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Student promotes need for sex education

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Kylee Sharp, a junior at John Muir High School in Pasadena, Calif., was more than disgusted that her school had not sex education program for the students. She decided to use her skills as a student journalist to change that to make sure the students at her high school received the best sex education possible.

Adviser of The Blaze, the high school’s newspaper, Jose Ortega, shared Sharp’s mission.

“Kylee Sharp, an opinion writer, condemned the absence of any sex education at John Muir High School. As a result, the Administration and the Science Department are making concrete plans to deliver sex education to Muir’s students, beginning in the next school year. Her thoroughness in discussing this issue led many to realize that Muir is not even doing the bare minimum to educate its students about a very real part of their lives: sex and its physical and emotional repercussions. But because of Kylee, the Muir community stands to benefit from being educated on this still very taboo subject.”

The following is Sharp’s piece that appeared in the May 28, 2015, edition.

“Recently, the administration acknowledged the lack of HIV/AIDS prevention education in biology classes. A couple of years ago, the freshman class took physics for the science requirement instead of biology. The following year new ­to ­our­ school biology teachers were hired. There was a lot miscommunication between the administration and teachers about what was required to be taught.

At this point in young adolescent lives, most teenagers are very aware of what sex is, but many are not aware of safe sex. But what do these students actually know about sex? Or consent? And where are they getting their information? Not in missing sex ed classes, that’s for certain.

Today, sex is referenced everywhere in the media, from music to movies and books to billboards. Sex, or at least the mention of it, is everywhere, especially at school, and it would be pretty impossible to try to shield young adults from it.

Refusing, by not providing proper sexual education classes, to acknowledge that students know about sex only adds to the issue.

Students have a right to know and be informed on what sex is, what the consequences are, and what they can do to avoid sexual diseases and unwanted pregnancies.

A few weeks ago there was an assembly held right before prom to inform seniors of the difference between consent and rape, and this was the closest we have come to sex ed.

Teen pregnancies have decreased over the past few years, however adolescents are at an increased risk for sexually transmitted diseases (according to the Center for Disease Control Statistics from 2013). So I think it’s pretty important that we have proper sex ed, to increase awareness and inform teens of STDs and unexpected pregnancies.

I know that people will argue that freshmen may be too young to understand sex, but tell that to the high school girls that are pregnant and the boys that impregnated them. Most of us know what sex is and how it works, but we don’t know the repercussions of our actions, especially if we aren’t making safe decisions, or practicing safe sex.

Sexual education, if we were to have it, should be a safe and serious class where teenagers can become better informed. Apparently, schools are not required to teach sex education, according to the California Education Code (CEC) Section 51931 (b), but if they do, they have to follow specific guidelines that conform to the Comprehensive Sexual Health Act.

The guidelines state that if the schools teach sex ed, they must teach that abstinence is the safest way to not have sex and most guaranteed way to not get pregnant, even though they are not limited to just that. Schools are also required to cover teaching about contraceptives, according to the CEC guidelines. What is taught has to be appropriate for the age group.

When I say that we need sex ed, I mean everything from reproduction and anatomy, to healthy relationships, to pregnancy and safe contraceptives. Information on different sexual and gender identities, to inform students who may be struggling. The most important aspect of the class, to me, is to provide students with a safe, confidential space to ask questions and get the accurate information they need to be informed and make informed decisions.

Every sex ed lesson I ever had in middle school taught that abstinence was the only sure way to not get pregnant, and if I did have sex and get pregnant, that’s too bad. But of course the CEC also states that they prohibit abstinence­ only education, so where is the proper education?

Even though schools are not required to teach comprehensive sexual health, they are required to teach HIV/AIDS prevention education at least once in junior high and once again in high school.

To this day, I have had one class on HIV/AIDS prevention. In seventh grade. I have not had anything regarding HIV/AIDS prevention in any class here at Muir.

HIV/AIDS prevention is supposed to be taught in biology after it is already taught in middle school. However, a new curriculum, Next Generation Science Standards, was recently implemented by the school board which does not cover human anatomy or the reproductive
system.

This is really unfair for current students who haven’t received anything on HIV/AIDS.

HIV/AIDS may be covered during the genetic diseases unit if a student researches that topic for their project, but HIV/AIDS preventions and the reproductions system are not specifically covered, just sexual and asexual reproduction at a cellular level according to Biology teacher Alexandra Gonzales.

Gonzales said, “I think it’s important to educate students about ways they can protect themselves from contracting venereal diseases. I think all students would benefit from taking a year of Health.”

At this point it’s pretty evident that I believe we need an actual class for sex ed, and not a unit in biology.

However Principal Timothy Sippel said, “Sex ed should be covered in middle school. [If we were to have it here] I think three to four or five lessons would probably be adequate. Maybe less, maybe more. I don’t think that the entire semester would be required.”

Honestly, I don’t agree. I feel like it would take a few lessons to cover STDs or how to identify unstable relationships. I certainly do not agree that the lessons that are apparently taught in middle school are enough. I don’t think that a few lessons are enough to cover everything that has to do with sex.

The fact that adults are hesitant to say the word “sex” around minors further perpetuates the idea that the very natural act of sex is taboo. This is so harmful to our impressionable minds. Adults doing this creates a stigma around sex and compels us to believe that sex is bad and wrong, and if we are having it then we are bad and wrong. Therefore, we cannot talk about it.

It seems to be a popular consensus that sex education should not be the school’s responsibility, especially not in high school. Even after all the information I gathered for this article, I still stand
with my original statement that sex ed should be taught in high school.

There is the on­going debate everywhere over who is responsible to educate young adults on sex, but in the midst of all this debate, students are not being educated by anyone.

I believe that it should be both the high school and the parent or guardian’s responsibility to inform and educate teenagers on the issues and topic of sex.

School Nurse Mercedese Hervey said, “It probably is important to go over [sex ed] because I’m sure some young people have forgotten it, but the sad thing about it is that we no longer have a health class.”

In the nurse’s office there are a few pamphlets with information about STDs and HIV, but most of them in Spanish. STDs are important to know about considering the highest rates of STDs in the city of Pasadena are in teens 15-19 and young adults.

I have heard adults (not at school) say that providing students with condoms will encourage them to have sex. There are studies that prove this to be false. Also, it doesn’t make sense, I think that providing students with condoms would encourage students to have safe, protected sex, if they were to have it, and it would encourage them to make healthy decisions.

Our school does not provide condoms for students because the school lacks the resources to accommodate the guidelines that follow the distribution of condoms.

However, the decision to distribute condoms ultimately originates from the school board, not necessarily the school.

The school board recently voted to reinstate the health class requirement, which will begin with next year’s freshmen. This class requirement is very likely to include sex education. I think that this is really great and a huge step towards changing the lack of sex ed. Even if it won’t benefit the current students, it’s really significant for these incoming freshmen.

All in all, I think that it is completely necessary to have sex ed at school, since we don’t really have it. I truly believe that us teens require a sex education class, even if it’s just a refresher from middle school. We need it, we want it, so where is it?”

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