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The type of sex education students receive in this country depends largely on the state they call home. Some young people learn about consent and the importance of contraception, while others receive instruction about abstinence and STDs. Some people don’t get sex education at all.
But what nearly all students across the country have in common is that they live in states that don’t mandate comprehensive sex education.
Characterized by experts as the gold standard in sex education, our comprehensive lessons are medically accurate, LGBTQ+ inclusive and age appropriate. These focus on sexual behavior and health, human development and healthy relationships, and studies have found that students who receive comprehensive sex education delay the onset of sexual activity.
Only three states—California, Oregon and Washington—mandate comprehensive sex education in all schools, according to the Sexual Information Education Council of America (SIECUS). This is the reality that a new bill introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee seeks to change.
The Real Education and Access Act for Healthy Youth (REAHYA) makes sex education mandatory nationally and is comprehensive, equitable, medically accurate, culturally responsive, trauma-based, and evidence-based. will be required to provide students with guidance and sexual health services based on Resilience oriented, among other criteria. In addition to learning about sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy prevention, students also learn about interpersonal violence, autonomy in health care, and gender identity. Particular attention will be given to addressing how marginalized youth historically have not had equitable access to sex education and sexual health services.
“Education is power and young people have the right to make decisions about their bodies,” California Democrat Lee told the paper Monday by email. “Abstinence-only sex education programs and lack of evidence-based sex education for America’s youth leave them vulnerable to health risks and inequalities. Giving all students access to the personal information they need to access the information they need will help bridge this gap in sex education.”
Many states that restrict what students learn about gender and sexuality also restrict access to reproductive rights, making comprehensive sex education “exponentially more important,” Lee said. said Mr.
“The far right wants to attack people’s ability to make their own decisions about their bodies while also depriving people of the information they need to be fully informed,” she said. “They must abide by all the prohibitions on our bodies and books.”
The bill has been referred to the Health Subcommittee and has 38 co-sponsors, including Representatives Alma Adams and Pramila Jayapal, and Senators Maisie Hirono and Cory Booker (both Democrats). are doing.
REAHYA will provide $100 million in funding for both K-12 schools and higher education institutions from 2024 to 2029, specifically to serve marginalized youth who often lack access to quality instruction. It will focus on teaching comprehensive sex education.
Two years ago, Lee failed to introduce the REAHYA bill. In an age of parental rights bills, censorship laws and other laws that limit what students can learn, what gives her hope about the bill’s prospects in Congress this time around?
“The Republicans may have a majority, but we have the momentum and the people are on our side,” Lee said. “We hope that our coalition for comprehensive health care, including reproductive rights and sex education, will regain power in Congress and legislate the right to make decisions about one’s own body.”
REAHYA is also attracting attention from young people. July, Diya Kejriwal, member of the Teen Advocacy Council of Girls, Inc. traveled to Washington, D.C., along with other young people from the organization. Lobbying for legislation.
Kejriwal prepared a presentation with testimony on the bill and the importance of comprehensive sex education. A 17-year-old Georgian woman said she only received sex education instruction briefly in fifth grade and middle school. In Georgia, schools offer sex education and AIDS prevention education, but their curriculum is based on sexual health nonprofit Advocates for Youth, Answer, and SIECUS: Sexual Education for Social Transformation.
Instead, sex education instruction in Georgia emphasizes abstinence until marriage. Last year, the state enacted a law banning divisive concepts in education at large, and earlier this month a teacher was fired for reading a book about gender mobility to fifth graders.
Keziriwal, a high school student in Georgia, said she noticed many of her classmates got information about sex from social media sites like TikTok and X (formerly known as Twitter) because they couldn’t access it at school. Told.
“And that’s not quite accurate,” she said of what she encounters on social media. “It’s not the place for children to get information. This is something I always feel strongly about because in certain situations it’s very clear that people don’t have accurate sex education.”
Having witnessed classmates ridicule LGBTQ+ people out of ignorance, she said comprehensive sex education could help educate students and remove their prejudices.
Lee told the paper Monday he was inspired by young people like Kejriwal, but he also said the students didn’t have to go to Washington to fight for “fundamental rights.” .
“Healthcare is a right, not a privilege,” she said. “Young people want to make decisions about their bodies, and there is no world in which they are deprived of the information they need to do so,” she said.
Gillian Seeley, chief of staff for Power to Decide, an organization that advocates for bodily autonomy, especially the circumstances in which individuals conceive and bear children, says that young people should not be educated about issues such as puberty, adolescence and menstruation. equated to atrocities.
In Florida, where Seeley lives, House Bill 1069 went into effect on July 1. The law expands on previous legislation, widely known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law, which restricts K-12 education on human sexuality, reproductive health and gender identity. Students and faculty are also required to address only the pronouns that correspond to the gender they were assigned at birth.
“Last summer, the Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe v. Wade actually brought floodgates to state-level prohibitions and restrictions, not only in terms of abortion restrictions, but also abortion as we had expected. It opened up access to sex education and reproductive medicine,” Seeley said. “And real people are suffering.
Seeley said teachers are now hesitant to discuss a wide range of topics with students for fear of possible punishment. This puts educators and students at a disadvantage, she says.
Girls Inc. president and CEO Stephanie Hull said she felt it was taboo for girls to talk about their bodies because there was no comprehensive sex education mandate across the country. I am concerned that
“What we’re trying to say is that gender equality depends on bodily autonomy,” Hull said. “It depends on whether women enjoy all their rights. Education is a right, and so is education about their bodies. Let us fight harassment and violence and promote menstrual equity.” These are all part of a bigger picture for women to take leadership roles and feel empowered. “
REAHYA found that marginalized adolescents faced inequalities in sex education instruction, with black students in particular more likely to receive abstinence-only instruction, or “sexual risk avoidance,” instruction, which is a holistic approach. He points out that it is not as effective as sex education. This disparity results in a disproportionate experience of sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies, and sexual assault among Black students, as well as Indigenous and Latino youth.
Seeley said it’s time to end the myth that comprehensive sex education drives young people to have sex, even though research shows the opposite. Depending on where they live, some young people receive abstinence-only sex education while others receive comprehensive sex education, she added, adding to the inequality. Zip codes should not determine the quality of sex education offered to students, she said.
Seeley wants schools to provide comprehensive sex education, but said classrooms are just one piece of a larger puzzle. Both parents and schools can play a role in teaching students about sexual health.
“Teaching comprehensive sex education in schools does not mean that the role of parents is denied in some way,” she says. “We hear people say, ‘Oh, it’s the parents, not the school, who talks to the students about sex. A parent’s rights and responsibilities are in no way diminished or denied.”