PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN 6) — The organization responsible for hosting the Adolescent Sexuality Conference decided to cancel the 2015 event just a month before it was to be held in Seaside.
The decision, announced in an email obtained by KOIN 6 News, follows a series of investigations by KOIN 6 News into the subject and content of the conference that included tweens and teens from schools around the state.
“The Oregon Teen Pregnancy Task Force Board has made the choice to cancel the 2015 Adolescent Sexuality Conference (ASC),” the email, signed by “Oregon Teen Pregnancy Task Force” began.
“For over 30 years the ASC has provided valuable content and discussion to inform and engage public educators, health professionals, parents and youth,” the email continued. “Our mission continues to be focused on facilitating communication and awareness on all facets of healthy sexuality for youth in our community. While we remain clear in our vision, we feel current conditions have shifted the setting and our ability to offer open, safe and honest conversations about sexuality. …”
KOIN 6 News independently verified the email.
The KOIN 6 News investigations focused on the pamphlets handed out to the conference participants — later deemed “not appropriate” by the Oregon Department of Education — and on the presentation by keynote speaker Cory Silverberg.
Audio of that presentation, recorded by a 2014 participant and posted to YouTube, seemed to indicate Silverberg discussed porn sites, the use of meth in sex and other material heard by, among others, middle school students.
Reaction about the cancellation
Concerned parents like Lisa Maloney were outraged after attending the conference. Maloney, who is also a school board member, told KOIN 6 News the cancellation is a big victory for youth in Oregon.
“They’ve lied about what happened there, they’ve denied it, they were ignoring what was going on there when it came to light and they’ve been discrediting the facts,” Maloney said Saturday. “Well, now they’ve obviously canceled because the facts speak for themselves.
Lori Porter, the director of Parents Rights in Education, told KOIN 6 News, “The facts were being ignored. They were being denied and we’re thrilled that it’s out in the open for the public to scrutinize if this truly is safe and healthy for children, for minors.”
State Sen. Tim Knopp, who previously criticized the conference, was glad to hear it was canceled.
“Really what that conference turned into was activists that went way over the line,” he said.
Clatsop County Sheriff Tom Bergin is also relieved the conference is canceled. He was worried the teens were being encouraged to take part in illegal activity.
“Obviously, the Clatsop County Sheriff’s Office along with the majority of the people in this community are really happy to see this sex conference will be canceled,” Bergin said. “We really appreciate all the hard work by everybody, including KOIN 6 and yourself.”
Many school districts opted not to participate in the Adolescent Sexuality Conference this year.
“…We value our longtime relationship with our hosts in the Seaside community. We cannot, in good conscience, hold a conference when we believe conference participants and our Seaside partners may be put in uncomfortable or unpleasant situations,” the email continued.
“All paid registration fees will be refunded; cashed checks will be reimbursed, checks that have not yet been cashed will be returned, and credit cards will be reimbursed over the next two weeks.”
Seaside Mayor Don Larson, where the conference was scheduled, told KOIN 6 News the conference organizers have not contacted the convention center to officially cancel.
“Thankfully you and Channel 6 exposed what was really truly going on there.”