A public school in Texas which only focused on abstinence-only sexual education, meaning they did not teach the students about safe-sex practices, and told students the only safe sex one can have is no sex, is now dealing with an outbreak of chlamydia.
School officials confirmed to CBS7 last Friday that the Crane Independent School District has seen 20 cases of the sexually transmitted disease in its high school. 1 in 15 students are affected and the school was forced to send letters home to the parents warning them about the situation.
This outbreak has not deterred school superintendent Jim Rumage defended the abstinence-only course.
“That’s not a bad thing,” Rumage told the Huffington Post, “because if kids are not having any sexual activity, they can’t get this disease. That’s not a bad program.”
Rumage seems clueless and this is bad for both parents and students. Yes, teens should be taught that the best way to avoid an STD or pregnancy is abstinence, but school officials also need to be realistic and realize not every student is going to abstain and should be teaching them safe-sex practices.
Teens are going to be sexually active, they may not have sexual intercourse, but many will have oral sex and STDs can be spread in this way too, and the entire point of sex education is to teach students about sex, truthfully, not to tell them to just not have it. In fact, 11 states have evaluated the impact of abstinence-only education and found it did nothing to reduce teen sexual activity.
Research out of Columbia University showed that teens who often take purity pledges to abstain from sex find “loopholes” such as oral and anal sex to avoid vaginal intercourse.
Abstinence-only education is careless and unrealistic, and a school official who thinks otherwise is unfit to do his or her job.
Though parents are part of the problem too. This outbreak happened in a junior high, and some parents, like Diana Martinez, believe their children are too young for this to happen to them, otherwise she would sit them down and talk to them.
“Honestly this happens in any town,” Martinez said. “Parents need to be aware of the situation and make sure they tell their kids to be safe and practice safe sex.”
While she is correct, parents should be having these conversations with their kids, the schools have these kids five days a week and have health professionals on staff who are supposed to be trained in teaching kids about sex and human sexuality.
Another issue with abstinence-only sex education is that it is not truthful when they do talk about STDs, pregnancy, and risks.
Emily Dawkins, a student in Edmonton, Alberta reported that her sex education course was:
“It was basically composed of false information about the effectiveness of condoms,and birth control and any form of contraceptive. When questions about LGBTQ were asked, they were immediately shot down with ‘we’re not here to talk about that.'”
Jessica Valenti, writing for The Guardian posed the perfect question in her piece about the failure of abstinence-only education:
“Students need sexual education that’s comprehensive, medically accurate, and free from shame and ideology. Not just because sexuality is an integral part of our humanity, but because when you withhold medical information about sexuality from children and teens, you are endangering health and lives. That some students today are actually learning less than their parents did in sex ed is a scandal. Do we really want our children to be less-informed than we were?“
And there we have it, if we continue on this path, we will have a core group of adults coming out of high school who are clueless about sex and will be too ashamed to ask.
Is this the future we want? I think not.
(Image: Tulane Public Relations / Flickr / Creative Commons)