Although the school is mandated by state law to provide “comprehensive sexual health education and HIV prevention education,” it is insufficient in its implementation of the program. Sex education that is comprehensive and medically accurate is essential to students’ understanding of themselves and their bodies.
Currently, physical education teachers only have a seven-hour workshop for sex education training. Without thorough understanding of the material at hand, teachers will not be able to learn how to teach adolescents about such a key aspect of their lives. In addition, the school does not provide the information in other languages, so for English learners, they may have trouble understanding complex terms. California Education Code 51933, under the California Healthy Youth Act, requires that “instruction must be made available on an equal basis to pupils who are English learners.” The program is under-supported and and lacking in quality, which ultimately reflects the school’s attitude on sex education—they are not prioritizing it as much as they should.
It is important to note that sex education does not just teach bodily development, sexually transmitted infections, and contraceptives—it also covers relationships, sexuality, and sexual behavior. In doing so, it addresses a range of topics that is imperative to students’ understanding of safe and healthy sexual relations.
Some may argue that sex education is solely the responsibility of the parents and that schools have no business in teaching a sensitive and personal topic. However, some parents do not bring up the topic of sex, whether because of cultural barriers or plain awkwardness. For parents who do breach the threshold of sex education, the information they provide is often lacking.
With the lack of adequate education from home and school, teens tend to turn to other sources. According to a study from PubMed Central, 57 percent of teens reported learning about sex from media, including television, the internet, and pornography. While these sources have plenty of information, teens can also find inaccurate information. Students should have reliable sources, including a well-taught class, to refer to for accurate knowledge.
Schools permit guest speakers onto campus for educational purposes, allowing for an opportunity for the school to bring in outreach programs, such as Planned Parenthood, that offer educational services for free. Trained professionals may be a reasonable alternative to under-sourced physical education teachers. Some parents may have concerns about Planned Parenthood because of its stance on abortion. However, the Sexual Health Education Accountability Act requires that a sexual health education program “conducted by an outside agency, such as a community-based organization at a publicly funded school, shall comply with the requirements of Section 51934 … [and] Section 51933 of the Education Code.” This can reassure parents that students will be taught only the essentials without bias.
The school says their top priority is to keep students safe. Safety entails not only protection from violence and disasters but also from health and sex risks. An adequate curriculum taught by experts ensures that students are educated to make responsible choices going forth.