SEASIDE, Ore. (KOIN 6) — After repeated requests from KOIN 6 News, a spokesperson for the Oregon Health Authority said in a statement the agency staff who took part in the 2014 Adolescent Sexuality Conference found it “to align with our goals.”
Jonathan Modie with the OHA provided a detailed list of the taxpayer costs associated with the 2014 conference in Seaside – an approximate total of $12,836.41 in state and federal money.
“The conference aligns with our goals around youth using accurate information and well-developed skills to make thoughtful choices about relationships and sexual health,” Modie said in the statement.
In a separate letter to Yamhill County Commissioner Mary Starrett, the OHA said, “We do not agree with the KOIN representation of the event,” though they did not mention specific points of disagreement.
The letter to Starrett also said, “The Oregon Public Health Division supports the Adolescent Sexuality Conference because the conference aligns with our goals.”The costs(provided by OHA)Approximate Total is $12,836.41 in state and federal funds:
• $9,686.41 for 10 staff members
• $3,000 from the federal Title V Maternal and Child Health Block Grant to support youth scholarships for conference attendance.
• $150 for Immunization Program and Reproductive Health Program exhibit tables to meet federal grant requirements related to community outreach.
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The Oregon Adolescent Sexuality Conference has been taking place for more than 20 years. But after a KOIN 6 News investigation in 2014, questions arose about the content provided to the teens and tweens in attendance.
The Oregon Department of Education now admits the pamphlets were “not appropriate for school age students,” but the overall presentations were OK.
Previously, Rob Saxton with the Oregon Department of Education sent a letter to school superintendents about the conference. A copy was provided to KOIN 6 News by one superintendent:
“We have reviewed the content delivered by the presenters at the conference and believe their information was appropriate. There have been reports this was not the case, but we found that the reports made about the presentation of inappropriate materials were based on events that did not actually take place.”
KOIN 6 News emailed Saxton a list of questions and the audio of Silverberg’s presentation, but have not received a response at this time.2014 keynote presentation
The presentation was given by keynote speaker Cory Silverberg, who has not responded to repeated requests for an interview with KOIN 6 News.
After multiple requests, OHA’s Jessica Duke — who is on the steering committee for the conference — agreed to speak with KOIN 6 News but only with OHA Interim Administrator Robert Nystrom by her side. The subject of Silverberg’s presentation was questioned – specifically his discussion of a teledildonics workshop.
“He talks about how going to porn sites, using porn can have a negative effect on healthy relationships,” Duke said.
KOIN 6 News pointed out an audio of Silverberg’s presentation captured by a 2014 attendee does not have that kind of warning. Duke then responded differently.
“Well, the purpose really wasn’t what exactly was said,” she said.
During the interview, Nystrom said, “It wouldn’t be very good use of taxpayer resources or time” to review the materials given out to students ahead of time by the vendors at the conference, “They are trusted partners.”Answers to questions about the Adolescent Sexuality Conference from LT Public Relations
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Lawmakers on the case
The investigations have drawn the attention of lawmakers across the state, and some said they are willing to make it a budget issue for the OHA and ODOE.
“Many of us probably have received emails from concerned parents,” State Sen. Tim Knopp said.
Starrett said, “The material speaks for itself.”
Among the material were pamphlets given to students as young at 6th-grade suggesting people “wear each other’s underwear,” “role play” and “lap dance.” One even referred to drug use during sex: “Meth is widely used for a million reasons. Desire to have lots of sex with lots of partners for long periods.”
It does mention meth “can quickly become an addiction.”
“There’s no amount of spin on the part of the Oregon Department of Education or the Oregon Health Authority which can clear this up,” Starrett said.
The material prompted Knopp to urge parents to contact their local reps.
“I don’t want to see state funding going to a conference where they’re encouraging kids to essentially take up porn and do other things I think parents would be opposed to,” he told KOIN 6 News.
Maureen Hinman, the policy director for the Oregon School-Based Health Alliance said, unlike last year, their group is now not promoting the conference or offering student scholarships at their 68 health centers.
“We generally agree that would not be the kind of material that any of our centers would be sharing with their students,” said Doug Riggs, a spokesman for Health Alliance.
Yamhill Commissioner Starrett made the county health department ensure no employees were going to the Seaside event in April after the KOIN 6 News investigation showed children as young as 11 were in attendance during a presentation on cybersex.
The entire Yamhill County Board of Commissioners sent a letter to OHA and ODOE asking for changes. The commission also notified them they were not going to send their county health employees to the conference again unless there was stronger regulation and oversight.County participation
Almost all of the 36 Oregon county health departments are skipping the conference in April.
Hood River is one of the only counties sending employees again this year. Last year the health department sent one employee at a cost of $1178.67 in county tax money. This year the county health department is sending two employees to the conference.Among the other counties:
Multnomah County Health Department sent three health educators to the conference in 2014 and spent $824.06 in county tax payer dollars. “There are no employees scheduled to attend the 2015 Conference,” according to Multnomah County Communications Officer Julie Sullivan-Springhetti.
Deschutes County sent two employees as well as a contract employee from another county, spending a total of $978.53 in Deschutes County tax payer funds in 2014 for the Oregon Adolescent Sexuality Conference.
Morrow County Health Department had two staff members attend the conference in 2014, costing county taxpayers $872.00. Morrow County is not planning on sending any staff to the conference this year.
Benton County Health Department sent four staff members and two interns to the conference last year. According to Deputy Director, Charlie Fautin the total cost of conference-related expenses for Benton County tax payers for the 2014 conference was $1631.83.
Crook County sent a Reproductive Health/HIV Coordinator to the conference in 2014 and the total cost to Crook County tax payer was $494.73.
Clatsop County Public Health Department sent one employee to the 2014 Oregon Adolescent Sexuality Conference, costing Clatsop County taxpayers a total on $165. According to Community Relation Coordinator Tom Bennett, the “Regarding the 2015 event, the Public Health Department is still discussing its participation.”
Yamhill County spent $601.80 last year on the conference. They are not sending any employees this year.
“They need to be watched and somebody needs to call these folks out,” said Yamhill County Commissioner Mary Starrett, “and I think you’ve done it.”