Do sex education policies vary by state?

This whole discussion of NYC mandatory sex education got me thinking. What are the state policies on sex education in all states? As it turns out, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures website, all states are “somehow involved in sex education for public schoolchildren” (“State Policies“).

As of February 2011, NCSL states:

  • 21 states and the District of Columbia require public schools to teach sex education (including HIV education);
  • 35 states and the District of Columbia require students receive instruction about STIs and HIV/AIDS;
  • 17 states require sex education curricula to be medically accurate and/or age appropriate. State policies vary in their determination of “medically accurate;” some require that state health departments review curricula, while others require that the facts taught come from “published authorities upon which medical professionals rely.”
Also, “many of these states define parents’ rights concerning sexual education” (“State Policies”):
  • 37 states require school districts to allow parental involvement in sexual education programs;
  • Three states require parental consent before a child can receive instruction;
  • 35 states and the District of Columbia allow parents to opt-out on behalf of their children.
These are fascinating statistics. I am glad to read that all states require sex education because that proves that parents and educational professionals value the sexual health of their children. Also, with the growing HIV/AIDS epidemic, it is imperative that means of contraception is incorporated into this sex ed as well. Most importantly, however, we must be wary of how we define “age-appropriate” sex education because there is a lot of controversy over what students should be taught at what point in their lives. This is important to keep in mind as I explore the debate the correlation between age and knowledge of sexuality. Lastly, I find it fascinating that some parents (35%) choose to opt out of their child’s sex education, as they are depriving their child of critical knowledge to make safe, responsible decisions in their future. From this, I hope to learn what educational professionals strive to change to accommodate for this large lack of participation in sex education at their schools. This goes back to the question of what kind of sex education is appropriate. What would you suggest? How can they lower that 35% and keep those children in class?

 

 

Works Cited:

“State Policies on Sex Education in Schools.” NCSL Home. Dec. 2011. Web. 24 Mar. 2012.

Why can’t we take biology a step further to discuss sex?

According to Roland Martin in his article “Sex Education Should Be Mandatory in All Schools” on CNN.com, too many parents are living in denial about their children having sex (Martin).  I have been exposed to this denial firsthand, as I was raised with avoidance of the word sex or anything that could relate to sexual activity, until I asked at the age of 12.

This article reminds the reader that both safe sex and abstinence should be dealt with in an educational setting. New York City, an example city school system, should be commended for confronting the sex reality, since they cover both important topics (Martin). On the same token, the New York City Parents’ Choice Coalition is upset with videos that demonstrate to students how to put on a condom (Martin). Just like the common theme of most of these articles, it is important for parents to accept reality and understand that if they want their child to receive a well-rounded sexuality education, they must allow education professionals to step in and supplement their upbringing.

Much controversy arose over the mandatory sex education in New York City schools, as well as many questions that were difficult for the public to answer. On ABC Local in New York, a news segment explored the discussion about these mandatory classes. Many concerns were voiced, including what is the appropriate age for kids having sex and who should be teaching kids how to use a condom, to name a few (“Controversy Rises“). Although this class is mandatory in the NYC school system, parents may object to specific field trips (such as sending their kids to buy condoms and report back on what they bought/learned) and parents may also withdraw their children from class if they so choose (“Controversy Rises”).

In terms of the type of sex education provided, while abstinence is the only way to be 100% safe, we must acknowledge that a significant amount of teens are having sex. “[W]e can’t stick our heads in the sand” and ignore that it happens (“Controversy Rises”). In other words, we cannot ignore that especially in this generation, our children are sexually active and we have to provide them with the necessary resources to make smart decisions about their sexual behavior.

 

 

Works Cited:

“Controversy Rises over Mandatory Sex Education in NYC Schools: 7online.” Moved Permanently. Web. 21 Mar. 2012.

Martin, Roland. “Sex Education Should Be Mandatory in All Schools – CNN.com.” CNN. Cable News Network, 29 Oct. 2011. Web. 21 Mar. 2012. 

Follow up: NPR Survey of Parents/Public on whether sex ed should be offered in US schools?

As previously mentioned in my last post, National Public Radio conducted a survey of the general public and parents nationwide in regards to sexuality education. NPR hoped to feel out whether parents were okay with sex ed being taught in schools. Here are their findings:

Should sex ed be in schools?: (“Sex Education“)

7% say no

93% say yes

When we dissect these statistics, we learn that like my parents, most just give consent to whatever is offered in their child’s school. In saying this, even public school principals have reported very little conflict over sex ed (“Sex Education”). However, this does not mean that Americans agree on which sex ed approach is best…

In terms of other survey statistics:

  • 15% of Americans believe that schools should teach only about abstinence from sexual intercourse and should not provide information on contraception
  • 46% believe that the most appropriate approach to sex ed is abstinence plus, where schools should include lessons on contraception
  • 36% say abstinence is not important (“Sex Education”)

In my opinion, no one should impose beliefs or morals upon others in regards to their own sexual behavior. That being said, abstinence as an option and the discussion of contraception and responsible decision making will always be my vote.

 

 

Works Cited:

“Sex Education in America: General Public/Parents Survey.” National Public Radio, 2011. Web. 18 Mar. 2012.

Who should educate us about sex? Parents or teachers?

Planned Parenthood, a non-profit organization providing reproductive health and maternal and child health services, explores how sex education should be implemented in schools and at home. As Planned Parenthood (PP) describes sex education as exciting, valuable, necessary and complex (“Implementing Sex Education”). While educators often feel anxious and pressured when conveying taboo information to students, it is important for them to advocate for comprehensive, medically accurate sexuality education (“Implementing Sex Education”).

