VDH sent out postcards across the state inviting anyone ages 13-19 to anonymously text a number for sex education. BrdsNBz says it provides “medically-accurate information about sexual health topics” relayed by a trained “Health Education team.” It also promises “local resources and referrals,” though it does not mention what those entail.
Respondents on the text line are “health educators” under the American Sexual Health Association (ASHA). They don’t respond using scripts – rather, they use their training through ASHA to issue information.
State Senator Steve Newman (R-Bedford) proposed an amendment to eliminate the BrdsNBz from the state budget. House Bill 5005 was defeated in a party-line vote.
In an interview with The Virginia Star, Newman explained that he’s been rallying against this expenditure for some time. He called the decision “disappointing” because the matter shouldn’t be a partisan issue.
“The Democrats – which are my friends – didn’t have a reason not to kill it off, but yet they chose not to make any amendments [to the budget] at this time.”
In a Facebook post, Newman reported that the VDH used funds from federal Title V grant dollars, which are meant to provide abstinence-based education.
“Based on some of the screen shots I’ve seen from parents who’ve texted with this program, the information provided by this organization is anything but appropriate and certainly doesn’t encourage teens to refrain from sexual activity.”
Even non-Virginians may access the resource by texting the number with the access code. When individuals request website referrals, BrdsNBz responds with several websites offering detailed information and some praise on topics including intercourse, abortion, and homosexuality.
“This is a sex to text talk line, which I did not know we authorized in the budget and I’ve looked into the budget and actually it’s not in there. We never authorized the budget for this,” stated Newman. “This is something VDH determined to use – get this, they determined to use, basically, Title V funding and they decided to use the grant program dedicated specifically to abstinence.”
Newman asked where the rest of the funding came from, as well as who teens were calling. VDH is reporting that they’re not getting the phone calls: it’s some other, private organization that fields the texts and calls. Newman was unable to obtain any information on the individuals running the organization, such as if they undergo background checks or if they keep the data.
“I’ve been supportive of sex education for many, many years but I do not believe that anyone should send a flier to a young person and encourage them to text them as it relates to all the [sexual] items on this website.”
BrdsNBz originated in North Carolina, and was assumed by ASHA in 2018. VDH asserts that their text service is a response to the expressed needs of young people in the state.
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