Abstinence Only Sex-Ed arrives in high school, part one

Got a flier from my oldest kid's high school the other day, they're teaching all freshmen abstinence only sex-ed. I spent all morning of the 10th, trying to figure out who in the hell thinks this is a good idea, and finally sent a letter to the school board, and both local newspapers.

My thoughts on this topic are well known. I'm also fed up with religious people being squeamish about sex and teens, and science. It has been close to a week, and I've heard nothing. I had some interactions with the Editor over at the Tucson Citizen, and eventually I guess this letter will be on their guest blogs. However, I wanted to share it now.

Here's the letter I sent. It contains most of the talking points that I harped on, repeated, explained and got ranty about while I was on the telephone with (in this order), the receptionist [who is the gate keeper and to whom I had to explain why I needed to talk to someone else], the woman in charge of the "Healthy Living" curriculum, the school's guidance counsellor and my son's healthy living teacher.

The questions were the very simple: Who thought this was a good idea, and why are we teaching this stuff that's been scientifically proven not to work?

Ready for the answer?

"I have no idea, let me send you over to [so and so] and see if they can answer your concerns."
"Maybe the school board can better explain why we're doing this"
"Science, huh? Really? When did that come out?"

Some times, and with great regularity, I despair for this country... we're fucking our kids over, and it's going to bite us in the arse-- look at places like Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama, their chickens are already coming home to roost.

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Dear Members of the School Board/ Mr. Editor/ Ms. Editor:

I recently received a flier, alerting me to the new policy of abstinence only sex-ed for our freshmen. My son, in the Desert View Freshmen Academy, would be subjected to eight hours of fact-less indoctrination about the evils of sexuality, if I signed the permission slip. I have spent all morning, trying to find out why our schools would support such programs, and have been spun in circles by the administration. It seems that no one really knows what is going on with this policy. Hence my letter to you [and to the school board-- added only to the editors].

Arizona has a consistently high rate of teen pregnancy; it was number three in 2006, and only dropped to fifth in 2012. This is beyond unacceptable, and we should be ashamed as parents and educators. We are selling our kids short, telling them how bad sexuality is, and how it's up to them to be abstinent-- only because many parents are squeamish about the mere idea of their children engaging in intercourse, rather than any real scientifically based reasons.

Abstinence only sex-ed, and I tremble to call it "sex ed" is known to be factually incorrect, rife with bad information and is scientifically shown not to prevent teens from engaging in the very behaviour they were urged to avoid. Many times it is religiously organised, infringing on the rights of parents and teens, in order to appease the population who believes according to those ideas; this is also unconstitutional, but I know I don't have to explain that to you.

Teens taught abstinence only do not delay their sexual adventures by any real length of time; kids taught comprehensive sex-ed, do delay their onset of sexual intercourse. Often, the kids taught abstinence-only will not use protection because they are uneducated of their risks of pregnancy and disease, due to their lack of comprehensive sexual education. Abstinence training teaches the fallacy that girls must "withhold" and boys "can't help themselves", furthering sexual and gender dynamics that are harmful to everyone involved, and often leading to deep guilt and shame when the teens don't remain celibate.

We owe our teens the best education we can provide. Choosing abstinence only sex-ed, rather than simple to teach comprehensive information about STI avoidance, how to know you're ready, what protection is available, and how to use it, is setting our kids up to fail. There are age appropriate ways to teach contraception and disease protection, just as there are age appropriate ways to teach the proper names for our body parts.

Teaching our teens what they need to know is neither difficult nor impossible; but it has become a minefield for our educators, stuck as they are between arbitrary rules and irate, conservative parents.

Our teens are young adults, not toddlers, and to insist that they "learn refusal skills" rather than "this is a condom, this is how it works, use one every time" leads to the initialising of our kids.

As long as we continue to propagate these ideas, stuck in the Bronze Age, we will continue to rank in the lower 40's for education and teen pregnancy. Arizona's teens deserve better, and we should be ashamed that we are neglecting this vital part of their education, just because it might make some adults uncomfortable. Our teens are young adults, and it's past time that we treated them this way.

Thank you,
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