Schools should offer education on more than just abstinence
As students in high school begin to mature, it becomes more essential than ever for them to understand themselves and learn how to keep themselves safe. Fortunately, the state of California requires that all students in high school must partake in some form of health class where students are taught a variety of topics such as mental health, alcohol and drug abuse, and illnesses.
During my freshman and sophomore years, like so many other students, I attended two weeks of health class in my physical education classes. However, almost two years later, I still remember how limited our instruction on sex education was. Our measly two weeks of health curriculum was focused mostly on mental health and drug abuse, only briefly addressing sex at the end of the course.
In a society where a high percentage of teens are still suffering consequences as a result of inadequate safe sex practices, health classes, especially when so limited in time, should not prioritize other topics over sex.
This seems to be a problem that all health classes share as sex education is still perceived as a taboo. In fact, it was only in 2016 that California passed a law that made sex education a mandatory part of health class curriculum. This is ironic since according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of 2016, about 41 percent of all high school students in the United States have already engaged in sexual intercourse.
Looking at the health class curriculum, the idea of “safe sex” is barely even mentioned in the Health Education Content Standards for the California Department of Education (CDE). Some examples of requirements stated in the curriculum are to “analyze STD rates among teens, summarize fertilization, fetal development, and childbirth, and evaluate the benefits to mother, father, and child when teenagers wait until adulthood to become parents.”
These classes, based on the CDE requirements, rather than facing the reality that many teenagers are already having sex, these courses focus on scare tactics, pushing abstinence. However, abstinence is not the only form of safety.
“We can’t always assume that an adolescent will wait to become an adult before making adult decisions,” USC Department of Nursing professor Dr. Theresa Granger said,
As limited as sex education is during the actual health classes, our school does offer students the opportunity to attend the “What goes around comes around” presentation by Kaiser Permanente, where topics such as the importance of using contraceptives as well as getting tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are discussed. This presentation is an example of what sex education should actually be like as it does an effective job of introducing teens to safe sex practices they might not have otherwise known.
Even so, not everyone at the school gets a chance to see this presentation such as those students on sports teams instead of in traditional physical education classes.
Many students, myself included, feel that the school does not take the idea of safe sex as seriously as other topics. For instance, with the case of drug and alcohol abuse, the school has gone so far to enforce the sober grad presentation as mandatory for all seniors, prohibiting them from graduating or partaking in a variety of senior activities without attending. Why is this not the same with a safe sex presentation? Isn’t being healthy just as important as not driving drunk or impaired?
It is just as important for students to learn about how to take care of themselves when it comes to sex as it is for taking care of themselves mentally or when it comes to drug and alcohol abuse.
Sexual education shouldn’t be completed in one day, simply encouraging abstinence overall; it should be a detailed account of how and why to stay safe and what to do if you’re not safe.