Draw the Line/Respect the Line is a 3-year evidence-based curriculum that promotes abstinence for middle school students, showing them how to set personal limits and respect others’ personal limits.
Draw the Line/Respect the Line is designed to be used either by a classroom teacher or community-based educator for sixth, seventh, and eighth-grade students. The aim of the program is to reduce the number of students who initiate or have sexual intercourse, and to increase condom use among students who are sexually active. Using a fun, interactive approach, Draw the Line/Respect the Line shows students how to set personal limits and meet challenges to those limits. The curriculum also includes activities for students to do with their families.
Draw the Line/Respect the Line is sensitive to the needs of Latino youth. It was implemented in schools with large numbers of Latino youth, and these youth were consulted frequently during development. The student materials are provided in both English and Spanish.
The curriculum is based on numerous principles:
- Not having sex is the healthiest sexual limit for students in middle school.
- Students can set sexual limits.
- Students can be motivated to maintain their limits.
- Students will encounter challenges to maintain their limits.
- Students can overcome challenges to their limits.
- Students who respect the limits of others will be less coercive.
- Each student has unique needs, and condom use is essential protection for those who are sexually active.
The program is delivered through role-play, mini-lectures, brainstorming, games, small group work, an anonymous question box, videos, and guest speakers.
The program consists of 19 lessons—5 lessons in Grade 6, 7 lessons in Grade 7, and 7 lessons in Grade 8. Each lesson is 45–50 minutes.
- In grade 6, the emphasis is on non-sexual situations in which youth may experience pressure, for example, to steal, use alcohol or smoke. The lessons feature limit-setting and refusal skills in these contexts. Parent-child communication activities include discussion of cultural and family values and pressure situations for young people.
- In grade 7, pressures regarding sexual intercourse are considered. The lessons feature short-term consequences of unplanned sex, information about STD and how to apply refusal skills in a party context. Parent-child communication activities include discussion of intentions to avoid having sex and getting out of risky situations.
- In grade 8, the lessons feature an HIV-positive speaker, practicing refusal skills in dating situations, and a condom demonstration. Parent-child communication activities include discussion of HIV and its impact on those who are affected by HIV.
Boys who received Draw the Line/Respect the Line were significantly less likely than boys in the comparison group to initiate sex, had significantly greater knowledge, had stronger sexual limits, and put themselves in fewer situations that could lead to sex.
Students in focus groups provided information about how youth think and feel about sex, as well as feedback about lesson ideas. Each lesson activity was tested initially in schools not formally part of the study. Then various activities were revised, and additional piloting of the lessons occurred. Finally, full sets of lessons for each grade were taught at 10 or more classrooms in another school district, and final revisions were made. Student feedback was used throughout the process to improve the lessons and make them enjoyable.
In the original research study, 19 schools were randomly assigned to either receive the curriculum (10 schools), or continue with usual classroom activities regarding HIV, other STD and pregnancy prevention (9 schools). During the study the curriculum was taught by specially trained family life educators.
The evaluation of the curriculum involved surveying students in the 19 study schools who had received parental consent to participate in the study. Surveys were completed before students received the program in grade 6, and at the end of grades 7, 8 and 9.
In a randomized controlled trial involving 19 schools funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (Coyle et al., 2004):
- Boys who received Draw the Line/Respect the Line were significantly less likely than boys in the comparison group to initiate sex, had significantly greater knowledge, had stronger sexual limits, and put themselves in fewer situations that could lead to sex.
- At 36-month follow-up, 19% of boys in the program had had sex compared to 27% in the control group.
- There were no significant differences for girls except regarding peer norms. Girls receiving the curriculum perceived fewer peer norms supporting sex than girls in the comparison group. The surveys indicated that almost 30% of girls in the study in grade 8 had a boyfriend 2 or more years older, and that these girls were more likely to report having had sex. It’s possible that more instruction on the influence of older boyfriends on sexual behaviors, and more skill practice in handling potential power differentials and possible coercion, may help improve the results for girls.
Coyle, K., D. Kirby, B. Marin, C. Gomez, S. Gregorich. 2004. Draw the Line/Respect the Line: A randomized trial of a middle school intervention to reduce sexual behaviors. American Journal of Public Health 94 (5): 843-851.
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