SEX ED: Curricula Overlook Contraception, STDs
California schools' sexual education programs are "generally piecemeal, providing inconsistent and sometimes inaccurate information" to teenagers, according to a study released last week by the California Wellness Foundation (Associated Press, 12/20). The study of 12 curricula types used throughout the state found that most lacked important information on reproductive health, STDs and contraception. California Wellness Foundation CEO and President Gary L. Yates said, "Sexuality education is most effective when it provides medically factual information about reproductive health, STDs and contraception. It is just as important to provide this information in school as it is to provide it in the home." The study surveyed teachers, principals and other administrators, finding that most teachers were unsure of their districts' sex education policies. Some believed that local regulations barred them from teaching about contraception, intercourse or homosexuality, even though these policies never existed. Most educators designed their own lesson plans on the subject, with most curricula focusing almost exclusively on abstinence-only messages (Business Wire, 12/28). Dawn Wilcox, public information director for the Get Real About Teen Pregnancy Campaign of Santa Monica, said that if the misinformation continues "our teenagers will continue to get pregnant. ... It was just a straight abstinence message -- just don't have sex. There was no other information being taught" (Associated Press, 12/29). Reproductive health advocates hope a new law that took effect Jan. 1 requiring sex education curricula to be medically accurate and free of racial and ethnic bias will help the situation. "Sexuality education should address human development, relationships, sexual health, sexual behavior and personal skill development, and should cover all topics from abstinence through contraception and STDs," concluded Monica Rodriguez of the Sexuality and Information and Education Council of the United States (Business Wire, 12/28).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.