In Nevada, it seems that sex ed is no better than it was in the days of passing around a Judy Blume book. From Reno News And Review:
That was 1977, in the puritanical midwest. In Nevada, where “sex worker” is a legal career, I’d like to think sex ed has improved.
Not so, say students in Fallon, where schools use an abstinence-only curriculum developed by a conservative religious group. Earlier this year, Fallon students went to the school board to complain that program isn’t working. Teens aren’t just saying no. When “yes” happens, they are unprepared.
“They said ‘We’re still getting pregnant—this isn’t working,’” explains Planned Parenthood Mar Monte public affairs vice president Alison Gaulden. “‘We need something that helps us.’”
For starters, abstinence-based programs, though well-meaning, don’t address proper protection from STDs and pregnancy.
“Teens are not using condoms correctly,” Gaulden says. “They’re not using them with lubrication so they tear or come off easily. They’re not using them consistently.”
At the students’ request, the Lyon County school board will consider a new curriculum for Fallon students. But a bigger plan involves state-wide sex ed consistency. “It’d be simpler to have a state standard,” says Carissa Snedeker, member of Fallon’s curriculum advisory committee.
Nevada’s 17 counties have 17 different sets of sex ed guidelines. Statewide standardization is the goal of a 2011 bill draft request filed by Nevada Assemblyman David Bobzien.
Nevada has the 10th highest teen pregnancy rate in the nation. In 2009, Nevadans contracted around 6,661 cases of chlamydia and 1,009 cases of gonorrhea. The highest percentage is among youth 15 to 24 years of age.
But teens are getting smarter about sex ed and sexuality, as well as knowing when they are being preyed upon by those who think simply telling them they are dirty if they have sex is protecting them. In North Carolina, where our old friends at Human Life Alliance began handing out racially targeted abstinence only material at a local high school, some students fought back.
Last week, 17-year-old Morgan Richardson pulled into the parking lot at Enloe High School in Raleigh, where she encountered three anti-abortion protesters clustered near the building entrance holding signs plastered with photos of aborted fetuses.
Richardson, a senior at the public magnet school, wasn't happy. "Several of my friends were told they were going to hell," she said. "Students were harassed from the minute they stepped off the bus."
What Richardson and Enloe had encountered was a nationally connected protest movement that recently moved its operations to North Carolina. William Schultz, an anti-abortion activist and self-described "street Samaritan" from Raleigh, secured the permit for the demonstration on behalf of Respect for Life, a group centered in Portland, Ore. But Schultz is affiliated with the North Carolina-based Operation Save America, also known as Operation Rescue, a nationally prominent Christian anti-abortion group that now has its headquarters in Concord, N.C.
"The literature they handed out was riddled with fallacies and was racially targeted, as there were different pamphlets for white and black students," Enloe senior Jackson Bloom, 18, said. "They made inquisitions as to the religious beliefs of students passing by and had a huge depiction of Jesus."
The protesters distributed material from a Minnesota nonprofit, the Human Life Alliance, including a pamphlet called "Did You Know?" targeted at African-American students. "Abortion is the leading cause of death among African Americans," the alliance website reads. "'Did You Know?' is shattering the silence of this great tragedy."
Richardson said she herself immediately reported the protesters to the school administration before heading to her classes. She said she was told that the group was not sanctioned by the school but had a permit to protest on the school's sidewalk—technically off-campus.
Gary Wall, who coordinates permits for the Raleigh Police Department, said groups of fewer than 10 people do not need a permit to protest in the city.
Richardson said the experience so disturbed her that she sent a letter to the Enloe administration, the Wake County school system, the Human Life Alliance, her congressman, local media outlets and the White House. "There are certain things I expect when I go to school in the morning. I expect to have to get up early. I expect to have to drive myself to school. I expect to arrive at school without incident," she wrote. "What I do not expect is to find, on the campus, right where the buses are letting off students for the day, a number of Human Life Alliance propagandists handing out pamphlets regarding abortion."
The prospect of more such evangelizing doesn't sit well with Richardson. "As students, we are legally obligated to be at school. This made us a captive audience and easy target for the protesters," she said. "Who's to say that next week we don't have people from other extremist groups on the corner handing out propaganda?"
It appears that if we really want effective sex education, we need to go straight to the students themselves, as they are in Boston.
Walk into a public high school in Boston and you might find a day care center. It’s there for students who are single parents and need child care while they’re in school. But what about finding a robust sexual education curriculum in those same schools? Good luck.
Because, until recently, the Boston Public Schools hadn’t had a health department for about ten years. And that meant sex ed has been hit-or-miss. Some schools have a little of it, some have none at all.
Now, a group of Boston students — with help from the nonprofit Hyde Square Task Force in Jamaica Plain — say they want a comprehensive sex ed program in all the city’s high schools. And their push to overhaul sex ed has gotten the attention of Boston City Council.
The students want comprehensive, practical sex ed, and not to be talked down to with unrealistic and religious moral platitudes. Maybe its time to actually listen to them.
This post was originally published at RH Reality Check, a site of news, community and commentary for reproductive health and justice