While most people believe that parents and guardians should be the primary source for sexuality education for their children, some educators feel the need to fill in the gaps of information that parents do not provide. This is the case because students should receive age-appropriate sexual health information (“Implementing Sex Education”). Sex ed is a critical knowledge set because sexuality plays an integral role in one’s identity. Children receive messages about sexuality from many other sources other than parents and some of these sources have positive and negative impacts (“Implementing Sex Education”). As a result, it is important for educational professionals, parents and organizations to filter this information for students and provide them with the necessary knowledge they need to know to familiarize themselves with their body and sexuality, in order to be safe.

In addition, there are many community based organizations that can supplement what students learn at school and at home. One non-profit, Advocates for Youth, helps young people “make responsible and choices about their reproductive and sexual health” (“Implementing Sex Education”). Organizations such as these are beneficial resources for those who do not have sufficient knowledge of their sexuality outside of their own exposure to media and the information they gather from peers. On the whole, according to a National Public Radio poll, 93% of parents found that sexuality education in schools is helpful or somewhat helpful (“Sex Education”). This proves that some aspect of sex ed exposure opens their child’s eyes to making new, informed, safe decisions.

 

 

Works Cited:

“Implementing Sex Education.” Sexual & Reproductive Health. Web. 24 Mar. 2012.

“Sex Education in America: General Public/Parents Survey.” National Public Radio, 2011. Web. 18 Mar. 2012.

What makes a good sex ed teacher?

The discussion of what makes a good sex education teacher is subjective, however it is important to highlight the various techniques of teachers across the country. Let us begin with Mr. Al Vernacchio, a Sexuality and Society teacher at a private school in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Vernacchio holds a master’s degree in Human Sexuality and has a unique approach to teaching sex education (Abraham).

In Laurie Abraham’s New York Times article entitled “Teaching Good Sex,” Vernacchio explains that he begins by reviewing the prior knowledge that his students hold on sexual behavior and sexuality (Abraham). This surfaces the baseball reference, in which a specific sexual behavior is seen as sequence of baseball plays. Vernacchio reminds students that baseball implies that sexual activity is just a game, with one party as the aggressor (often the boy, in a heterosexual relationship), while the other is defending herself (Abraham). With this reference, he explains that there is a strict order to play that implies you can’t stop until you finish; he says, “If you’re playing baseball, you can’t just say [you’re] really happy at second base” (Abraham). I never thought of the baseball reference in this light. Vernacchio is right: there is a hetero-normative assumption that sexual behavior must follow this specific rule set.

Vernacchio’s class is one of a kind in the US. Sexuality and Society is a course that “begins in the fall with a discussion of how to recognize and form [one’s] own values, then moves through topics like sexual orientation, safer sex, relationships, sexual health and the emotional and physical terrain of sexual activity” (Abraham). This is a very straightforward class that, in my opinion, should be more commonly presented in the public school system. As Abraham explains, there are three types of sex ed: abstinence-only sex ed, abstinence based sex ed, and comprehensive sex education (Abraham). Vernacchio has gone for the comprehensive approach, in which he offers nonjudgmental instruction on bodies, birth control, disease prevention and healthy relationships, which is geared to help teens make responsible choices when choosing to become sexually intimate with someone (Abraham).

After reading this article, it is clear that while Vernacchio takes a unique approach to sex ed, it has been effective and relatable for his students. As one student remarked in an interview with Abraham, she says, “I just love this class – you can ask anything” (Abraham). Isn’t that how all sex ed classes should be? How else will you retain anything from a class if you cannot engage in discussion and apply what you learn outside of the classroom?

We know my answer, but what do you think, and why? Should sex ed be abstinence only, abstinence based, or comprehensive?

 

 

Works Cited:

Abraham, Laurie. “Teaching Good Sex.” The New York Times. 16 Nov. 2011. Web. 19 Mar. 2012.

Welcome to the world of sex.

To expand upon my project proposal, this blog will explore the discussion of whether sex education should be taught at school. If the answer to this question is yes, I will touch upon the different types of sex education levels (such as abstinence only, abstinence based, sexually explorative education, etc.) With this blog, you will learn about what you can do as a parent, student, educational professional, and friend or mentor in the field of health and sex education. This blog will introduce you to different types of contraceptives you may have never heard before, while reminding us of the other more traditional ways to protect ourselves from STIs and infection (and simultaneously against getting pregnant). I will offer various statistics to show how sex education is presented across the country as well, and in what states. In addition, I will provide outlets for students to seek out additional sexual education online, if they do not have these resources at school.

I will further investigate which percentages of parents intervene in their children’s sex education program, which percentage parents supplement this program and to what extent (if any) parents will substitute for this program in general. While some parents prefer to be their child’s only source of knowledge about sex education, it is interesting to see how studies say that these kids turn out.

I hope that you will enjoy reading this blog and further participate in this discussion in your child’s school one day. Where will you stand as a parent? If you are an educational professional, what is over-stepping your bounds in the field of sex education? How far is too far? We will find out from a few people who find themselves in these positions now.

While I am not a sex educator myself, please seek me out for further resources and possible contacts to help answer any questions you may have about the field of sex education.

 

 

Works Cited:

“Abstinence and Sex Education.” AVERTing HIV and AIDS. Web. 19 Apr. 2012.