SALEM — Churches throughout Salem and Keizer are being asked to get involved in a grassroots efforts to keep Planned Parenthood from teaching classes in the local school district.
About 60 people attended an Aug. 28 meeting at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Salem that was called by Doug Muravez, a parishioner at the church and parent of two students at North Salem High School.
Before the meeting was over, several attendees had agreed to contact local churches representing a wide range of denominations that are likely to share Muravez’s concern over Planned Parenthood’s involvement in the Salem-Keizer School District’s teen pregnancy prevention class. Others agreed to monitor meetings of the school board.
“This is an avenue by which Planned Parenthood is inserting themselves into high schools all over the country,” said Muravez.
He claims the agency works against the values he and his wife are trying to instill in his children and undermines their parental authority.
On a new web site, salemschoolwatch.com, Muravez and others who agree with him offer even more pointed criticism of the agency.
“Planned Parenthood promotes promiscuity and teen sexual behavior, then says they can fix the problem of teen pregnancy that they had a large hand in causing,” states the website. “They even have a website encouraging kids to post where they had sex.”
Muravez also alleged at the meeting that Planned Parenthood has racist roots, as shown in the beliefs expressed by its founder, Margaret Sanger.
“It’s very important that we remove Planned Parenthood before it gets firmly entrenched,” he said.
Muravez made local headlines earlier this summer because he had filed an objection with the school district and had encouraged members of his church to bombard the district office with phone and e-mail complaints.
His children did not participate in the class, which requires parent permission.
The district responded that it was looking for a way to address his concerns without losing money that pays for the Teen Outreach program.
A $4 million grant from the federal Department of Health and Human Services distributed through Planned Parenthood pays for the program statewide that seeks to reach 2,500 Oregon students and is taught by Planned Parenthood workers.
The Statesman-Journal newspaper reported at the time that the district might not have time to have a teacher certified to present the program this fall. If not, the district said it might have to discontinue the program that started last fall at North Salem and McKay high schools.
But in early August the district announced that it would stick with the teen pregnancy prevention class despite Muravez’s objections.
Superintendent Sandy Husk said she offered to have district teachers conduct the program to ease concerns, but found in talks with Planned Parenthood that the idea was unworkable.
She said the program includes community service projects outside the classroom that would be difficult for a Salem-Keizer teacher to add to an already full schedule. She also said the program instructors hired for the grant were not Planned Parenthood employees.
Muravez said that latter claim makes no sense. He argued that the instructors are hired, paid and directed by Planned Parenthood.
For its part, the agency defended its role in providing the teen program. Liz Delapoer of Planned Parenthood of the Columbia-Willamette told Portland’s KATU Channel 2 this summer that her agency has long been a “trusted provider” of sex education throughout Oregon.
Among those speaking at the Salem meeting was Lori Porter of Beaverton, a former schoolteacher who says she now keeps track of parental rights issues in Oregon schools through her grassroots group, Parents’ Rights in Education.
She shared a list of suggestions developed by Beaverton attorney Herb Grey for parents who desire to effectively bring concerns to school officials.
Also speaking was Bill Diss, a Portland schoolteacher who heads up Precious Children of Portland, a group that opposed the construction of a Planned Parenthood facility in northeast Portland.
He said parents need to take their concerns to school officials “forcefully and respectfully,” but not in an attack mode that will cause them to disregard the patrons’ views.
Muravez urged the parents to be prepared for a sustained effort to persuade the Salem-Keizer schools.
“We need to pace ourselves,” he said. “We want to make sure it goes on through the (school) year.”
For more information, go to salemschoolwatch.com.