The Real Deal About Discrimination in Washington DC 

By Richard Urban 

Abstinence stigma is a term coined by Martin Ssempa, an HIV/AIDS prevention educator in Uganda. It means that children who are staying abstinent are made to feel that there is something wrong with them if they are abstinent.

This term can aptly be applied to DC youth and the adults supporting them as they are made to feel that there is something wrong with helping youth to stay sexually abstinent and drug free.

Dr. Richard Nyankori has decided to selectively eliminate the ULTRA Teen Choice program based on his personal bias against directive abstinence programs. This is indicated by the fact that he falsely issued a statement on November 21st saying “The chancellor has placed a moratorium on all external providers of health and consumer education. Her goal is to ensure providers programs are consistent with DC standards.” In fact, no such moratorium exists. Therefore, Dr. Nyankori issued a false statement that has resulted in the cancellation of the ULTRA Teen Choice program at Stuart-Hobson Middle school.

Chancellor Rhee apparently hopes the whole thing will go away. She has not responded to requests by the media for clarification of this “policy”, and cannot, since it does not exist. Furthermore, she has so far ignored my request for clarification of the following blatantly discriminatory statements that Dr. Nyankori and Chad Ferguson made in a meeting with me on December 5. Their statements included the following points:

1) Since ULTRA Teen Choice is opposed to discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in middle school, we will not be approved by the chancellor’s office. 
2). Abstinence Programs that comply with Title V of the Welfare Reform act of 1996 will not necessarily be allowed to operate in DC Public Schools.
3) A wholly elective club for youth who want to stay abstinent will not necessarily be allowed in DC public schools either. 

All of the above are based on the fact that, apparently, ULTRA Teen Choice does not pass an unwritten litmus test applied by Dr. Nyankori. When requested to put these policies in writing, Dr. Nyankori only says that the Chancellor can choose to approve or disapprove whatever programs she likes. 

A political agenda has now resulted in the cancellation of the ULTRA Teen Choice program at Stuart-Hobson Middle School, and possible cancellation at other locations. This is happening at the very same time that the latest HIV/AIDS surveillance report shows that Washington DC has a 33 per cent higher rate of persons living with AIDS compared to the next highest city, which is Baltimore. The District has the highest rate of people living with AIDS of all major cities in the United States. 

The City Council must act now to end this blatant discrimination and abuse of power. We must not allow political games to be played when children’s lives are at stake.