Standardized comprehensive sex education critical for young students

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Awkward experiences are commonplace during a person’s early teenage years. Just because something is awkward, however, does not make it bad.

Sex education could possibly be one of the most awkward experiences for a young adult navigating the maze of puberty. But these courses teach us about the information, habits and relationships that can help us become healthy adults. Not every student in the U.S. receives the same kind of sex education, and without the proper curriculum, we risk raising future generations that could harm their own health and the health of others.

There are typically two types of sex education curriculums: comprehensive and abstinence-only. Comprehensive sex education courses tend to cover a more holistic set of ways for people to avoid STDs, STIs and unintended pregnancies. Additionally, these courses can include broader discussions regarding sexuality and relationships.

Abstinence-only education courses only discuss abstinence as the way of preventing STDs, STIs and unintended pregnancies. These kinds of courses also teach students to refrain from expressing sexuality outside of marriage.

Different schools handle sex education curriculums in their own ways, and each state has its own laws for what can and cannot be taught in sex education courses. If each state does not allow schools to offer comprehensive sex education, then it is less likely teenagers will learn how to have healthy and mature sexual relationships as they grow up.

This notion is especially pertinent in Louisiana, a state that has officially only encouraged abstinence-only education since the 1990s. In recent years, Louisiana has had some of the highest rates of pregnancies and STD or STI contraction in adolescents. With abysmal rates like these, it is clear that abstinence-only education is not effective.

A majority of parents surveyed in Louisiana, including in New Orleans, have said they would prefer comprehensive sex education. The issue received so much attention that a bill mandating comprehensive sex education in schools was introduced to the Louisiana House of Representatives on April 4. Despite the efforts of comprehensive sex education advocates, the State House voted against this bill.

If states like Louisiana do not offer comprehensive sex education, they will not allow for future generations to learn about their bodies or their relationships with other people. This makes college resources more pertinent than ever.

If different states offer different kinds of sex education, with some offering none at all, then that could lead to miscommunication and misperceptions as to how to engage in a healthy sexual relationship. College students must have the resources necessary to help fill in any gaps they might have from their middle school or high school sex education courses.

Tulane students have access to The Well for Health Promotion at the Student Health Center for information on sexual health and access to various forms of contraception. Students can also schedule GYT, or “Get Yourself Tested,” appointments to get tested for HIV/AIDS and other STIs, or they can schedule appointments just for STI testing. These are resources that should be available at all colleges and universities.

As colleges expand sexual health resources, Louisiana and other states that promote abstinence-only sex education must help ensure the sexual health and safety of students by making sex education classes comprehensive.

Talking about sex in schools does not have to be awkward. If we can accept that, everyone will be better off.

This is an opinion article and does not reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo. Daniel is a senior at Newcomb-Tulane College. He can be reached at [email protected]