Setting sex-ed standards

Why speaking about LGBTQ+ issues is necessary

Anjali Pullabhotla, Opinions Editor

From pictures of STDs to hearing an adult say ‘penis’, sex education has often been regarded as the hallmark of cringe-worthy high school experiences. 

However, regardless of the stigma (and the awkwardness), sex education is necessary and vital to student health…if taught right. 

Over the past decade, many school districts have made moves towards comprehensive sex education, providing birth control demonstrations and discussing sexuality–including sexual orientation and identity.

Omaha Public Schools tackled the controversy in 2016, though continuing to emphasize abstinence. Millard, unfortunately, has yet to do the same.

Updating the curriculum for the 2018-2019 school year, the school district, in a unanimous vote,  failed to add demonstrations of birth control methods (including condoms) and discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The plan had many conservatives pleased as it left several sensitive discussions surrounding controversial issues up to the discretion of parents.

The district’s approach may offer some parents comfort. As explained by School Board member Mike Kennedy in May of 2018, the updated curriculum has “value for the majority of the community”. But, regardless of whether or not this statement is true, our sex education still fails to meet the needs of many students who fall into already marginalized minority groups–specifically those who identify as LGBTQ+.

As important as non-biased demonstrations of birth control are to some, what the district fails to cover expansively, or even mention, may be more harmful.

According to the CDC, nearly 55 percent of teens have had sexual intercourse by age 18. A similar percentage of LGBTQ+ teens have done the same by 18. 

However, despite nearly equal rates of consensual sex, LGBTQ+ teens are at a significantly higher rate for experiencing sexual assault, are less likely to utilize protection (putting them at greater risk for STIs), and often encounter greater troubles when talking to their parents about their sexuality.

Comprehensive and affirming sex education is a privilege for minority students, when, in reality, it should be universal–especially, considering the lack of communication between some students and parents, with 30 percent of students reporting that they never had the I-wish-it-didn’t-happen-when-it-did-but-now-I-know-how-important-it-was ‘birds-and-bees’ talk.

Comprehensive sex education is not only vital for teens to understand sex, but also to feel validated in their decisions, identities, and relationships.

“Programs that overlook LGBTQ students, or worse, stigmatize and stereotype them, contribute to unsafe school environments,” the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) said.

Though Millard Public Schools’ curriculum is written in a gender-neutral way, by eliminating (the only) two scenarios involving homosexual relationships and the discussion of such topics from the classroom as a whole, the district fails to be as inclusive as possible.

There is no doubt that the school’s current sex education, albeit taught with an emphasis on abstinence, affirms the identities of most of the students within the district. But, it is necessary that the district bring the energy it has shown for inclusivity in our community, as seen by its non-discrimination policy and support of the student-led Gay-Straight Alliance, into our sex education curriculum as well.