Students need more effective, realistic health education

By Stephanie Lingenfelter
Editor in Chief

Abstinence tends to be every parent and teacher’s dream for students, but it’s causing teens to lack the knowledge they need when deciding to take that step. In Indiana, it’s law that all public schools teach abstinence, “as the expected standard for all school age children,” and the only way to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease, according to the Indy Star. This teaching isn’t helpful to high school students and isn’t preparing them for life.

A majority of high schoolers are already partaking in intercourse, so they need to know safe practices. According to Advocates for Youth, 62 percent of high school seniors have had sex. All I remember from my health classes is don’t have sex or you’ll end up pregnant or diseased.

That’s not accurate because there are safe ways to have intercourse; it’s just not taught. Abstinence is no longer a common thing for most teenagers, so health class needs to catch up with the times. Students need to know the dangers of unprotected sex and how to have protected sex. According to dosomething.org, 35 percent of students don’t know how to use a condom, which is something students need to know to practice safe sex. Adults don’t always like to admit it, but teenagers are at the point where they make important, adult decisions and need to be prepared for those decisions. School is meant to prepare students for adulthood and part of that is sex. Most people will eventually have sex and won’t be prepared if all they know is what their health teacher told them freshman year.

Teaching students safe sex instead of just abstinence would help lower alarming STD rates and promote lifelong health. According to dosomething.org, young people ages 15 to 24 account for 50 percent of all STDs. That statistic gets even worse because teenagers represent only 24 percent of the sexually active population. Teens are having unsafe sex because they weren’t taught anything and are now facing the repercussions. According to the National Institute of Health, long term effects of STDs include infertility, cervical cancer and pelvic inflammatory disease. Some STDs can also increase the risk of contracting and transmitting HIV. Teenage naivety can lead to lifelong consequences.

Teenagers aren’t ready to be parents and becoming a parent at such a young age can completely alter someone’s aspirations and goals, which is why students need to be taught ways to be safely sexually active and avoid pregnancy. According to the Center for Disease and Control, 229,715 babies were born to women aged 15 to 19 years old. The United States also has the highest teen birth rate at 17 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Human and Health Services. Thirty percent of teenage girl dropouts were because of pregnancy and parenthood. Two-thirds of the families started are poor and children born to teenagers are less likely to earn a high school diploma. Someone’s life shouldn’t be set for them at the age of 16 just because they were unprepared.

Ignorance is encouraged by not teaching safe sex methods. Unless students do their own research or their parents decide to teach them more than health class, many teenagers are left unprepared. It’s time to realize teenagers are young adults and many are choosing to become sexually active, or will be soon. Proper sex-ed should teach students what to do if they choose to make that big decision, not encourage it. Sex isn’t as “taboo” in today’s society, so that change should be recognized in society and prepare students. It’s in no way a shameful thing to be a virgin, but it’s also not a bad thing for a teenager to be sexually active as long as safe methods are being practiced.

Every teen is left with the choice to wait or not and instead of taking that choice away by teaching that sex is evil, schools should teach students that it is their choice and the importance of consent and safe sex practices. Besides, constant preaching against sex is just going to encourage more stubborn teenagers to do it and be “rebellious.”

It’s our body and our choice and sex is a natural part of life, so in order to preare students, schools should be teaching safe practices, not just abstinence.

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