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The Importance of Sex Education

Trinity Davis
Jacksonville State University
November 10, 2016

The Importance of Sex Education

The Importance of Sex Education

Trinity Davis
Jacksonville State University
November 10, 2016

Abstract: The purpose of this paper is to discuss sexual education in public


schools in the United States. This paper will provide evidence in support of the
continuation and further implementation of appropriate sex education within
Americas public school systems. Statistical information will be provided to further
promote said education as well as the documentation of the effectiveness of current
sexual education programs.
Keywords: sex education, abstinence, and contraception

Introduction
An estimated 46% of high school students, in the United States, have had sexual
intercourse and are therefore at risk of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, which
include the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC). 2012). Citizens between the ages of 15 and 24 are found to make up almost 25% of the
active sexual population in the United States and are also found to be responsible for over 50%
of all new STD cases reported each year (Kirby & Laris, 2009). When comparing the United
States to other Western industrialized countries, the United States currently has the highest
pregnancy rate of youth between the ages of 15 and 19 (Gelfond, Dierschke, Lowe, & Plastino,
2016). With these alarming statistics, it is not surprising that the debate as to whether sex
education, defined as education about human sexual anatomy, sexual reproduction, sexual
intercourse, reproductive health, abstinence, contraception, and sexually transmitted diseases

The Importance of Sex Education

(STDs) (Fentahun, Assefa, Alemseged, & Ambaw, 2012), should be taught in schools has been
ongoing for decades. Some argue that the only thing, if anything at all, that should be taught in
schools in regards to sex education is abstinence, defined as refraining from any sexual acts, in
order to protect against pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) (Merriam, 2007).
Whereas others view sex education as a necessary part of a schools curriculum in order to
provide adolescents with information on how to practice safe sex and avoid unwanted
pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases (Illes. 2012). In addition to questioning if sex
education should be offered, there is also the issue of determining the best time or situation to
present sex education to students and the correct manner to do so (Merriam, 2007). Regardless,
of when and how to best present this information to students, it is every students right to have
access to this information, that may not be available to them in their home, in order to make
educated decisions regarding their sexual health.
Abstinence
Those who believe that sex education should not be taught in schools, generally have
some sort of underlying religious obligation towards abstinence (Merriam, 2007). Which then
presents the problem of going against an individuals constitutional rights, via the establishment
and free exercise clause found in the First Amendment (U.S. Const. amend. I.), if they are forced
to attend classes that present information that directly violates their religious beliefs. Some
believe that if classes are offered, but those who have religious obligations, and can provide
proof of such, are allowed to be excused from taking such courses that some sort of segregation
may arise within a school and may even result in violence (Merriam, 2007). Others argue that by
implementing an abstinence-only program or allowing students the option not to take classes,

The Importance of Sex Education

increases the chances that some children will become sexually active and that those students are
left uneducated on the matter (Fentahun, Assefa, Alemseged, & Ambaw, 2012).
Those students who are left uneducated on the issue, because information is not made
available to them in school, may not receive the information in any manner because no
information is provided by the parental units or may receive incorrect information because
students may feel the need to acquire information from another student, who may not be properly
educated on the matter (Merriam, 2007). For instance, a common myth among youth is that a
girl cannot become pregnant the first time that she has intercourse (Merriam, 2007). This is
absolutely incorrect information that should not be spread amongst youth. It has even been
revealed that some U.S. federally funded abstinence-only programs were found to contain false
or misleading information about sexual and reproductive health (Cushman, Kantor, Schroeder,
Eicher, & Gambone. 2014) and failed to have any significant effect on sexual behavior (Kirby.
2007).
In addition, to religious obligations, some believe that exposing adolescents to sexual
education will increase curiosity among students and result in more sexually active youth. This
has shown to be false and that in fact, providing students with a sexual education curriculum that
promoted abstinence and safe sex by means of condoms and contraception, defined as any means
to prevent pregnancy, had a positive impact on delaying sex in adolescents (Kirby. 2007).
Comprehensive Sex Education
Many people oppose requiring students to attend sexual education courses based on a
violation of their constitutional rights, advocate that sexual education stands in direct opposition
to a students right to religious belief and religious obligation (Merriam, 2007). However, it can
also be argued that it is the very same constitutional right that advocated for students to have the

The Importance of Sex Education

information made available to them. The First Amendment gives citizens the freedom of speech;
with that, comes the freedom of knowledge which includes that of sex education (Merriam,
2007). This does not require public schools to offer sexual education courses per say, but it does
suggest that public schools offer information that is of interest and value to its students
(Merriam, 2007). Along with the freedom of speech clause, is the due process clause; which
could allow students the right to argue that they should be allowed to acquire information
regarding sex because they have the due process right to make private decisions, as well as
allow their parents the right to argue that they would like their tax dollars to be used to provide
their children with the information that they desire (Merriam, 2007). Regardless of whether
schools choose to offer a sex education course, they are in some manner constitutionally
obligated, based on these two clauses alone, to provide students with some sort of access to
sexual education or information; whether that be a course or simply allowing the library to
contain resources that the students are made aware of.
Along with the constitutional rights to have access to sexual education, it has been shown
that providing students with a sex education program, can lower the rate of teen pregnancy and
STDs or at least aid in alleviating some of the issues associated with it (Illes, 2012; Kirby, 2007;
Kirby, 2002; Ornstein, Levine, & Gutek, 2011). One study determined that comprehensive sex
education programs resulted in increased condom use and contraceptive use and even had a 71%
positive impact on unprotected sex (Kirby, 2007). Out of 55 studies, seven abstinence only
studies and 48 comprehensive studies done, roughly two-thirds of the comprehensive studies had
a positive impact on one or more sexual behaviors and more than one-third revealed a positive
impact on two or more behaviors (Kirby, 2002). These positive impacts included: delayed
initiation of sexual intercourse, reduced frequency of sexual acts and sexual partners, or

The Importance of Sex Education

increased condom/contraception use (Kirby, 2002). All of which, aids in the lowering of
unwanted pregnancy and exposure to STDs.
Conclusion
The key to successful sexual education programs is initiating them into the student body
before they become sexually active (Kirby. 2002). Roughly 95% of youth between the ages of 5
and 17 are enrolled in school in the United States (Kirby. 2002). This means that 95% of youth
between the ages of 5 and 17 have the opportunity to be correctly educated on the subject of sex
and have the opportunity to avoid unwanted pregnancies and STDs. It has been shown that those
who become pregnant before the age of 18 are more likely to not complete high school, have
larger families, and be single parents (Kirby, 2002). It has also been shown that almost 4 million
cases of STDs occur among teens (Kirby, 2002). Wouldnt you want to avoid this issue for your
child? Wouldnt you want your child to have access to the information that could prevent these
things? I know that I would.
Recommendation
I believe that comprehensive sex education programs should be offered in schools. I think
that every student has the right to have access to this information in order to make the best
decisions in regards to their sexual health. As a future educator, I think that by not offering these
programs to our youth, that they are being given a disservice. These programs are necessary in
order to lower teen pregnancy rates and STD transmission rates among the youth in the United
States.

The Importance of Sex Education

References
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Fentahun, N., Assefa, T., Alemseged, F., & Ambaw, F. (2012). PARENTS' PERCEPTION,
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The Importance of Sex Education

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U.S. Const. amend. I.