, how to prevent child abuse, what is consent, how to talk to kids about preventing HIV/STIs. We have parent and teacher materials as well as materials for young people. We also have a trivia game for our table for youth to participate in.“
“The article written by 1819 News and shared by the Trussville Tribune borders on slanderous,” said Clark Okarmus. “We have been repeatedly targeted by 1819 News as a ‘radical’ organization simply because we want to provide all young people with the tools they need to live healthy and safe lives. We did not lie or intentionally mislead anyone – for us, LGBTQ-inclusive materials are part of sex education.”
Alabama has the 5th highest teen birth rate in the country, as well as some of the highest rates of STIs in the country in cities like Mobile, Montgomery, Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, and Huntsville. In 2022 41% of LGBTQ youth considered attempting suicide because they do not have access to supportive homes or services.
Clark Okarmus was clear – “The work of sexual health is life-saving and we will not be deterred by people who purposely misunderstand our work or who attack us in the media.”
The Alabama Campaign for Adolescent Sexual Health champions healthy adolescent development through medically accurate and equitable sexual health education and services. Learn more at alabamacampaign.org.