Sex education is a vital part of adolescence

Published Apr 17, 2013 at 10:54 am (Updated Apr 17, 2013 at 10:54 am)

It was a packed house at the April 15 Peters Township School Board meeting. The issue that had parents coming out in droves was not the budget, graduation requirements or talk of a new high school. It was sex education – and by sex education, we aren’t talking about the birds and the bees so much as the changes that bodies undergo as children and pre-teens enter puberty.

The program on human growth and development is being taught at the middle school level; two 40-minute sessions for fifth-graders and three 40-minute sessions for sixth-graders. Participation requires a signed permission slip from parents, making the outrage and protest by parents at the meeting even more ridiculous.

Every parent should be able to decide when and how their children are educated on puberty, sex and other issues that will arise as they navigate the difficult and tumultuous teenage years. However, they should not be able to decide when and how other people’s children are educated on the same issues.

To the parents who feel that their children aren’t ready to be taught about these things – what happens when little Mary gets her first menstrual period before “she is ready to be educated” as to what a period is? Or, how scared or confused will little Johnny be if things start happening “down there” before “he is ready to be educated” as to the natural biology that is going on?

The other thing that parents should realize is that kids are going to talk about these things together – and that is where they risk getting dangerous misinformation. It’s better to have an educational class on the matters than for someone to tell Mary that she is bleeding to death.

If children can’t go to their parents with these questions – because they aren’t comfortable, or because the parents simply cannot utter the words “sex” or “masturbation,” – it is imperative that they have a trusted adult that they can go to. And, as they segue from middle school to high school, the dangers of no information or misinformation get even more serious.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 47.7 percent of high school students have had sexual intercourse at least once. Of those, 39.8 percent did not use a condom the last time they had sex and 76.7 percent did not use birth control pills or Depo-Provera (the shot) to prevent pregnancy the last time they had sex. This is where education is vital.

Teenagers are going to have sex, it is a reality, and it is out of parental control. Whether they are educated on the risks and the precautions they can take is in parental control. Preaching abstinence is fine and dandy, but kids should still know about contraceptive options and the risks of pregnancy and STDs should they chose not to abstain.

We hope that the Peters Township School District proceeds with the educational programming, and we hope that parents allow their children to participate, or at the very least, have serious, realistic discussions with their children at home.

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