Deborah Roffman is a master teacher who is a constant learner. Her most important teachers are her students. What she has learned about young people and what they think, wonder, worry, and feel about sexuality could fill several volumes. From the day she first entered a classroom in 1971 she has spent her time outside the classroom continuously speaking, writing, and passing on her knowledge about young people and their needs to parents, teachers, counselors and the general public. What drives her is a single vision: that one day it will be families and schools―not media, merchandisers, entertainers, peers, and popular culture―who become the primary, as in first and most important, resources for young people about a topic so essential to life, health, and happiness.
It is within the independent school community ― settings where exciting and creative new ideas thought up on Monday can be in place by Wednesday ― that she has found her professional home since 1975. Currently teaching grades 4-12, inclusive, in several independent schools in the Baltimore area, she finds herself constantly in the position of teaching about development while watching it unfold in front of her. A veteran of the fledgling sexuality education movement in the 1970’s, she was one of the handful of early pioneers whose “see one, teach one, train the next person” determination established this important field.
Ms. Roffman is in constant demand as a presenter and workshop leader across the United States and has provided training and consultation for hundreds of public and private schools and youth serving organizations. Her earlier books have become “must reads” and even required reading for parents and faculties at many schools. Parents find her books and articles life altering and describe her influence on their family life profound. Ms. Roffman’s cutting edge commentaries in the Washington Post (focused primarily on parenting issues) are hugely popular, one of them holding the all time record for the most online hits of any single opinion piece published in the paper’s Sunday Outlook section. Reporters regularly seek out her counsel and expertise, and her work has been featured in most of the nation’s major newspapers, including the Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Washington Times. Recently she was quoted, and her books cited, in both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal on the same day. (In a somewhat more dubious honor, hers was the “quote of the day” in the New York Times on 9/11.) In 2005, she served as the lead expert in a US News and World Report cover story on teen sexuality, and she frequently lends her expertise to articles in major parenting magazines.
Especially since the publication of Sex and Sensibility Ms. Roffman has enjoyed stellar relationships with other media. She has been interviewed on Nightline by Ted Koppel, by Bryant Gumble and other interviewers on the CBS Early Show, and has also appeared on the O’Reilly Factor. In 2003, she was the featured expert―and helped shape―a highly acclaimed segment on teen sexuality with John Stossel for 20/20. Her radio credits include multiple appearances on the Diane Rehm Show and Talk of the Nation, and she also appears (it runs several times a year) in the acclaimed HBO documentary for parents entitled, “Middle School Confessions.” She has provided background for a variety of stories on ABC News, and for 60 Minutes.
Among her professional peers, Ms. Roffman is viewed as an articulate and powerful advocate for children and a revered and singularly effective spokeswoman for her field. In 2003, former Surgeon General David Satcher appointed her (the only educator on the panel) to serve on the National Advisory Council for Sexual Health (Center for Primary Care, Morehouse College of Medicine). She presented a keynote address, as she does at many national and regional health and education conferences, at the NAC’s national symposium in Washington, DC in 2004 on changing the national dialogue around sexuality and sexuality education. She contributes regularly to professional journals, serves as an editor for the American Journal of Sexuality Education, and is the former Associate Editor for Education of the Journal of Sexuality Education and Therapy.
What is perhaps most remarkable about Ms. Roffman’s work is her ability to speak the language of common ground around topics often fraught with controversy and conflict. With uncommon good sense and unshakable commitment to core, universal values, hers is the voice that most often cuts through the rhetoric, the politics, and the false polarities that keep adults focused on their needs and interests, rather than squarely on children. She also understands that the issue at stake is parenting, not politics. The proof lies in her wide appeal to parents of all political stripes, religions, and backgrounds, and the national recognition she has received from such seemingly diverse groups as the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (the coveted Mary Lee Tatum Apple Award) and the National Federation of Republican Women (Favorite Teacher Award).
Deborah and her husband, David, were high school sweethearts and have been married for 40 years. They live in Baltimore, Maryland, and have two grown sons.