How Lori Kuykendall Is Combatting Cultural Lies in Sex Education
This week, at Family Policy Alliance’s SoConCon Social Conservative Policy Conference, I sat down with Lori Kuykendall, president of Beacon Health Education Resources. In this conversation, we explore how her organization is fighting back against exploitative progressive sexual education curricula — and teaching kids about the beauty of God’s creation.
JOY STOCKBAUER: Why don’t we start off with a little information about your organization and how it came to be?
LORI KUYKENDALL: I have worked in the field of health education and sex education since 1985. My first job out of college with my health education degree, ready to change the world, landed me at a women’s pregnancy center in the Houston, Texas area. I didn’t know about pregnancy centers, I probably would not have considered myself pro-life at the time, but I was interested in serving where the needs were in health education. I remember going home with a little purple brochure that night when I first met the ladies, and it was called “What does the Bible say about abortion?” That night, my heart was turned when I saw there in black and white what the truths are about life and who ordains life.
STOCKBAUER: So at this point were you already a Christian?
KUYKENDALL: Yes, I was — and I would have said I would not have had an abortion myself, but I wouldn’t have told you that you couldn’t. I wasn’t convicted and didn’t understand what abortion was and why it would or would not have been right in God’s eyes, especially. That pregnancy center said to me, “We want to reach the girls before they need us.” They asked me to start a prevention program out in the community there. That was sort of where I started in abstinence education. I’ve worked since then almost 30 years, which makes me old — but the experience of partnering with the pregnancy center movement and also with the sexual risk avoidance movement, or SRA education and optimal health — those are the words that we use when advancing what really is God’s good, best plan for young people and family and marriage.
I work now in consulting and supporting those programs from a public policy side, and a curriculum development side. I do medical accuracy reviews for those programs that are now the direct service providers. I think there’s a number of ways that we get to reach kids in schools, and that is coming through the required standards and health education curriculum requirements for their states and fulfilling those needs on these important topics. I think also pregnancy centers build strong service relationships and partnerships with the organizations in their community. I always say we want to unite home, family, and church and school to counter the culture’s lies in these areas of what the culture’s wanting for our kids.
STOCKBAUER: What does the opposition look like — what are you up against in the sex education realm? I know Planned Parenthood has their own sex education curriculum — are they the biggest competitor or is there someone else?
KUYKENDALL: They are. Planned Parenthood is the biggest sex educator in the nation and in the world. They’re not afraid to say what their values are for comprehensive sex education, as it’s called. We want to oppose comprehensive sex education, we want to oppose the national sex education standards — a lot of concerning content and misleading content that drives kids to think they’re making safe decisions when they’re not. They’re a rights-based or pleasure-based approach, and we’re gonna be science-based and health-based for what’s truly best for kids. Some would say we are political or religious or moral in our work, but we’re not. We really can focus objectively on what’s best for the health of kids.
STOCKBAUER: What is the reception to your curriculum usually like from young women? Do you get a lot of resistance or is there a movement of young women saying, “Wow, this really is what’s best for me”?
KUYKENDALL: Young people find hope in a message that says, “You have the choice to choose not to give into this pressure and misinformation.” Young people respond well when we uphold their current and future health and we do it with dignity and respect and love and guidance and support — that helps them know we believe they can make the best decision, because inherent in the other message is “You’re gonna fail, and we’re gonna help you fail,” at some level. And kids know that, they know what’s best and it resonates in their soul that this isn’t what they want to do, but the pressure seems overwhelming and there doesn’t seem to be another option. So, we come in and say, “No, there is an option. You can choose to wait — in fact, most kids are.” We show some of the statistics that the media has portrayed incorrectly.
STOCKBAUER: Right now, the conversation about “grooming” is such a hot topic. We’re fighting back against the Left and progressives who want to see drag shows for children and oversexualizing children. How do you walk the line of approaching sex education for kids in that elementary age and having safe boundaries of introducing them to these topics without sexualizing them?
KUYKENDALL: Well, I think you become aware of their cognitive development — what are they doing intellectually, where their brains are, tied together with where their bodies are. There are developmental stages of puberty, pre-puberty, and adolescence that make it important, life-giving information for them to understand their changing bodies and the design of their bodies. Then, they’re able to understand how life begins and fetal development and pregnancy — all of that is around fifth or sixth grade. Prior to that, there’s important information to be shared about character and healthy relationships that set up the foundation to add in these more sensitive topics at age-appropriate times.
With regards to grooming, a lot of my work is against consent education. There are a lot of people saying, “We have to teach consent,” and it’s in some of the laws to prevent sexual abuse. But consent is a moving towards, it’s an agreeing to and a negotiating for sexual activity. Comprehensive sex ed says that sex is fine as long as there’s consent — well, take the grooming piece of this. Groomers work to get consent, so now it’s okay because they got consent. So, children who have been abused and groomed hear “consent” and think, “Well, I guess I consented and it was okay.” Consent can’t be the standard. Instead, we promote refusal skills, resistance skills, boundary setting, communication — all of those things that are part of respecting self and others.
STOCKBAUER: For homeschooling parents who are approaching sex education outside of the modern format of having someone else teach their kids, what’s your advice to parents having this conversation in their own home?
KUYKENDALL: Have the conversation and have it a lot. Be prepared to take on the messages of the world as they come to your kids. It could be through a friend or could come through social media — a number of sources. Be there as your kids are seeing the lies, but make sure you’re ahead of those lies with the truth. They will hear the truth from you, it will resonate in their hearts and minds louder and stronger than the lies of the culture.