Thursday, May 11, 2017


A faith-based, anti-abortion group that provides abstinence education for local schools -- which was recently rejected by the Montclair School District because of its religious ties -- was involved in several classes at Columbia High School this year.

And apparently without school board approval.

Leaders of First Choice Women's Resource Center, which has five New Jersey locations, cited the CHS work in its presentation to Montclair's school board on May 3, where it sought to offer its free service, dubbed First Talk, that includes religious and pro-life messaging.

The group's website describes its work in a mission statement that states:

To protect the unborn by empowering women

Since 1985, First Choice Women’s Resource Centers has served over 32,000 women in unplanned pregnancies and reached over 70,000 high school students with our Real Talk interactive
abstinence presentation ... In New Jersey, abortion is legal through the entire nine months of pregnancy and an estimated 47,000 occur each year. It’s our desire to see these numbers decline so that babies are saved and women are spared regret and pain. We do this with gentleness and respect, seeking to share Christ’s love and grace with every woman we serve.

According to Montclair website Baristanet, several parents objected to the group's religious ties at the May 3 meeting and it was eventually withdrawn from that district.

But First Choice Executive Director Aimee Huber confirmed to that her organization had provided some lessons to CHS freshmen and senior students this school year.

She stated via email: 

We presented Real Talk in one of the freshmen and a few of the senior classes at Columbia this year. The teachers invited us to supplement their lesson on sexual health, just as they invited other organizations to speak on various topics. Since abstinence must be stressed in the classroom, according to the State of NJ, we are one way schools like Columbia fulfill this core curriculum requirement. Our presentation highlights “sexual risk avoidance,” which is based on the risk avoidance public health model used by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to address risk behaviors. We desire to help students thrive now and in the future, and that includes giving them accurate information to make informed decisions about their sexual health.

Aimee Huber 

The school district's comprehensive sex education curriculum, which is mandated by the state, includes a section on abstinence. 

But school district policy 9700 indicates that any outside special interest groups receive board approval before being allowed to present their information to students. It also bars religious-based information, stating, in part: 

The Board forbids the distribution to pupils on school premises of literature or material that tends to advance or is inimical to the interests of a religious sect or religion generally. 

A search of the district website found no such approvals for First Choice.

District Spokeswoman Suzanne Turner said First Choice had been used in the past at CHS, but was discontinued years ago. However, she said a teacher did invite them to several classes this year without board or district authority. See her statement below:

The District used to host presentations from First Choice, which 
were standards based and focused on healthy relationships. 
The presentations themselves were not of concern. However, the 
District discontinued hosting their presentations several years ago, 
upon learning more about the organization's religious focus, even 
though they did not discuss religion during their previous visits.

Abstinence is one of the topics we talk about in health, along 
with healthy relationships, STIs/STDs, contraception, and 
options about pregnancy.

While First Choice is no longer formally invited by the District, 
we have learned that one of the presenters from their organization 
who had been here before did visit several classrooms at the 
invitation of an individual teacher this year.  The presenter was 
appropriate and did not engage in proselytizing, and the presentation
was aligned to NJ State Standards.

This practice will not be repeated in future years.

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