Dear Principal, Administrators, and School Board Members:
Our youth deserve the most real comprehensive education our school system can provide. At a time when half of 9th to 12th graders report having had sexual intercourse, it is our responsibility as parents and educators to teach them how to make responsible decisions to protect their heath and avoid unplanned pregnancies.1
Comprehensive sex education has been shown to increase contraceptive use, delay intercourse2, and is supported by the vast majority of parents.3 Real sex education encourages abstinence, but also provides information about disease transmission, condom use, and pregnancy. In addition, real sex education curricula talk about sexual abuse, parenting skills, prenatal care, family diversity, and diversity of sexual orientation. All of these topics contribute to teenagers better understanding their feelings, the consequences of their actions, and peer differences — which helps them develop respect, rather than fear or hatred for people different from themselves.
Curricula that teach only abstinence have no proven track record of success.4 At their foundation is the idea that young people should wait to have sex until they are in a married, monogamous relationship. However, abstinence-only programs fail to address the health and safety concerns of teenagers who are already sexually active. These programs idealize one family structure, and can leave children who are part of other types of families (such as single-parent households) feeling ashamed. Abstinence-only curricula often present misinformation about sexually transmitted diseases, present biased information about pregnancy options, foster myths about gender differences (often by placing sexual limit-setting responsibility on girls), and generally leave out discussion of sexual orientation.5 Abstinenceonly curricula do not provide our young people with the complete information they need to make healthy decisions.
Other child-care and educational professionals agree. The National School Board Association states, “Given the needs of young people and the high rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections including HIV among U.S. adolescents, the need for effective policies and programs that support comprehensive sexuality education are crucial”.6 The American Academy of Pediatrics adds: “Although abstinence from sexual intercourse is the safest method to prevent STDS, HIV, and pregnancy, it is impossible to predict which adolescents will remain abstinent. Therefore, education about safer sexual practices, including latex condom use, and other barrier methods should be provided so adolescents might opt to stop or alter their sexual behavior….”7
Consider these statistics:
- One-third of 10- and 11-year-olds say that pressure to have sex is a “big problem”
- 48% of 12- to 17-year-olds say teens today face “a lot” of pressure related to sex and relationships
- About four million teens will contract a sexually transmitted disease each year
- More than 800,000 teenage girls became pregnant in 1997.8
Our school district’s sex education should follow the National Education Association’s recommendations, and include information “on sexual abstinence, birth control and family planning, diversity of culture, diversity of sexual orientation, parenting skills, prenatal care, sexually transmitted diseases, incest, sexual abuse, sexual harassment, the effects of substance abuse during pregnancy, and problems associated with and resulting from pre-teen and teenage pregnancies”.9
Our children are already making decisions about sex. It is our responsibility as parents and educators to provide them with a real education, which will equip them with the skills necessary to make the critical decisions they need to stay healthy, safe, and happy for the rest of their lives.
Sincerely, Mary Citizen
1. National PTA & the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation,“Talking With Kids: A Parent’s Guide to Sex Education,” (2002).
2. The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Sexual Health and Responsible Sexual Behavior, July 9, 2001.
3. Henry J. Kaiser Family Found., Sex Education in America: A Series of National Surveys of Students, Parents, Teachers, and Principals, Summary of Findings 32 (2000).
4. The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Sexual Health and Responsible Sexual Behavior, July 9, 2001.
5. Kempner, Martha E. “Toward a Sexually Healthy America: Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs that Try to Keep Our Youth ‘Scared Chaste,’” Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, New York, 2001.
6. National School Boards Association, “HIV/AIDS and Adolescence — The Facts,” www.nsba.org.
7. Statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics for the Hearing by the House Subcommittee on Health, House Energy and Commerce Committee. “Welfare Reform: a Review of Abstinence Education and Transitional Medical Assistance,” April 23, 2002.
8. National PTA & the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. “Talking With Kids: A Parent’s Guide to Sex Education,” (2002).
9. National Education Association, 2000-2001 Resolutions. B-39. Sex Education.