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Fact Check-Idaho’s government is not offering ‘porn literacy’ courses to students

Viral claims that the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (DHW) is purchasing “porn literacy” materials and including them in their curriculum for students are untrue.

Posts misconstrue some of the content produced by non-profit organization Education, Training and Research (ETR), which provides the DHW with some optional sex-education curricula. While ETR has publicly available materials for educators on how to discuss pornography with young people, both ETR and DHW told Reuters the optional courses currently being used by the DHW do not include any “porn literacy” modules.

The claims appear to stem from an article by the Idaho Freedom Foundation (IFF).

On Sept. 13, the IFF published an article titled “Idaho’s government offers “porn literacy,” other corrupting practices to k-12 students,” (here). (The article’s first paragraph uses different wording to the headline, saying the DHW purchases “materials and training” from ETR “an interest group promoting porn literacy” – not that Idaho’s DHW offers porn literacy).

The article features a tweet by one of the IFF authors of the piece, that reads, “Idaho’s government offers “porn literacy” to students, planned parenthood curriculum and advocates for abortion. If this can happen in Idaho, it can happen anywhere.” (here)

Though the Idaho DHW and ERT confirmed the state isn’t purchasing ‘porn literacy’ curricula for school children, the claims were replicated and circulated online (here) (here). The IFF’s article was also mentioned on Fox News’ “The Ingraham Angle” on Sept. 14 (youtu.be/FCnU6yivw0c?t=240) with a chyron reading, “Idaho sex ed curriculum recommends watching porn with kids.”

The IFF did not respond to a request for comment. Their media policy (idahofreedom.org/media-policy/) says the IFF “does not respond to media inquiries.” Instead, it asks media outlets to state, "The Idaho Freedom Foundation has found most of the legacy news media to be agenda-driven propagandists working to shift public opinion toward socialist ideas. The IFF will not help legitimize biased, unfair pseudo-journalism by responding to requests for comment."

On September 14, the Idaho DHW issued a statement saying they do not “support or fund any ‘porn literacy’ for children.” (here)

Greg Stahl, Public Information Officer for the DHW, told Reuters that they provide three optional resources from ETR. These are, “Reducing the Risk” (here) (designed for ages 14–18), “Making a Difference” (here) (designed for middle school students or ages 12-14) and “Cuídate” (designed for ages 13-18) (here).

According to Stahl, the courses are offered as part of Idaho’s Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program (APP) (here) (here) here) and are used voluntarily as “training tools for health educators to help build their facilitation skills and knowledge on topics related to sexual health educators.”

“Trained health educators employed by the local public health districts work directly with schools to share optional, evidence-based sexual health education curriculums available and school districts/school boards review and approve any curriculum prior to its use.” Parents can choose whether to opt in or out.

The descriptions of the courses and table of contents make no mention of pornography or “porn literacy.” Stahl told Reuters the agency never considered the use of any “porn literacy” materials.

Contacted by Reuters, Lauren M. Ranalli, Director of Marketing and Communications at ETR, said “none of ETR’s sexual health curricula contain lessors on pornography or porn literacy” - including the three afore mentioned programs that are used by the Idaho DHW.

A clip being shared online and in the IFF article shows a segment of a discussion hosted by the ETR on Dec. 2021, that was open, voluntary, and targeted at adults.

The video was part of an online discussion called, “3 in 30: Talking Porn Literacy in Sex Ed” (bit.ly/3qVamE8) and was “open to educators, clinicians, and parents” and centered on “how conversations about pornography come up in sex education and how trusted adults can answer young peoples’ questions about pornography” (here). ETR’s “3 in 30” series provides “free webinars” on a variety of subjects, according to their website (pages.etr.org/3-in-30).

The discussion was not specifically related to the DHW or the ETR curriculum offered by the DHW, Ranalli said. Stahl also told Reuters that none of the people in the clip are employed by the DHW. ETR resources available for free online, including the “3 in 30” webinar series, are open to Idaho’s health educators but this module was not specifically “presented by, or recommended by, DHW,” he added.

Other publicly available ETR materials that delve into young people’s exposure to pornography, its impact, and findings on how this could be addressed through sex education can be seen (bit.ly/3rbDEih) (here).

The ETR said in a statement that “their science-based education curriculum does not include pornography, nor do we advocate for exposing young people to sexually explicit media.”

VERDICT

False. Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (DHW) has not purchased “porn literacy” materials and included them in sex-ed curricula for students. Education, Training and Research (ETR), a non-profit that provides the DHW with some optional curricula, has public materials for educators on pornography and its impact in young people, but these resources are not part of the curricula offered by the DHW.

(Update Sept. 21: Adding further clarification in paragraph 16)

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here .

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