The Gazette Editorial Board
Sex education can be a touchy subject for school districts.
Most, rightly, don’t want to stick their noses too far into such personal and emotional subject matter; one which touches on a number of core values for families.
And it’s only right that parents take the central responsibility for sharing their own values and expectations with their children about sexual activity, relationships and reproductive health. Still, there are health-related matters all young people should know about, especially when it comes to sex.
Iowa does not have required sex ed curricula and a recent survey by the Sexual Health Alliance of Linn & Johnson Counties found that local school districts have widely varying curricula when it comes to sex ed.
Some area students are receiving comprehensive instruction regarding sexuality, contraception, abstinence, healthy relationships, sexually transmitted diseases and related issues. Others aren’t learning nearly as much.
We don’t think the state needs to mandate sex education programs, but the State Department of Education can and should play a supporting role, making it easy for districts to access curriculum choices that are research-based and focus on health and decision-making.
Well-designed sex ed curricula are a valuable part of any comprehensive health education program.
Respected education associations have worked hard to craft standards for sex education that don’t presume to circumvent family beliefs about when and under what circumstances a young person should become sexually active.
Contrary to what some people believe, comprehensive sex ed programs don’t put the idea of sex into teenagers’ heads, or otherwise encourage sexual activity.
Several studies, including one released this past spring by researchers affiliated with the Guttmacher Institute, a non-profit sexual and reproductive health research organization, show that sex ed can help delay the onset of sexual activity, reduce the frequency of sex and number of sexual partners and increase safer-sex practices.
Districts and parents need to have the final say, of course, about what students learn. However, the ongoing struggle against teen pregnancy and alarming recent rise of sexually transmitted diseases among young people is reason enough for every district to strongly consider providing comprehensive sex education.
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