Colorado Students Support Comprehensive Sex Ed
GENEVIEVE BERRY, host:
This is unfinishedbusinessblog.com. I’m Genevieve Berry.
Even as House Bill 1081, otherwise known as the “sex ed” bill, was being passed by the Colorado Senate this afternoon, the heated debate that has shadowed the bill since its introduction shows no signs of declining. Does comprehensive sex education encourage teen sexual activity as some conservative lawmakers and citizens argue? Or does it arm young people with the critical knowledge they need to make informed decisions about their bodies and sexual health as they mature?
(Soundbite of children playing)
BERRY: While both sides continue to passionately advocate for the well-being of children, the “children” themselves have some opinions on what they think is best. 24-year- old Kayla Randall, a Loveland High School graduate, believes that kids need comprehensive sex education in school.
Ms. KAYLA RANDALL (Loveland High School Graduate): I think sex education is a good thing just because I know for myself I didn’t have it and what I did learn was from Planned Parenthood, going with friends who had STD’s because they were uninformed. I feel like it’s important parent’s shouldn’t be worried about it because, kids go home after school and watch television and watch Teen Mom, which teaches us so much more and shows pretty much everything on TV, so why not learn the correct facts in school and not wait until something like that happens.
BERRY: But at the end of the day, some students simply want to be able to get answers to their questions in a safe environment. HANNAH, a 15 year old student at Poudre High believes that comprehensive sex ed classes would allow students to find out what they need to know without being embarrassed.
HANNAH (Poudre High Student): Just that there’s a lot of people who probably wouldn’t feel comfortable asking anybody else one on one, and like if there is a class where they wouldn’t have to, like specifically ask anybody and they could just be in there and pretend to not be listening if they need to, that might be helpful.
Genevieve Berry. Unfinishedbusinessblog.com
Sex Ed Expands In Colorado
This weeks’ Senate debate on Colorado House Bill 13-1081, Comprehensive Human Sexuality K-12 Education, provided clear insights into why abstinence-only sex education programs have often constricted Colorado’s efforts to reduce teen pregnancy rates. According to testimony presented; abstinence-only sex education programs seem to act more as a single point of failure than anything else.
A single point of failure (SPOF) is a part of a system that, if it fails, will stop the entire system from working. Evaluating abstinence-only sex education programs from this perspective makes it easy to understand why abstinence, when presented as the single solution to preventing teen pregnancy, has a high risk of failure. SPOF is a common concept used in military planning, and a retired army sergeant explained “We know that if there is a single point of failure in a system design, sooner or later it will fail.” The research overwhelmingly indicates that abstinence-only sex education programs have failed to prevent teen pregnancies and the rise of STD’s among young adults.
In a report titled, Abstinence-Only Education and Teen Pregnancy Rates: Why We Need Comprehensive Sex Education in the U.S, by Kathrin F. Stanger-Hall and David Hall researchers gathered extensive national data about abstinence-only sex education programs and teen pregnancy rates. Using this data they were able to show that across states there is a positive correlation between teenage pregnancies and births and abstinence education: The more strongly abstinence-only education is emphasized in state laws and policies, the higher the average teenage pregnancy and birth rate. Other evidence presented in the American Journal of Adolescent Health showed that abstinence programs delayed the start of sexual activity by a small amount, but made young people less likely to use protection when they did become sexually active. This method; teaching abstinence without including safe sex effectively endangered the youth population through misinformation. Researchers ended this report by saying, “Abstinence-only programs threaten fundamental human rights to health, information, and life.”
While students, directors of sex education and teen service agencies, and public health officials lined up to testify in support of the bill, the opposition, consisting of conservative lawmakers and citizens, mounted an aggressive attack using parental involvement as their gateway into a morals based discussion about sex education.
When contacted about the recent debate, Lisa Olcese, executive director of Colorado Youth Matter, an advocacy group promoting teen sexual health, said, “Comprehensive sex education doesn’t discount parents at all. We believe it is the school’s responsibility to offer comprehensive sex education programs that are evidence-based, medically accurate, age-appropriate, and culturally sensitive. These programs support parents in their values based discussions about sex. Unfortunately, those discussions don’t happen in every home. Additionally, any parent who has concerns about having their child take part in a comprehensive sex education program can opt out.”
Choosing to ignore these points; opponents spent Thursday afternoon displaying explicit excerpts from current comprehensive sex education programs to support their conservative rhetoric and ideology. Disparaging remarks about cultural inclusion, especially about LGBTQI kids, were heard throughout the debate. One high school student from Colorado Springs, Colo., who testified against the bill said, “I don’t want to be told I have to accept gay lifestyles.”
This is the true single point of failure for any sex education program; the insistence on a one-size fits all solution.
House Bill 13-1081 based on a 4-3 vote along party lines. This bill is an important step forward in expanding access to comprehensive sex education to schools and communities throughout Colorado. Providing young people with the information they need to make informed decisions about their bodies and their health is an inclusive, win-win solution for everyone.
Dr. Young, former program director at Arizona State Extension Office, on why she doesn’t support abstinence-only sex ed