Sex Education In The Virginia Schools Curriculum

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Sex Education in Virginia Schools Curriculum
One of the most controversial elements of the public school curriculum is that of sex education. Parents, religious groups, teachers, and teens all have varying opinions about the need for such instruction, along with the content of any program approaching this subject. This is no less controversial in the Commonwealth of Virginia, where the state Board of Education standards suggest—but do not mandate—age and grade-appropriate presentations that promote marriage, postponing sexual activity, adoption in the event of an unwanted pregnancy, and other topics of human sexuality and human relationships (SIECUS, 2010). Despite this state-level support, local school boards have the authority to determine all decisions on school curricula on human sexuality as long as they develop such programs with community involvement from parents, medical professionals, and religious groups (Virginia Department of Education, 2011). This paper takes the position that providing high quality sex education in the public schools results in greater likelihood of meeting the state standards specified above, and provides substantial benefits for teens in terms of reduced sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and reduced teenage pregnancy rates. As noted above, the Commonwealth of Virginia has suggested several goals for sex education programs developed by local school boards. These goals include reducing teen pregnancy, reducing STD rates in teens, and postponing sexual activity. Can sex education programs achieve such goals in general? The evidence in the scientific literature indicates that the answer to that question is yes. For example, a 2006 study of Texas middle school students participating in a sex education program designed by medical school professionals found that these students expressed an intention to delay sexual activity until after high school (Sulak et al.) In this case, the local school board wanted to develop a sex education curriculum and turned to the obstetrics/gynecology department of an academic medical center for help in designing the program. The medical staff consulted with child psychologists, attorneys, and educators to design a new program that was both accurate and appropriate for middle school students. After consultation with parents and school officials, the focus of the program was on consequences of teen sexual activity, the importance of delaying sexual intimacy, character development, and encouraging the ability to refuse sexual advances (Sulak et al.) Comparing before-and-after surveys of the students’ knowledge and attitudes, statistically significant greater numbers said that sexual activity should be postponed, not only until after high school, but also until after marriage (Sulak et al.) Another study looked at two middle school sex education programs, one that emphasized risk reduction by promoting delayed sexual activity and the use of condoms, and another that emphasized risk avoidance by abstaining from sex until marriage (Doskoch, 2012). The two programs were presented in 7th and 8th grads, with five schools in one city doing one program and five schools in the same city doing the other. Five additional schools served as a control group and received the regular health education curriculum for that school district. The study found that only the risk reduction program reduced the number of students having sex by the 9th grade, and those students in the risk avoidance program were more likely to have had multiple sexual partners by 9th grade. Both programs had some positive impacts, but telling students not to have sex at all was the least effective method of sex education in this study (Doskoch). Studies such as these indicate that by following the Commonwealth Board of Education guidelines and developing medically accurate and thoughtfully designed sex education programs that consider the facts of sexuality, community attitudes, and community ethos can