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CON: Abstinence-only education does not address realities of teens

By KBell
July 17, 2011 at 2:17 a.m.

NO LOCAL CONSENSUSProviding a human sexuality curriculum is always on the Victoria's School Health Advisory Council's radar, said Gloria Wearden, coordinator of health services for Victoria school district.

As required by law, Wearden last year sent a letter to parents notifying them the district does not provide a sex education program. After that, several health advisory council members joined the council primarily because of their concern about the state of sex education in the schools, Wearden said.

"We worked at it all year and could not come to a consensus," she said. "Hopefully we will come to a consensus and have several programs for the community to look at."

The health advisory council meets again in September. It would open any sex education options to the community for feedback and approval of the school board.

School board President Tami Keeling said she would support implementing a curriculum that reflects the community's convictions, so long as it's not required for all students.

"I really think that a good supplemental curriculum - I would be in favor of that - if the state's going to pay for it, and if there's parental opt-out because I think people should have the right to opt-out of that if they so choose."

Since sex education is not state-mandated and is a non-core subject, the district has to decide from where it would pull funds to be able to support such a program, Keeling noted.

"It needs to reflect the values of the community because the community's going to have to pay for it if the state doesn't."

A summer lunch break for some Victoria College nursing students turned into a lengthy discussion about sex - namely, what they learned, or didn't learn, in their public school classrooms.

They talked about how shows like MTV's "Teen Mom" have made it fashionable for teenagers to have a baby on their hip, as Thera Decker, a 24-year-old Victoria native, said.

"Parents are oblivious. (Kids are) learning it from TV," said Sheri Upton, the oldest in the group. "It is a parent's right, but parents are neglecting their kids' education."

The group of six women, ages 20 to 35, all seemed to agree: Schools need to do more to teach kids about safe sex.

Upton, who has an 8-year-old daughter, said she supports comprehensive sex education that would provide the most accurate, age-appropriate information to kids.

"You arm them with as much information as you can, but they're going to make their own decisions," she said.

Chelsey Goldman, a 21-year-old graduate of Edna High School, said she agrees the topic of sex is up to the parents and that schools shouldn't just go around passing out condoms.

However, she said, she wouldn't have received much of an education about sex if she weren't one of the students whose parents brought up the subject. The health class she took in high school did little to broach the realities of sexual activity, she said.

"You learn the biology of it, but you don't learn the emotional aspects."

Decker and Chelsea Ortiz, 20, said they attended Victoria schools when the "Make the Grade" abstinence-based program was offered. They spent a full school day talking about abstinence and STDs, but they said there was no in-depth discussion of contraceptive methods or the struggles teens face.

"I felt like it was kind of incomplete," Decker said.

In fact, the study from the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund found that as many as 41 percent of Texas school districts use sex education curriculum that contain inaccuracies. Most commonly, the education materials exaggerate the failure rate of condoms.

Texas teens are about 4 percent more sexually active than the national average, according to the study. Of those who are sexually active, just more than 43 percent reported not using a condom during their last instance of intercourse. That's about 5 percent more than the national average.

The nursing students, armed with the education they've received since graduating high school, said sex should be more realistically and openly discussed in schools.

"The education should not be so sugar-coated for kids," Upton said. "If they're old enough to have sex, they're old enough to know the consequences."



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