HealthSex and Sexuality

We Must Protect the Children!!!

Several months ago, our school district began the long process to review, update and revise its human growth and development curriculum – which hadn’t been done since the 1980s. Not that anything has changed since then *sarcasm.* Actually, quite a bit has changed, namely, we know a lot about what works (comprehensive sexuality education) and what doesn’t work (abstinence-only education) to help ensure that kids have the information and resources they need to stay safe and develop healthy relationships. I, along with many other parents, community members, professionals, and advocates have participated in the process to do our part to help ensure not only that the new curriculum is comprehensive, age-appropriate, evidence-based and medically accurate, but that it is also inclusive and not heteronormative.

While the current curriculum covers a broad range of subjects, like reproductive anatomy, pregnancy prevention and HIV/AIDS, it doesn’t even mention of many other important subjects, including masturbation, abortion and LGBTQ issues – by design. As if merely mentioning that gay or transgender people exist will give susceptible young people ideas. When in reality, normalizing being gay or transgender as a part of the curriculum may make LGBTQ kids feel like they are not alone and give them important information about how to reduce their risk for STI and HIV transmission and navigate relationships – all of which are GOOD THINGS! Currently, many sessions aren’t even taught by trained sexuality educators – some are taught by our local crisis pregnancy center, which promotes abstinence-only, purity bullshit. Even if I thought that teen sex was morally wrong, which I don’t, teaching abstinence-only, non-science-based propaganda in public schools is not okay with me.

A few days ago, I received this gem. Oh noes! Not sex! Think of the children!!

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To answer a few of their questions:

  • Do I realize there is a U.S. organization that is sexually indoctrinating children within the infrastructure of schools? Sexuality education doesn’t teach the mechanics of sex, rather gives kids the knowledge, skills and resources to engage in safer sex. No, because that is not real. And what does that even mean? It’s not as if they are showing gay porn or the Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life sex education scene in schools (although, I may have appreciated that).
  • Am I familiar with the contents of Comprehensive Sexuality Education? Yes, I am. It rocks. And has been proven to be effective.
  • How do I feel about my kids learning about sex from Planned Parenthood? Awesome. Planned Parenthood sexuality educators are uniquely qualified to implement evidence-based programs and connect kids with the resources they need to stay safe like low cost birth control, STI testing and treatment and abortion care. They are the organization that SHOULD provide comprehensive sexuality education in public schools.
  • Do I view sex as an activity to be enjoyed like recess? Yes, I view sex as an activity to be enjoyed. However, throwing recess in here is a strawman. No one is advocating that elementary school aged children have sex. In fact, teaching age-appropriate topics related to sex and sexuality, such as anatomy, can promote positive body image, self-confidence, and parent-child communication; discourage perpetrators; and, in the event of sex abuse, help children and adults navigate the disclosure and forensic interview process.
  • Do I believe that teaching a child to question their gender identity is moral? Sure, but no one has to teach a child to question. Children are born skeptics. But for transgender young people, having a teacher normalize being trans* and be willing and able to discuss these issues openly could be freaking huge!
  • Do I believe that it is okay for my kids to learn about sex at school and starting in Kindergarten? Hell yes! There are concepts related to sexuality that I teach my kids now at ages six and almost three, because it is important for them to know how their bodies work and how to stay safe.
  • Do I think that consensual sex between teens is moral, healthy and appropriate? Absolutely.

I am not sure who produced this flyer, but thanks for the reminder. Not only will I be at the meeting tonight, but I also wrote my school board representative, which I had been putting off.  Afterall, we must protect the children.

Dear (name withheld),

I am writing you as a parent in your district, to urge you to support the implementation of a comprehensive sex education curriculum in OPS schools. My daughter, K, is a first grader at (name withheld) school, and my son, I, will attend OPS when he starts kindergarten in 2018.

I want to make sure that when it’s time for my kids to learn about their bodies, sexuality, and how to stay safe, that they do so through an evidence-based curriculum that has been shown to work.

As a parent, it is my responsibility to keep my kids safe as they grow. I take this responsibility very seriously. It’s terrifying to think about all of the things that are outside of my control. I try to teach them values every day – empathy, generosity, respect, love, consent, compassion, and kindness – while understanding that someday they will have to navigate the world without me by their side.

I talk openly with them and answer questions about their bodies and where babies come from. We use medically accurate terminology for body parts and what those body parts do. We read books together that cover these topics. I don’t want them to feel shame about sex or sexuality. When it comes to sex, while I hope they trust me or another adult with questions, they also need to be empowered to make their own healthy choices.

When they have sex, I want it to be wonderful. I want them to be ready, to know what a healthy relationship looks like, and how to ask for and give consent. I want them to know how to access effective birth control and to negotiate condom use with their partners. I will be talking with them about all of these things. I want this for all kids in my community.

Our kids are at risk for:
• Sexually transmitted infections (STI): Almost half of the 19 million sexually transmitted infections in the U.S. each year occur in youth ages 15 to 24. One in four young women ages 15 to 19 has an STI in the U.S.
• Unintended pregnancy: 50 percent of all pregnancies and nearly 82 percent of all teen pregnancies are unintended. The teen pregnancy rate in Nebraska is 43 pregnancies per 1,000 girls. More than 500 babies were born to young womenages 15 to 19 in Douglas County in 2013.
• Intimate partner violence and sexual assault: Young women experience the highest rates of sexual assault among all age groups. More than 1 in 5 college women have been victims of physical abuse, sexual abuse, or threats of physical violence.

Studies have shown that kids who receive comprehensive sex education, including information about contraception and condoms, wait longer to have sex for the first time, experience fewer teen pregnancies, decreased occurrences of HIV infections and STIs, use condoms and contraception at higher rates, and have fewer sex partners than kids who receive abstinence-only education or no sex education at all.

I also want to make sure that this curriculum is as inclusive as possible and that means that kids who are gay or transgender are not made to feel less than or not normal by excluding information about gender identity and LGBTQ issues. Schools shouldn’t institutionalize a heteronormative message. No more children should come to harm, because they were excluded or bullied at school, or worse, by the school.

I want Omaha Public Schools to implement comprehensive sex education that is medically accurate, age-appropriate, evidence-based and inclusive. I care about our community and our kids, and teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections impact public health and our kids’ futures.

Feel free to call me any time. I would love to talk with you more about these and other issues impacting our community.

Peace,

Steph

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Steph

Steph

Steph recently traded single parenthood to two awesome kids (3 and 7) for marriage to a great guy with two awesome kids (5 and 10). Their adventures in parenting are set in a tiny town in the middle of a corn field. Their newest edition is due in February 2017. In late 2015 she left her stressful, more than full-time job with a victim services agency to pursue writing and activism. When she's not busy writing, chasing kids around, cleaning up messes and engaging in social justice warfare, Steph enjoys snuggling, making pies, engaging in debates on the internet, yoga, and fitness. A recovered natural parent, Steph now considers herself a semi-crunchy peaceful parent and trusts science, evidence and common sense to lead the way. She has been actively involved in the reproductive and women's rights movements for more than 20 years and is a passionate pro-choice feminist.

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