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And in rural, impoverished farming communities like Magazine, teens wind up having sex—and not always safely—because there’s not much else to do, Bunch says.Seven of his 600 students are pregnant, and in some households, students don’t learn safe behaviors from parents.“There’s no evidence that teaching kids to use condoms causes a spike in sexual activity,” says Sedivy, whose national organization promotes comprehensive health instruction.“But there’s quite a bit of evidence that comprehensive sex ed leads to students being responsible. We’re seeing rates of contraception use going up.” Comprehensive sex education in Boston begins in elementary school, and is based on the National Sexual Education Standards.The district, which has six schools and 14,000 students, set out to implement as comprehensive a sex ed program as would be allowed under the law, and adopted a modified, 10-day version of the FLASH family life education program developed in Seattle schools and King County, Washington, Baca adds.Abstinence-only ed doesn’t promote birth control, but doesn’t bar it, either.Bunch says he wants to provide more comprehensive, age-appropriate sex education—including lessons on date rape and consent.But he faces resistance, driven by some community members’ concerns that teaching students skills like using condoms would encourage them to become sexually active.
“The misconception is that everybody’s doing it and that ‘I’m just the odd one out if I haven’t,’’’ she says.In fourth and fifth grade, for example, students learn about hygiene, what to expect during puberty and how to maintain positive friendships, says Pat Santin, the Boston Public School’s health education director.As they progress through middle school, they learn about reproductive anatomy, contraception and sexual decision-making.“We’re trying to empower students to save their lives,” he says.“Ultimately, their lives are at risk if it comes to HIV/AIDS, and their quality of life is at risk if it comes to unhealthy relationships or a pregnancy they’re not ready for.” Arizona allows parents to opt in to sex education, and 80 percent of the district’s families decided to participate in the new sex ed program. had the highest rate of births among girls ages 15 to 19 compared to 10 countries, including the U. and Australia in 2011, teen pregnancy rates are lowering in states, such as Massachusetts, where sex ed is taught.“The not-so-good news is the quality and quantity of sex ed that young people get varies widely among states and even within states,” Albert says. It’s not always seen as basic health care information, which is unfortunate.” Within school, the number of evidence-based, effective sex ed programs has grown, especially in the last five years. “What we’re beginning to see are sex ed programs focused more on future aspirations than on prevention,” Albert says.“They say things like: ‘Raising a child is challenging for even the most stout among us, and having a child when you’re in high school makes it exceedingly difficult to achieve the goals you want to achieve.’” The 52,000-student Omaha Public Schools, for instance, recently added instruction on social media safety, identifying online predators, sexting and cyberbullying to a comprehensive human growth and development curriculum first implemented in the 1980s, says Re Nae Kehrberg, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction support.The new lessons also encourage students to accept people who are gay or transsexual.And though there was some small but vocal opposition to the changes, a district phone survey showed 90 percent of parents supported the updates, Kehrberg says.“Even if they can’t teach condom use, they can talk about issues of gender equality and power in intimate relationships,” Haberland says.“They can increase young people’s knowledge about their bodies and help them recognize their own worth.” A state abstinence-only policy had to be followed when the Tempe Union High School District in Arizona revised a sexual education curriculum in 2014 that had become outdated, Superintendent Kenneth Baca says.