I am a recent high school graduate (ARHSG), and I can say for sure, that the sex education I received in high school is just barely enough.
According to a Planned Parenthood article, 93% of parents support sex education in middle school, and 96% of parents support sex education in high school.
The first time I received real sex education was this year, my senior year of high school. When the overwhelming majority of parents support sex education earlier on, this makes no sense.
This year, my health teacher, for the first time, allowed students to openly address issues related to sex and relationships. He encouraged direct, open, and nonjudgemental discussions, and many sixteen-year-old to eighteen-year-old students in my class had revealed that they have been sexually active for awhile. One student in particular had unprotected sex, and impregnated his peer. It is not okay that students like him are only receiving formal education about sex their last year of high school. While I do not know the outcome of his situation, I know for sure that unplanned teen pregnancies are incredibly difficult to handle, especially as a dependent.
In stressing the need for increased sex education in high school, as well as in middle school, I have compiled a list of five reasons why American high school sex education is just not enough.
Reason 1: That one student who impregnated his peer.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says, unplanned teen pregnancies bring “substantial social and economic costs through immediate and long-term impacts on teen parents and their children.” Studies by the Guttmacher Institute indicate that 43% of adolescent females and 57% adolescent males did not even receive sex education before having sex for the first time between 2011 and 2013. If students are not aware of the risk that unprotected sex poses, especially at such a young age, then they may cause unnecessary harm to themselves and their families and might also have to deal with the moral dilemma of being a teenage parent in cases of unplanned teenage pregnancies.
While it is true that youth gather information about sexual health from parents, family, the internet, friends, etc., the information given by these sources is not regulated and may not always be accurate. And when states do not regulate sex education curricula, teachers are left to interpret what must be included and what will be left out due to time constraints, and school districts are allowed to censor material due to the “immaturity” of youth. However, immaturity is not an excuse when the health and safety of youth are on the line.
Reason 3: The lack of comprehensive sex education in some cases.
Studies in the Journal of Adolescent Health show that adolescents who receive comprehensive sex education are less likely to experience teen pregnancies, whereas students who receive no formal education or abstinence-only education have a higher risk of teen pregnancy. As a middle school student, I was simply taught the latter, to be abstinent. While I am not sexually active, I know that my peers were sexually active as early as eighth grade. Telling them to be abstinent is not enough, as the study by the Journal of Adolescent Health shows.
Reason 4: Fewer than half of high schools and a fifth of middle schools cover the 16 nationally recommended topics for sexual health education, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This is not okay. This statistic means that students are only receiving part of the picture. I know at my high school, teachers did not properly teach the importance of using condoms correctly or how to use condoms correctly until my senior year. While my school district had its faults in teaching relevant information related to sexual education, it generally covers most of the information and makes efforts to ensure that sexual health education is not hetero-normative and applies to those who identify as being along the spectrum. However, if key information like this is being left out until later, I can only imagine what its like outside of my district, especially since talking about sex is not necessarily normalized but somewhat accepted in my school district.
Reason 5: In 2016, the United States had higher rates of teen pregnancy and sexually-transmitted diseases than most other industrialized and developed countries, according to the Journal of Adolescent Health.
Again, not okay. In the richest country in the world, and one of the most developed countries in the world, we should not be behind in sex education. Lack of comprehensive sex education hinders our economic growth by preventing affected youth from reaching their full potential due to teenage pregnancies, STDs, HIV, etc.
It is time that we step up and ensure that our youth are adequately educated on sex, so we can secure their health and safety and ensure that youth are able to reach their full capacity and are able to take advantage of opportunities that will benefit them, and society at-large, in the future.
ARHSG (A Recent High School Graduate), as the name suggests, just recently graduated from high school in New Jersey, and is currently interning at SuzyKnew! ARHSG will give you opinions on life and relationships, especially as it pertains to youth.