Rape culture and sexual promiscuity have become prominent in the 21st century. As teenagers come out of puberty, they explore themselves and their bodies, sometimes by exploring their sexual desires. Ignorance among teenagers and their parents about HPV and other sexually transmitted diseases is at an all-time high. So, what are schools, specifically St. Martin’s Episcopal School, doing to educate their sexually active students? Only 24 states and the District of Columbia have mandatory sexual education in their public schools. Only 21 of those states teach about AIDS. Louisiana does not require its public schools to teach sexual education.
In sixth grade at St. Martin’s, girls and boys are split up and watch a video about puberty and the changes that may be happening to their bodies. In seventh grade, as part of the life science course, students read a book called “What’s Happening to My Body?” There is a male and female version of the book, and it is openly discussed in class. Students also have the option to anonymously ask questions.
St. Martin’s students do not have any other form of sexual education until after sophomore year, when they are allowed to take Life Skills. This is too late for many students, as the Resource Center for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention states that 20 percent of ninth graders have already had sex, with that number rising to 50 percent by senior year. Furthermore, many students are unaware that oral sex can transmit diseases. The Center for Disease Control found that 28 percent of males age 15 to 17 gave oral sex to a female, while 40 percent of females age 15 to 17 gave oral sex to a male.
Previously, St. Martin’s taught the biology course with a sexuality unit in ninth grade, a perfect time for young high schoolers to learn about sex. Now, students learn biology in 11th grade with very little sexual education. St. Martin’s should reinstate the sexuality unit in the biology course to further educate students about sex. Biology II, which is only open to seniors, does include a unit on the reproductive organs, but it does not teach about contraception or STD prevention. Life Skills, which is only open to juniors and seniors, teaches about campus rape and consent, contraceptives, and STDs. While these classes do provide important information about sex, students need to learn about sex when they enter high school because they or their peers will likely engage in sexual activity in the near future, according to the Resource Center for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention and the CDC.
In freshman year, St. Martin’s requires freshmen to
complete “alcohol.edu,” an online program that teaches the dangers of drinking and how to be responsible with the consumption of alcohol. As a whole, this program is accepted by the faculty, students, and parents and is seen as an informative way to prevent students from becoming the perpetrators or victims of alcohol-related tragedies.
Similarly, there are many online sexual education courses available that educate students about pregnancy, contraception, and STDs. If St. Martin’s does not want to incorporate sexual education into a science or health class, the online class is a perfect option that would fit into the freshman curriculum.
There is no excuse for not teaching students about sex. Students are drug tested regularly and breathalyzed at school dances. If St. Martin’s wants to protect the students from drugs and alcohol, why can’t the faculty teach students to protect themselves in sexual matters? Sex, drugs, and alcohol are often the three main things adults want to protect their children from. St. Martin’s only addresses two of these three topics at the beginning of high school. St. Martin’s needs to revisit its sexual education program and update it so that it meets the standards of the 21st century.