VHS sex education needs to encompass LGBTQ+ topics
By the Editorial Board | Oct. 19, 2018
Sex education is a crucial part of the high school academic system. Without it, many students would graduate unaware of issues concerning their physical and mental health.
However, the way in which the current course is taught fails to provide relevant information for all groups of people. The health classes at the high school should be as extensive for LGBTQ+ students as it is for their cisgender heterosexual peers.
The lack of coverage on LGBTQ+ topics is not due to the school’s purposeful neglect, nor is it caused by a shortage of resources available to teach the content. Rather, the absence of LGBTQ+-related information can be attributed to the current sexual education program — Family Life and Sexual Health (FLASH). The scientifically oriented program was selected by the school board and is taught at the high school by health teacher Kara Sears. FLASH is also used in the middle school healthy living program.
“I feel good about the curriculum that we use in that I think it does a nice job of addressing really all the necessary topics,” Sears said.
The FLASH curriculum currently covers abstinence, birth control, contraception, STD prevention, relationships, family dynamic, HIV/ AIDS, and broad LGBTQ+ topics.
However, while the classes receive instruction on LGBTQ+ material, the coverage isn’t extensive enough. It is extremely important for students to do more than just explore a few definitions in class — they must actually examine the topic as a whole. Without this access to correct information, students may turn to online sources that have false and harmful content about LGBTQ+ health.
The curriculum’s inability to incorporate these lessons stems from the amount of time left over for covering LGBTQ+ topics. This leaves many students wanting more information on LGBTQ+ health.
“It’s not for a lack of wanting to cover it,” Sears said. “It’s just a time issue. You could spend a whole semester just talking about [LGBTQ+ topics].”
Currently, the class spends six weeks in the FLASH unit, which comprises more than a quarter of the semester-long course. However, Sears feels FLASH doesn’t dive as deeply into certain topics as some people, including herself, would like.
“If I were to change anything about [the FLASH curriculum], I think it would just be … the depth we can go [in] certain lessons,” she said.
The curriculum is particularly lacking in topics such as hormone replacement therapy and how to safely bind for transgender students. Both topics can be largely influential for the safety and comfort of LGBTQ+ students.
The course should also include more examples of LGBTQ+ couples in healthy relationships, providing both representation and normalization.
Furthermore, the addition of LGBTQ+ health content can reduce both intentional and accidental homophobic and transphobic attitudes. Many actions that seem harmless can come across as mentally abusive.
The curriculum should also show students what each discrimination looks like, so that they can be better allies to their peers. ‘Jokes’ regarding the sexual identity or gender identity further the non-acceptance of LGBTQ+ students, with negative and long-lasting effects.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, LGBTQ+ students are at a greater risk for depression and suicide than their cisgender heterosexual peers. Through education and stronger support for LGBTQ+ students, we as a school can take steps towards lowering the amount of bullying and violence these students face, allowing us all to learn and thrive.
For these reasons, the school board needs to mandate that more LGBTQ+ information be taught within a classroom setting. In such a situation, with school teachers instructing the lesson plan, students are more likely to take the content seriously and learn from the material.
While we don’t believe that these changes would fix all of the prejudice and misinformation in our generally accepting school, we do think that this is an issue our school and community needs to recognize. By working towards a better understanding, we can appropriately take the necessary steps to become stronger allies to the entire LGBTQ+ community.