Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. Nelson Mandela
This statement could not be truer when applied to education about our reproductive health. The issue of sex education in schools is a hot topic in California, with many schools and organizations attempting to circumvent the law and pressure their schools to offer ‘abstinence only’ education.
Their argument? Telling adolescents that abstinence is the only choice they have will prevent pregnancy. This ‘head in the sand’ approach is not only dangerous, but illegal. The California Department of Education has mandated schools that teach sex education must comply with their guidelines, which clearly spell out what constitutes ‘medically accurate’ and ‘comprehensive sex education’.
Here’s what the California Education Code has to say about ‘abstinence only’ education:
“EC Section 51933 requires that classes that provide instruction on human development and sexuality in grades seven through twelve shall include medically accurate, up-to-date information about all FDA-approved methods for: 1) reducing the risk of contracting STDs, and 2) preventing pregnancy. Classes that provide instruction on HIV/AIDS prevention shall include medically accurate, up-to-date information on methods to reduce the risk of HIV infection, including the effectiveness rates of condoms and other contraceptives.
Instruction that emphasizes the benefits of abstinence while focusing exclusively on the failure rates or perceived disadvantages of condoms and other contraceptives is also prohibited by law. This would violate legal requirements that the instruction cover the effectiveness and safety (not solely the ineffectiveness) of condoms and other contraceptive methods and would also violate requirements that the instruction be medically accurate and objective.”
The law is clear. So why are schools bowing to pressure from religious parents and organizations? Often, individuals and/or organizations who apply pressure to schools are those who contribute money to underfunded school programs.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, ‘abstinence only’ education is a public disservice. A study conducted by them in 2008 found that these practices were based solely on ideology and politics, and do not constitute an appropriate public health service. Further, they found that these programs do not work, and can, in fact, be dangerous. Adolescents and teens not aware of STI’s, for example, are far more at risk for contracting an infection through lack of knowledge about prevention.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker praised a district attorney at a ‘right to life’ convention for his claim that teachers who promote comprehensive sex education were promoting the ‘sexualization’ of our children. Walker’s group, Pro-Life Wisconsin, supports the theory that education “encourages sexual promiscuity and with it a host of social pathologies including underage pregnancies, chemical and surgical abortions, and sexually transmitted diseases”.
Using his logic, explaining to a teenage girl what Herpes is and how it is transmitted will drive her directly into the arms of an unsuspecting (but verifiably infected) boy in an effort to contract the disease. I don’t know too many teenage girls who fit this profile, do you? Clearly, they must all live in Governor Walker’s neighborhood.
Education about reproductive health is not limited to young people. Many adults are misinformed about their own sexual health – which can cause them to make poor decisions when it comes to contraception and prevention of STI’s. Who serves these people when they seek answers and medically factual information?
Citizens for Choice provides education through The Clinic! for any person of reproductive age. They do not discriminate based on gender, age or sexual preference, and in fact, work tirelessly to engender tolerance and acceptance of all people.
Have that talk with your kids
Need help talking to your child about sexuality? Visit our website and see our ‘Parents’ page for great information. Even better, attend our upcoming free evening of informal discussion and help at ‘Let’s Talk – Teenagers and Sexuality’, to be held on November 7 from 6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. at Lyman Gilmore Middle School. http://www.citizensforchoice.org/parents/