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Idaho isn’t offering children ‘porn literacy’ materials

September 16, 2022 GMT

CLAIM: The Idaho government is offering materials on “porn literacy” to students as young as 8 years old.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare offers schools an optional sex education program called “Reducing the Risk,” but that curriculum — used in grades 8 through 12 — does not include lessons on pornography. The organization behind the curriculum has published content dealing with porn literacy for teachers, but that material is separate from Reducing the Risk.

THE FACTS: A false narrative circulating widely online this week asserts that Idaho schools are providing “porn literacy” materials to students, with some suggesting that children are receiving such lessons as early as the third grade.

“Idaho state is using tax dollars to teach 8-year-olds ‘porn literacy,’” the popular Twitter account “Libs of TikTok” claimed.

“The state of Idaho is implementing porn literacy as a required course in grade schools starting at 3rd grade,” another Twitter user wrote. “So the school system will start introducing 8 year old kids to porn using cartoons. How sick and demented is this? Unbelievable.”

The claims stem from a Sept. 13 blog post published by an organization called Idaho Freedom Foundation titled, “IDAHO’S GOVERNMENT OFFERS ‘PORN LITERACY,’ OTHER CORRUPTING PRACTICES TO K-12 STUDENTS.”

While the headline misleadingly states that the Idaho government is offering “porn literacy” to students, the blog post itself never actually claims that such material is a component of the state’s sex education curriculum.

Instead, the blog post discusses materials dealing with porn literacy that are issued by ETR, the same organization that created the sex education curriculum used by the state Department of Health and Welfare. But the porn literacy materials and sex education program are separate.

The post notes that Idaho uses a curriculum called “Reducing the Risk” from ETR, which stands for Education, Training and Research. ETR describes the program as a 16-session plan to help young adults either abstain from, or protect themselves during, sex.

The blog post goes on to note that ETR has also published content regarding porn literacy, including a video in its “3 in 30” webinar series that is designed to give educators three tips on a specific topic in 30 minutes.

In response to questions from The Associated Press on Friday, the Idaho Freedom Foundation referred to its media policy, which says that the group “does not respond to media inquiries.”

The state Department of Health and Welfare said in a Wednesday press release that it “does not support or fund any ‘porn literacy’ for children in Idaho.” The department said it uses the “Reducing the Risk” program as an optional sex education curriculum for schools — and that participating schools offer it with parental consent.

“Reducing the Risk does not discuss porn literacy, and it is not a subject taught in the curriculum DHW provides,” the department said.

Greg Stahl, a DHW spokesperson, also told the AP that the curriculum is currently taught in 14 schools, between grades 8 and 12, in Idaho. He added that no sex education curriculum from the department is offered in elementary schools.

Stahl said that ETR resources such as the “3 in 30” webinar series, whose videos cover wide-ranging topics, are made available to health educators through a state adolescent pregnancy prevention program. The videos are a resource for instructors — not students — and are intended to help teachers navigate sensitive questions posed by students, he said.

ETR also said in a statement to the AP that the “Reducing the Risk” curriculum “does not cover pornography in the content.”

The organization said the webinar video being cited was part of an “online training open to educators, clinicians, and parents on how conversations about pornography come up in sex education and how trusted adults can answer young peoples’ questions about pornography.”

“While ETR’s sexual health curricula does not cover pornography in the content, we recognize that sexually explicit media is ubiquitous,” the statement said. “Youth regularly ask for support on navigating what they see online, and media literacy skills can provide a helpful context to navigate it. Advocating for media literacy is not advocating for porn.”

Kristin Rodine, a spokesperson for the Idaho State Department of Education, noted in an email that all curriculum and program decisions are made at the local level, but she said the department has “no knowledge of any ‘porn literacy’ content or lessons in Idaho schools.”

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This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.