The Student News Site of Simmons University

The Simmons Voice

The Student News Site of Simmons University

The Simmons Voice

The Student News Site of Simmons University

The Simmons Voice

Examining the state of sex education in the United States

By Carson Norwood and Casey Walden
Contributing Writers

From The New York Times to “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” the media has recently been littered with jarring stories from real sex-ed classes across the U.S.

Students have shared experiences of being compared to dirty toothbrushes, pre-chewed pieces of gum, and used Scotch tape as so-called educators equate their worth with students’ sexual activity.

Many are terrified of pregnancy and STIs but know nothing about the basics of condom use.

Can HIV be contracted through oral sex? What are a student’s options if they think they may be pregnant? What STI protection is available when everyone involved has a vagina?

Most high schoolers want answers to these questions—but many aren’t getting any.

Only 22 states out of the 50 in the U.S. mandate that any form of sex education be taught in schools, and just 13 require that this education be medically accurate. Even when information isn’t technically false, many educators will twist data to fit in with their own agendas.

For example, sex educators will often focus on the failure rates of safer sex methods—whether accurate or exaggerated—to scare students out of having sex. It doesn’t, of course. Instead, it often teaches young people that they might as well just have sex without protection.

Even states that mandate sex education may heavily restrict it, telling educators that deviating from the prescribed curriculum may cost them their jobs. Nineteen states require any sex education that is taught to highlight the importance of waiting until marriage before engaging in sexual activity—often dubbed “abstinence-only” education.

Many prohibit education such as condom demonstrations or providing information about abortions. Some school districts have even barred certain language, telling students that masturbation and homosexuality are not up for discussion.

Even so-called “comprehensive” sex education programs often lack information for LGBTQ+ students; Texas, South Carolina, Alabama, and Utah specifically require any information given about LGBTQ+ identities to be negative. In many states, sexual orientation is only brought up when discussing rates of HIV. In this case, schools produce negative attitudes towards LGBTQ+ individuals without directly teaching about them.

Countless studies have shown that non-comprehensive sex education produces higher rates of STIs and unintended pregnancy. However, many areas are still attempting to increase the number of these programs.

Just this past April, the Texas House of Representatives voted to defund HIV prevention education in favor of increasing abstinence-only programs. In Florida, current presidential candidate Jeb Bush redirected state funding from Planned Parenthood to abstinence-only education programs.

Many cite moral reasons for choosing these programs, but what exactly is moral about failing our youth?

On Thursday, Oct. 29, the Simmons chapter of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts will be screening the documentary “The Education of Shelby Knox” in the Special Functions Room from 7-9 P.M.

This film chronicles the story of high school student Shelby Knox, a deeply religious Southern activist, in her fight for accurate sex education in her Lubbock, Texas school system.

Following the film, members of NARAL will lead a crash course on accurate and LGBTQ+ inclusive sex-ed for any students who feel, as many of us do, that they are still lacking answers to questions on this critical topic.

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