The shopping for clothes and notebooks is over. The dust has settled from the transition of summer vacation to new routines. Sports teams are formed, clubs are joined, homework times are established; a new school year is underway.
Now is a good time to pause and consider this question: when it comes to sexuality, what do we want our kids to be learning when they go to school? The messages we give our young people—at home, in our community, in our religious centers, in the media—are complimented in school. If you’re a parent or a concerned community member, here are some questions worth pondering:
- Do you want your daughter to be told that if she has sex before she’s married, she’ll be like a chewed up, used piece of gum?
- Do you want your sons and daughters to be taught that sex outside of marriage is sinful?
- If you or anyone you care about are in a same sex relationship, or are living with a partner to whom you’re not married, do you want your child to hear that you’re living an unacceptable lifestyle—from their teacher?
- If your teenager wants to learn about birth control, or if you’ve helped your teen obtain an effective method, do you want their teachers giving them information about birth control that is based on scientific research or on the teacher’s religious beliefs?
Perhaps you live in a neighborhood that you see as “progressive”; do you think I’m just talking to people in “other” communities? If you live in a city, are these just questions for rural America, like the communities I wrote about in OOPS! Tales From A Sexpert? If your community votes “blue,” do you think these are issues only in “red” states?
Even before the Trump-Pence administration’s radical destruction of the Title X federal grant program, there were no national standards to ensure medically accurate or shame-free sexuality education. But in the past, Title X education funds ensured medical accuracy. That’s no longer the case, so even guest speakers from organizations that receive Title X federal funding can’t automatically be trusted. And from school to school, even within the same district, there is no assurance of either quality or consistency; shame-based speakers are being invited into many schools—even surprisingly “progressive” ones, and they’re funded by our tax dollars.
I encourage anyone who is concerned about this to find out what is going on in your school district and get involved. You might be surprised. And please know that it is often a single person taking the time and trouble to find out what’s going on in the classroom and taking action that makes a change. I know one person who wrote a letter to the school board complaining about a guest speaker, and simply calling it to the school board’s attention resulted in the oversight that the youth deserve. If you’re feeling frustrated with what’s going on politically regarding sexuality education and access to many sexual health services—including how much harder it’s getting for so many people to obtain birth control—please know that this is one area where a single individual really can make a difference.
Also, if you’re not registered to vote—or if you have a child who is reaching the age to register—now is a good time to be sure you’re all registered.
Sending my best wishes to all who care about our youth and our communities,