LatinaLista — Abstinence-only has ruled sex education curriculum in public schools for the last several years. However, teenage pregnancy rates among certain communities have escalated to frightening heights. Finally, there is a push in state legislatures across the country to pass bills implementing comprehensive sex education in schools. The real test is if legislators have the political will to do what is needed to turn the statistics around.
Itâ€™s rare that a picture of an exhausted new mother, plopped against the pillows of her metal-frame hospital bed, and proudly cradling her angelic newborn doesnâ€™t illicit sympathetic smiles. But that was exactly the case back in January for a Dallas 15-year-old when she was featured in local media for having the first newborn of 2009.
In fact, the picture of the teen mom stirred a range of emotions â€” the worst bordering on disgust when it was discovered that the 15-year-old eighth grader lived at home with not only her mother, but the 20-year-old father of her new baby.
Regardless of what side of the fence a person sits when it comes to contraceptive usage, the idea of a child having a child goes against what we as a society want and expect from our children â€” no matter how much family support exists.
Because this eighth grader was educated in public schools, her knowledge of sex and how to prevent a pregnancy probably didnâ€™t include any lessons on â€œsafe sexâ€ practices. No, the message she, and her peers, have been getting for the last several years is â€œJust say no.â€
Well, weâ€™ve long known that message just doesnâ€™t work for every teenager.
So far, the fight to not teach medically accurate sex education to our nationâ€™s children has been spearheaded by social conservatives who somehow believe that teens can rise above the influences of raging hormones and peer pressure to not have sex prematurely.
Unfortunately, these critics of comprehensive sex education arenâ€™t bothering to read the Youth Risk Behavior Survey that shows that almost 40 percent of all high school students are sexually active.
Yet children, learning sex education at schools that receive federal funding, are purposely not getting the full set of facts. Itâ€™s hard for an adult, let alone a child, to make the right decision when information is manipulated to fit a religious or political agenda.
As Bristol Palin, the 18-year-old daughter of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin who recently gave birth to a baby boy, said in an interview with Fox Newsâ€™ Greta Van Susteren, expecting abstinence from teenagers is â€œnot realistic at all.â€
By the slew of comprehensive sex education bills drafted in this current state legislative season, itâ€™s obvious that abstinence-focused curriculum is finally being addressed for what it is â€” an ineffective deterrent and inaccurate resource for those kids determined to have sex.
In Texas, which is among the top three states in the nation for the highest teenage pregnancy rates (the other two are New Mexico and Mississippi), there are a total of 14 bills in the Texas legislature having to do with revamping the laws regarding sex education or teen and womenâ€™s access to services and information regarding contraception and sexually transmitted diseases (STD).
Florida has a bill that wants to change how sex is taught in schools. According to authors of the Florida bill, known as The Florida Healthy Teens Act, they want to continue the emphasis on the value of abstinence but want teachers to have the freedom to acknowledge, beginning in the sixth grade, that some kids are already sexually active and to teach them about contraceptives and ways to prevent pregnancies and STDs.
In North Carolina, a bill has already been approved requiring a two-track system for sex education for seventh through ninth graders. The new system makes available two different sex education tracks â€” comprehensive sex education and abstinence until marriage. Parents can choose which track is for their children.
Teenage pregnancy is at epic heights within some communities. It is socially irresponsible to continue to turn a blind eye to the realities that exist while wishing for a different scenario.
Itâ€™s only through teaching comprehensive sex education can we hope to achieve the kinds of positive results that comes from equipping students with the full truth about sex and how to practice it safely.
And if a pregnancy should develop, thereâ€™s comfort in knowing that those young parents were given every possible bit of information to prevent it, but in the end, they chose their own paths.