Sex Education in US Schools

by SKHC Editor on November 21, 2008

Some school districts have sophisticated sexual education courses for their students, offer contraceptives, pregnancy test kits, and advanced health classes. In addition to this many high schools and some junior high schools offer clinics in addition to the traditional nurse’s office where students can get personalized support on a wide range of sexual topics and services. Still other school districts see sex education, STDs and in-school contraceptives as taboo and want to leave that topic for parents to cover with their children. And what about college age students? Many university campuses have a full spectrum of sex education, sexual health products and clinics. How does your part of the country fit in? Is morality, ethics, or personal responsibility part of the discussion?

Then again many parents may be embarrassed or not know how to talk about these issues with their children and hope the schools, churches, or civic groups provide the facts about sexual health. At the other spectrum are engaged and open parents who feel it’s their duty to teach their children about the more than just the birds and the bees. Some families, schools, and areas of the country educate children at a very young age. Where does your school fit into the broad spectrum?

School Nurse News featured the article Teen Pregnancy and the Role of the School Nurse by Arleen Barlow, BSN, MA in their November 2008 issue. The article talked about the importance of education and counseling. Barlow noted in the article that the high school she works at has a school-based clinic that provides many services including strep throat, MRSA, mental health and venereal diseases testing.

Obviously not all schools offer these services whether due to funding, political and/or religious beliefs, etc. However, consider this – according to the Guttmarcher Institute almost 750,000 women aged 15 to 19 become pregnant each year. At the same time, the teenage pregnancy rate is at its lowest level in 30 years, down 36% since its peak in 1990. Have the teen pregnancy statistics improved through sexual Education, Abstinence programs, more engaged parents or a mix of all of these? Please tell us about what’s happing where you work in our comments section.

As good as a reduction in teen pregnancy is many areas of the country have rates as high as 50 newborns per 1000 female students per year. In a school with 4000 high school teens that’s an average of 400 births across the campus by graduation!

What about sexually transmitted diseases/infections? According to the CDC the highest age-specific rates of reported Chlamydia in 2006 were among women ages 15 to 19 (2,862.7 cases per 100,000 females). Chlamydia is the most common STD however 2006 was the first time reported cases exceeded 1 million.

How do you feel about sex education in US schools? Is there a certain age you think is the right age to start teaching appropriate information? What is the policy/standard in your school district? Should it be up to the parents to educate their children about sexual health, including “risky behavior”? As a school nurse are you allowed to distribute condoms or other contraceptives? If so, who is distributing them? The school nurse? Where are they distributing them – the library, cafeteria, or in PE/gym class? Does your school provide pregnancy tests to students? At what age is it too young to begin sex education? What improvements do you think could be made?

We would love to know your thoughts, and that of your peers. Please encourage nurses, and teachers to contribute to this topic and let us know what you think and what is going on at your school, campus, or college.


MedeFinance Staff November 25, 2008 at 8:03 pm

I believe sex education in school is very important. Although it may seem taboo, any type of reinforcement besides parents is a good action towards avoiding unwanted pregnancies and STDs. Health issues such as these arise everyday and the costs are higher in an incident than taking preventative measures. The first sex ed. packet I received was in 4th grade and I don’t think that was too early.

Sarah December 4, 2008 at 1:40 pm

What about Gloucester HS…the school committee voted unanimously to distribute contraceptives, including condoms, if the student had their parent’s permission. That was the school that had over a dozen pregnancies last school year.

Mike December 4, 2008 at 6:38 pm

My kids had sex ed classes starting in 5th grade, and had free contraceptives in Junior High. When is it too young? I’m not sure, I’m glad my kids are waiting as a personal choice until they are older but I realize many kids don’t. I know it gets over-stated, it seems most realistic research indicates it’s around 40-60 percent depending on who did the research.

I’m fine with open discussion and free condoms, just so long as it does not turn into sexual promotion and encouragement into promiscuity on the part of the schools. When is it too young to pass out the condoms at your school?

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