In this day and age when sex and sexuality-filled forms of media, like T.V. and advertisements, are exposed to younger and younger groups of children, parents and schools need to start sex education earlier, too. While SMSD does begin a form of sex education in fourth grade, this education focuses on growth and development and puberty; it spends no time on sex and sexuality. The sex education curriculum in SMSD should begin in 7th grade, two years earlier than it does now. Fourteen-year-olds are trusted with driving a car. This age group should be expected to understand the importance of sex-ed, and not giggle at every other word.
In the Shawnee Mission School District, sex education, taught now in Health, is approached in three main ways: abstinence and contraceptives, physical consequences and emotional and life consequences. The curriculum is oriented toward teaching students how and why teen sex is unsafe. It also focuses on teaching safe sex practices if students ignore, or understand, the consequences and still decide to have sex.
While the administration believes that this policy is working, still nearly one in 11 teen girls are impregnated every year in the United States. That figure doesn’t even count the tens of thousands of teen pregnancies that are never reported–the pregnancies hushed up by parents. While teen pregnancy rates have stayed relatively stable, according to the Guttmacher Institute, 8 in 10 teen pregnancies are still unplanned.
As Johnson County Government officials deny grants to organizations such as Planned Parenthood that teach contraceptive use, they continue to fund abstinence-only programs. This July, the Johnson County Health Commission gave $500,000 to a program aimed at teaching abstinence to young teens between 11 and 13 years old. The negative results of these policies can be seen: last year alone, teen pregnancy rates in Johnson County increased by 25 percent. But at least the local government is doing one thing right: focusing education on young teens.
Sex education does not have to start in the school. Who do children trust more than their teachers? Their parents. Parents should be actively engaging their children in conversations about sex well before the time sex becomes an attractive option for their children. Yes, talking to children about sex seems awkward. But imagine having your 15 year old daughter tell you that she’s pregnant. Which is more “awkward?” Just as important is having children feel comfortable enough to ask the tough question of their parents. If a student does not feel comfortable asking a question in class, both the student and the parent need to be OK with talking about the subject of sex.
When both the school and parents engage children in sex education that focuses on physical and emotional maturity and contraceptives between the ages of 11 and 13, teenagers will be better prepared when they actually encounter sex. While some may think that teaching kids just beginning puberty about condoms is inappropriate, the long term effects of an inadequate sex education are too great for the system not to change.