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Talking about sexual education in public schools, mainly to teenagers has become important. Health teachers in public high schools have an obligation to teach students about sex and sexual matters including its consequences such as diseases and unwanted pregnancies. Although according to statistics released by Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the number of teenage pregnancies reported has reduced, an increase in sexually transmitted diseases has increased. Even though sexual education is taught in public high schools, it fails to educate them adequately about sexuality and sex. The rates of STDs among LGBT students have increased because most teenagers are not correctly informed about their bodies and the changes that take place. Because teenagers do not receive the correct information in school, they turn to alternative avenues for information which in many cases is misleading. The sexual education curriculum consists of one main program that teaches about abstinence until marriage. Hence, the sexual education curriculum in public schools requires changes to include various programs that provide adequate sexual education.
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According to the CDC, only twenty-two states in America allow sexual education to be taught in public schools. However, nineteen out of these states demand the sexual education given to be medically accurate. As such, the only sex education permitted is abstinence, which according to an organization known as advocates for youth that tries to help young individuals make informed decisions regarding their bodies and sex, it is unreliable. The abstinence programs are meant to assist teenagers in delaying the age they begin having sexual relations, but instead of serving that purpose, it reduces the regularity of using contraceptives. As a result, the chances of teenagers contracting STDs or getting unwanted pregnancies increase. According to the Advocates of Youth statistics, 95% of adults between eighteen and forty-four years interviewed claimed that they had engaged in pre-marital sex. Such results prove that abstinence-only program that is taught in public high schools is irrelevant and should be replaced with a more effective curriculum.
Another issue about sexual education in public high schools is the lack of inclusivity and discrimination. Lack of inclusion of matters of gender identity or sexual orientation in the school sexual curriculum denies the queer students a chance to learn how to protect themselves. As a matter of fact, some states including Alabama, South Carolina, and Texas require that only negative information about same-sex relationships should be taught to students in schools. Due to lack of proper sexual education, the number of LBGT students who use contraceptives and other methods to protect themselves is half that of their ‘normal’ counterpart (Estes, 2016). On the other hand, some methods of teaching abstinence in public high schools result in gender discrimination. Since the method indicates that after having sex with several people, a girl is the only one who is affected negatively, it leads to discrimination against girls. For instance, in Mississippi, one school compared a young girl who has pre-marital sex to a dirty chocolate that has been touched by many people and used.
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Subsequently, the sexual education program is not started in time, so many teenagers do not get the information they require to live responsibly until it is too late. In a study conducted by CDC, it was found that about 15% of fifteen-year-olds have had sex. Also, more than 23% of teenagers never used any form of contraceptive when they first had sex. Additionally, 83% of the teenage girls that were interviewed revealed that they did not receive any formal sexual education until they had had their first sexual encounter. Therefore, many high school students begin experimenting on sexual affairs without any knowledge on what they should or should not do. Due to such delays in the introduction of sexual education in public high schools, cases of unwanted pregnancies increase and the rate of teenagers with STDs increases as well. Some practices in particular states also contribute to the lack of sexual education knowledge among teenagers because in thirty-three states parents are allowed to opt for their children to be excluded in the sex education program. Once the parents reject the program on behalf of their children, teachers cannot teach them, so the children remain ignorant on matters of sex (Bleakley, 2006). Eventually, the students begin engaging in sexual activities with no particular knowledge.
Some of the changes that need to be made in the high school curriculum of sexual education include the involvement of parents in the discussions. In a bill enacted in 2016 in Alaska, public school boards must encourage the participation of parents in the sexual education program. The bill requires teachers to notify the parents about the program and let them make a decision whether their child should participate or not. Additionally, the bill has policies that seek to ensure that an acceptable procedure of notifying parents, at least two or more weeks before a program takes place are available to allow for their participation. Additionally, the curriculum and materials used for sex education must first be approved by parents and the school board.
For sex education in high schools to be effective, teachers should stop concentrating on the abstinence-until-marriage approach and take on a more comprehensive method. Since there is sufficient proof that the current programs do not work as they are supposed to, there is a need for a better way of instilling knowledge to kids about sex. Including education about contraceptives and directing teenagers where to find contraceptives such as the pill and condoms could save many teenagers from STDs and unwanted pregnancies. In a survey done by Advocate for a Youth Organization, 71% of parents interviewed would like their kids to be taught about contraceptives. Similarly, 83% of parents believe that students who are in high school should receive formal education on how to wear a condom. Nonetheless, a few parents still insist that schools should stick with teaching using the abstinence approach and not teach the kids about anything else regarding sex or sexually related activities.
Because sex education in schools is deemed to be useless since more students are involved in promiscuous behavior, some individuals suggest that it should be abolished in public schools. The use of ineffective methods based on fear such as the RVSP may work for some students but may not work for others. It is suggested that sex education should include education about HIV, STDs, abuse of drugs, and other issues. In this approach, students are taught the dangers associated with taking drugs and how it could ruin their lives (Spring, 2015). In the same case, sex is equated to drugs which are addictive and if not avoided it could lead to various adverse effects including loss of friends. In this approach, sexual education begins at a tender age especially middle school and is based on fear of contracting deadly diseases or becoming addictive to sex. Therefore, instead of scrapping the whole program because and approach did not work, schools should adapt to a new and comprehensive method of mixing various methods to come up with the best plan for teaching sexual education in public high schools.
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Also, new guidelines should be formulated to help determine when a sexual education approach is comprehensive and inclusive. Such measures will assist in educating school children about sex and assist them to overcome any obstacles that contribute to early sexual experiences. An approach that is highly inclusive and teaches lesbian and gay students about their rights as human beings is required. Since most programs do not let younger children receive formal sexual education, the parent must ensure that they give permission to the school so that their children can get the knowledge they need to protect themselves against sexually related complications. It is not compulsory for states to use the currently set laws that mainly deal with abstinence. Nonetheless, these laws can be changed to fit the type of students addressed and teach them more methods of acquiring sex education.
Sexual education in public high schools has been going on for many years. However, it has done little to reduce the number of teenage pregnancies reported or the increasing number of teenagers contracting sexually transmitted diseases. For this reason, many people call for the abolishment of the sex education programs in schools. The failure experienced is because most schools use the abstinence-only-until-marriage program which clearly has no impact on the sexual lives of the school-going teenagers. The biggest issue is the fact that in many schools, sexual education does not begin until it is too late and kids already engage in sexual activities. Therefore, the approach used for teaching school going teenagers about sex must be changed to reflect the society they live in where sex starts at a tender age. Including education about drug abuse and sexually transmitted diseases, particularly HIV could be fundamental in getting teenagers to stop exercising pre-marital sex. Also, they should be taught about contraceptives and how to use them mainly condoms and the pill.
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- Bleakley, A., Hennessy, M., & Fishbein, M. (2006). Public opinion on sex education in US schools. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, 160(11), 1151-1156.
- Estes, M. L. (2016). ” Well if there’s one benefit, you’re not going to get pregnant”: A qualitative investigation of the sex education that gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals received (Doctoral dissertation, Middle Tennessee State University).
- Spring, J. (2015). American education. Routledge.