For many years now, the topic of sex education in high schools has been a touchy subject. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 22 of 50 states require that public schools teach sex education, and 33 states require students be educated about HIV and AIDS.
Even with these national mandates in place, schools still have room to decide how sex education will be taught and what will be included. Some schools teach about abstinence, while others teach students about birth control options and how to practice safe sex.
Student experiences differ depending on what high school they attended. For instance, some high schools take the approach of informing their students of the bare minimum and leaving it up to the students to find the rest out on their own.
“My health class was honestly a joke at my high school,” Courtney Robles, senior in finance, said. “They only talked to us about pregnancy statistics. We were not taught actual ways to prevent pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases. We were left to figure almost everything out on our own.”
At other schools, sex is brought up solely to push an abstinence-only message. Terran Jennings, senior in agricultural technology, said he believes this is not proactive and is not the best way to educate students.
“If a school only taught abstinence, I feel like people who start becoming sexually active might not know the risks of STDs or might not worry about pregnancy as much as they should,” Jennings said. “I feel like people who don’t want the school talking to their children about safe sex could be hurting them instead.”
In a 2013 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey, 41 percent of high school students reported that they did not use a condom the last time they had sex. In addition, “nearly half of the 20 million new STDs each year were among young people between the ages of 15 to 24,” according to the center.
Lauren Reardon, senior in graphic design, said her sex education courses in high school were considerably more comprehensive and also focused on the many birth control options available.
“The high school I went to made us take a health class where we were taught all the different types of birth control,” Reardon said. “I think that’s the best way to inform people. To make them take it seriously and understand (it) fully.”
Although Reardon’s sex education classes were more in depth than others, she said she still believes additional steps can be taken to strengthen sex education courses in high schools.
“I believe incorporating a sexual assault program within a high school sex education class would be a smart thing to do,” Reardon said. “I mean, while you’re talking about safe sex it is also just as important to educate them on the severity of sexual assault.”