Administration does a good job with sex education
By Isabelle Spence, Editor in Chief
Across America, the occurrence of STIs is increasing, even as the rates of teenage sex go down. The root of this issue stems from a systemic lack of support throughout the country for teenagers as they begin sexual activities. This is seen through continuing stigmas around using birth control and a lack of comprehensive sexual education in high schools. However, Vashon defies these nation-wide low expectations by providing effective and inclusive sexual education for the majority of its students, as well as providing access to sexual health support and planning through the resource of Neighborcare.
The federal government sets out very few guidelines for how schools should teach students about their bodies. Only 24 states mandate that sex ed even be taught, and most of the curriculum and content decisions are left up to the individual schools. This leads to a wide variety of experiences for students in different states. Washington’s current laws allow schools to choose whether or not they teach sexual education unit. However, if taught, the unit must be medically-factual, scientific, age-appropriate, and must be inclusive to all genders and sexual orientations, as laid out by the Healthy Youth Act.
The high school teaches sexual education during the required semester of Family Health, which many students take during their freshman year. Vashon is unique in that it taking a sex ed unit, as part of the health class, is a graduation requirement. This unit covers the effects of puberty, preventing pregnancy, HIV and sexually transmitted infections, sexuality and gender, and how to have healthy relationships.
Students also receive supplemental health training from the school’s Teen Council. The students on the council often lead refresher-style lectures once or twice a year for sophomores, juniors, and seniors that focus on specific STIs, with an emphasis on HIV, and how to prevent them.
Two years ago, Neighborcare set up a clinic at the high school. This provides students with easy access to doctors for common concerns such as flu shots and sports physicals. However, the clinic also provides confidential services, which students can sign up for without needing parental approval, for both mental and sexual health concerns. The school offers Students now are able to easily access birth control or STI testing without JM leaving school. Neighborcare provides an excellent service to students through these actions.
Through these programs, the school takes an important stance. They do not endorse any specific stance on sexual activity, whether it be abstinence or not. Instead, they arm students with the tools to properly care for themselves. Teens will make the choices that they want, often regardless of whatever advice they have been given. If teens are choosing to engage in sexual activity, then it is important to recognize this and provide the appropriate resources.
The school district has done an admirable job in how they handle sexual health. Of course, it is not perfect. Over the years, there have been some requests to expand the sex-ed curriculum to be even more inclusive to the LBGTQ+ community. Additionally, it may be a benefit to expanding the curriculum past freshman year. Since there are higher rates of sexual activity for upperclassman, this information may be more helpful for older students.
However, when compared to national averages, Vashon is doing quite well. Sexual health is an increasingly important topic, and students need to receive a proper education in this area. It is important for the high school to be an example, and possibly motivate other schools across the country to better serve their students.