Legislators in Colorado, the curious state that was first to legalize marijuana while also home to Focus on the Family, are proposing a bill that would ban public schools from teaching abstinence-only sex education.
According to an article in the New York Times, there are students being taught “lessons” that compare people who have sex to pieces of tape that lose their stickiness — that is, their ability to bond emotionally with future partners. Other Christian myths have worked their way into similar classes in the past, including the idea that having sex is like drinking from a cup that other people have spit in. No wonder several middle and high school students testified last month in support of the comprehensive sex-ed bill.
While sex education classes are not mandatory in Colorado, proposed legislation that is widely expected to pass would bar the state’s public and charter schools from abstinence-only education.
The comprehensive sex education bill, which passed the House this week and is headed to the Senate, would make Colorado the ninth state in the nation to require that consent be taught. Washington, D.C., also teaches consent.
Colorado, with its increasingly liberal cities but strong conservative footholds, is a microcosm of the larger national debate over sex ed. Across the country, 37 states require abstinence be covered or stressed, while only 13 require sex education to be medically accurate, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which studies reproductive health. In seven states, laws prohibit educators from portraying same-sex relationships positively.
It’s both exciting and sad to see young people having more common sense about this topic than their parents, many of whom believe that sex education should be taught at home… which might be acceptable if they actually taught it. Instead, many avoid the subject, preach the same false information, or have kids who would do just about anything other than listening to their parents talk about sex.
Some parents in Colorado objected to a curriculum that included information about homosexuality and gender identity (as if ignoring the topic would keep their children from ever having to interact with LGBTQ people).
At this point, people who claim that abstinence-only courses have value are choosing to keep their heads in the sand.
Studies have repeatedly shown that abstinence-only education increases rates of teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, while comprehensive sex education lowers such risks. But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, from 2000 to 2014, schools that required sex education dropped to 48 percent from 67 percent, with half of middle schools and more than three-quarters of high schools focusing on abstinence. Only a quarter of middle schools and three-fifths of high schools included lessons about birth control. In 1995, 81 percent of boys and 87 percent of girls reported learning about birth control in school.
The Colorado legislation would require schools that offer sex education to teach the new curriculum or refrain from the lessons altogether.
If no solution can be reached, it may be better for students to forgo all sex education lessons rather than be subjected to false information. But then, those in favor of keeping abstinence-based classes shouldn’t be surprised when STDs and unplanned pregnancies continue to occur or increase.
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