There are some words so heinous that they cannot be spoken aloud in full. Especially on school grounds, they only dare be referred to by a letter. For example, the c-word: contraception.
In 1981, the United States government enacted a policy of abstinence only education, offering federal funding to states and in turn, schools that teach children that practically all they need to know about sex is that they shouldn’t be having it. Under this policy, Florida is one of 23 states that requires any form of sex education. The Sarasota County policy is that, at some point, students must be taught “abstinence from sexual activity outside marriage is the expected standard for all school-age children while teaching the benefits of monogamous heterosexual marriage.”
There are many problems with the don’t-talk-about-sex approach to sex education. First and foremost, that it does not work. The United States has the highest teen pregnancy rate of any developed nation, and Florida has the sixth highest rate of any state. This is not to say that all teenagers are having sex or that it should be taught as the norm. Still, the fact remains that across decades of abstinence-only education, at least a significant number of students are engaging in sexual activity.
This leads to the second problem with our district’s current sex-ed program: kids are in no way educated to prepare for sex now or later in life. We are taught that we should not have sex until marriage, and that if we fail to achieve this standard we are likely to suffer sexually transmitted diseases or teen pregnancy. As the district policy states, schools must, “emphasize that abstinence from sexual activity is a certain way to avoid out-of-wedlock pregnancy… sexually transmitted diseases.” The district neither teaches nor mentions any forms of contraception, despite the fact that condoms have been proven to have a 98% success rate when used properly.
Thus students are left with no real information about something that will, now or later, be a huge element of their lives. When The Torch took a student poll asking about the effectiveness of Pine View’s sex-ed program, one person wrote in the margins, “We have a sex-ed program?”
So where do students turn for the information they need? To media, mostly, and this inevitably leads to unhealthy attitudes about sex and sexuality. Because while, yes, parents are responsible for teaching their children about sex, many simply do not. It is, and always has been, the duty of our school systems to step in and provide students with the information they need to function in society.
It is not Pine View’s fault that abstinence-only education is the standard. However, the school is responsible for adhering to a policy that is detrimental to its students. Whether from the school or the district, we need a policy change.
We sacrifice a degree of personal freedom when we step on campus grounds, allowing the school to district what we may wear and where we may go. We do this under the promise that the district is looking after our best interests, and failing to provide students with the information they need to make safe, healthy decisions does not meet this standard.
Sex should not be like Fight Club. We need to talk about it.