Sex Education What is comprehensive, reality-based sexuality education? True comprehensive, reality-based sexuality education seeks to assist young people in understanding a positive view of sexuality, provide them with information and skills about taking care of their sexual health, and help them acquire skills to make decisions now and in the future. Ideally, sexuality education is taught in ways that are age- and experience-appropriate in kindergarten through 12th grade. It is taught by trained teachers who teach about: sexual development, reproductive health, interpersonal relationships, affection, intimacy, body image, and gender roles. The goal is to help young people grow into sexually healthy adults. Being sexually healthy includes preventing the negative consequences of sexual intercourse, and also includes a broad range of life-enhancing skills, such as assertiveness, effective communication, critical thinking, decision-making, and the capacity to build relationships. Comprehensive sexuality education doesn’t happen in one place — it involves parents, educators, and other adults in the community.
Planned Parenthood urges parents to be involved in monitoring their children’s school programs, and advocating for curricula they want to have in their children’s schools. We help parents to discuss sexuality appropriately and accurately with their children in community-based programs for families. We can’t expect children to become sexually responsible if the adults in their lives are uninformed about sex or uncomfortable talking about it. What are the values of comprehensive sexuality education? Among the values inherent in reality-based sexuality education are personal responsibility, respect for oneself and others, and the value of emotionally supportive relationships. The following list of values concerning sexuality was developed by the National Guidelines Task Force: Sexuality is a natural and healthy part of living.
All persons are sexual. Every person has dignity and self worth. Individuals express their sexuality in varied ways. In a pluralistic society like the United States, people should respect and accept the diversity of values and beliefs about sexuality that exist in a community. Sexual relationships should never be coercive or exploitative. All children should be loved and cared for. All sexual decisions have effects or consequences.
All persons have the right and the obligation to make responsible sexual choices. Individuals and society benefit when children are able to discuss sexuality with their parents and/or other trusted adults. Young people explore their sexuality as a natural process of achieving sexual maturity. Premature involvement in sexual behaviors poses risks. Abstaining from sexual intercourse is the most effective method of preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. Young people who are involved in sexual relationships need access to information about health care services. [Guidelines for Comprehensive Sexuality Education, National Guidelines Task Force, SIECUS, 1991.] Why should schools be involved in sexuality education? While more families are talking openly about sexuality, most parents still avoid the issue — or unintentionally hand down harmful myths and fear.
Keeping children ignorant endangers their lives — especially for the millions of teens who have already begun having sex — 61% of male high school students and 48% of female high school students. (CDC, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, SEXUAL BEHAVIOR AMONG HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS – UNITED STATES, 1990. MMWR 1992; 40; 885-888.) Schools can give young people the facts and the relationship skills they need to become responsible adults, and can break the cycle of ignorance, denial, and shame that often passes from one generation to the next.
Most parents say they want their children to receive sexuality education in school. One poll found that 89% of American adults support sexuality education in schools, and 73% want schools to make contraceptives available to students. (Louis Harris and Associates, PUBLIC ATTITUDES TOWARD TEENAGE PREGNANCY, SEX EDUCATION, AND BIRTH CONTROL. May 1988.) Human Sexuality.