Fox 31 report on task force's birth control proposal quoted Focus on the Family group's exec, but not task force members

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In reporting October 30 on a task force's proposal to issue contraceptives in some Denver Public high schools, KDVR Fox 31 quoted Jim Pfaff of the Focus on the Family-backed lobbying organization Colorado Family Action, but did not include any comment from task force members who worked on the proposal. Furthermore, Fox 31 did not disclose the ties between Pfaff's organization and Focus on the Family, which promotes a conservative Christian political agenda.

During an October 30 report about a Denver Public Schools (DPS) and Denver Health task force proposal to make contraceptives available in some Denver high schools, KDVR Fox 31's News at Nine O'Clock quoted Jim Pfaff -- president of the Focus on the Family-backed lobbying organization Colorado Family Action -- saying, "[P]utting condoms in the schools" would "encourag[e] kids to continue in a risky behavior." The report, however, did not disclose Pfaff's ties to Focus on the Family, the Colorado Springs-based organization that widely promotes a conservative Christian political agenda, or offer commentary from any of the task force members, even though anchor Ron Zappolo stated that Fox 31 "talked to people on all sides" of the issue. In contrast, KUSA's October 30 broadcast of 9News at 6 p.m. quoted Michelle Moss, a member of the DPS board and the task force, who said, "[T]he notion that it [the contraceptive proposal] would create more sexual activity, I absolutely don't believe."

Zappolo introduced the Fox 31 report by saying that "Denver students ... might soon have easier access to birth control. How they could get it on the way from math class to science class." Later, Fox 31 reporter John Romero stated, "Denver Public Schools and the Denver Health medical system will not begin dispensing birth control in some public high schools until at least the second semester this year, and only if the Denver Public School Board passes these task force recommendations issuing birth control at some public high schools to some students only with the parents' permission." Fox 31 then aired responses to the proposal from students, parents, and Pfaff, who, in addition to his "risky behavior" comment said that "[i]t's important" for high school students "to be in healthy marriages where they can have the best success possible." Romero also reported that "Pfaff thinks students should get an abstinence-only education."

Besides failing to include remarks from task force members who crafted the proposal, Fox 31 identified Pfaff only as a representative of "the Colorado Family Institute" without mentioning its or Pfaff's ties to Focus on the Family. According to Colorado Family Institute's website, "We are part of a nationwide network of family policy councils associated with Focus on the Family® and Dr. James Dobson." [underline and emphasis in the original]

The 9News report similarly aired footage of Pfaff saying, "We need less instruction on how children can be sexually active, and more instruction on how they can make good decisions," and identified him with an on-screen graphic as being with Colorado Family Action, although it did not note that group's ties to Focus on the Family. The broadcast, however, included Moss' comment that "[s]ome of our students are already having sex, and already are pregnant. And the notion that it would create more sexual activity, I absolutely don't believe."

As the Rocky Mountain News reported on October 31, "Moss was among the 43 members of the task force, including representatives from medical, state, city and foundation communities, who spent nine months working on the report." According to the News, Moss said: "Contraception is just a really small part of the recommendations. It's what will get the most public scrutiny, but there are other things in here that will improve the health and safety of our children."

From the October 30 broadcast of KDVR Fox 31's News at Nine O'Clock:

MARKIA RHODES (student): I'm on birth control right now.

ZAPPOLO: Denver students like this one might soon have easier access to birth control. How they could get it on the way from math class to science class. Good evening. Thanks for joining us. I'm Ron Zappolo.

LIBBY WEAVER (anchor): And I'm Libby Weaver. Strong reaction tonight from parents and students as the Denver Public School District moves a step closer to providing birth control at its high schools.

ZAPPOLO: Today we talked to people on all sides, including a 15-year-old who is already on birth control. Fox 31's John Romero is live at DPS headquarters with their reaction. John?

ROMERO: Ron, we have learned tonight that Denver Public Schools and the Denver Health medical system will not begin dispensing birth control in some public high schools until at least the second semester this year, and only if the Denver Public School Board passes these task force recommendations, issuing birth control at some public high schools to some students only with the parents' permission.

[begin video clip]

ROMERO: If you come to school to learn ...

RHODES: I'm on birth control right now.

ROMERO: ... Markia Rhodes can teach you almost everything you know about the debate over birth control in the public schools.

RHODES: There's a lot of girls right now that's pregnant. A whole bunch of girls at East right now.

ROMERO: The East High sophomore, all of 15 years old, is a walking example of why a DPS task force is recommending dispensing birth control at Denver high schools to combat a teen pregnancy rate almost twice the state average.

RHODES: Everybody, I know they be having sex after school. If we have birth control, like right after school [unintelligible], there's not going to be a lot of girls up here got pregnant.

ROMERO: The birth control pills and condoms would only be available with the permission of parents, who are divided on the idea.

PARENT: If the parents give permission, I think it's OK.

PARENT: I think it's a family issue. I think the parents should be responsible.

PARENT: It encourages, yeah, promiscuity, to me.

ROMERO: A thought echoed by the Colorado Family Institute.

PFAFF: When we are putting condoms in the schools, what we are doing is encouraging kids to continue in a risky behavior.

ROMERO: Instead, Jim Pfaff thinks students should get an abstinence-only education.

PFAFF: It's important for them to be in healthy marriages where they can have the best success possible.

ROMERO: But those ideas are a world away from Markia Rhodes, learning about life while teaching what it's like to be a teen.

RHODES: Girls are smart. They'll make a good choice.

[end video clip]

ROMERO: Now, there is a whole lot we do not know right now, such as which high schools might adopt this program. That's going to be up to the principals and those schools' community relations board. What does permission mean from parents? That is also yet to be exactly spelled out. It will be spelled out when the school board passes or does not pass an acceptance of these recommendations. It will be done in conjunction with Denver Health medical staff. So a lot of questions still to answer right now, but as we said, one step closer now to this birth control pills and condoms being available in public high schools.

From the October 30 broadcast of KUSA's 9News at 6 p.m.:

ADELE ARAKAWA (anchor): A task force is recommending that clinics at Denver high schools offer birth control to students. Denver Health and Denver public schools work together to provide professional-level medical care in the city's high schools. Today, during the celebration of the 20th year of the health centers, a community task force released a list of recommendations, including making birth control and emergency contraceptive pills readily available. Not every one likes the idea and says it encourages students to have sex.

PFAFF: We need less instruction on how children can be sexually active, and more instruction on how they can make good decisions.

MOSS: Some of our students are already having sex, and already are pregnant. And the notion that it would create more sexual activity, I absolutely don't believe.

ARAKAWA: The Denver Health board and the school board will review the recommendation. If passed, parents would have to give signed consent.

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