OPINION | Inadequate sexual education failing teenagers

The sex education at USD 329 is inadequate, and it doesn’t prepare teens for a sexually healthy future. 

Kansas schools are required to teach sexual health education as part of high school physical education curriculum. The curriculum is not required to be comprehensive, meaning that it would teach about abstinence as the best method for avoiding STDs and unintended pregnancy, but also teaches about evidence-based information, condoms and contraception to reduce the risk of unintended pregnancy and of infection with STDs, including HIV. Comprehensive sex ed also teaches interpersonal and communication skills and helps young people explore their own values, goals and options. 

Kansas has no standard regarding education on abstinence, however, the Kansas Model Curricular Standards for Health includes abstinence-based instructions and guides, and allows parents to opt children out of lessons.

WHS students are typically required to take P.E. as freshmen. The Kansas standards for physical education regarding sexual health are not required to be comprehensive or evidence based. It’s not required to include instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity. It doesn’t require any instruction on consent. Of the several students I’ve spoken to, few of them recall receiving any form of sex education at all. 

WHS physical education instructor Garrett Eck said he doesn’t teach sex ed in the freshman class because it’s taught in the Human Growth and Developmant class.

At WHS, the Human Growth and Development class covers relationships, conception, STDs, pregnancy, labor, and early childhood development into adulthood according to FCS teacher Keely Reddick. Unfortunately it leaves out important information about contraceptives, what resources are available, such as Planned Parenthood, and sexuality/gender identity that teens should be taught as well. 

“The sex education system, not only at Wabaunsee, but in America as a whole, is failing teenagers.”

When the current seniors were freshman, a group called Relate 360 was brought to the school to give a week-long seminar about healthy relationships. The organization claims to be comprehensive as well as medically accurate, however their information was extremely religious-based, and it seemed that the underlying message was to promote abstinence. Many students consider this the closest thing to sex education they recieved in their time at Wabaunsee High School, although it still failed to include much valuable information. 

With more than 50% of teens in the United States being sexually active, it is crucial that we are being taught how to keep ourselves sexually healthy. Healthy students are more likely to achieve academic success. 

Among all other industrialized nations, the U.S. currently has the highest unwanted teen pregnancy rate. With 1 in 4 teens contracting an STD each year, contraceptive use is decreasing while unsafe sexual practices continue to increase. 

The sex education system, not only at Wabaunsee, but in America as a whole, is failing teenagers. Students at WHS are missing out on a range of valuable information on important topics such as consent, gender identity and sexual orientation, contraceptives, and many other resources for sexually active teens. Most kids don’t receive this information at home, and often rely on the school to learn about safe sex. 

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