Let's Talk about Sex Ed

April 29, 2008 12:12:19 PM PDT
From the classroom, chat rooms and podcasts. You may be surprised to know what students are - or aren't learning about sex education.Currently there is no uniform sex ed curriculum for students in Illinois. A recent Centers for Disease Control study suggests it's a problem everywhere, saying that one in every four American teenage girls has an STD. That has educators and teens saying, "let's learn about sex."

They play Abstinence Bingo and brainstorm sex ed vocabulary from A to Z.

Students at Kelvyn Park High School on the city's Northwest Side hear everything on topics like contraceptives, pregnancy and STDs.

"First and foremost, we promote abstinence but we also give the kids choices," said Patty Boundroukas, Kelvyn Park High School.

The students call it a reality check.

"I have talked to friends who have either been pregnant or have gotten STDs," said Elizabeth Esipnosa, senior.

"Some young teenage girls (say), 'oh maybe if I have sex with this guy he'll stay with me.' I don't agree with that," said Jean Rivera, junior.

Some Illinois health classes offer several weeks of detailed sex ed discussion, while others may only get one week.

There's also no mandated training for sex ed teachers. In fact, a recent University of Chicago study found that one-third of them are not trained. It also found that the majority of teachers avoid topics like homosexuality, student access to health services and contraceptive use.

"The reality is that many young people do engage in sexual activity, and if we don't teach them about how to be safe, how to protect themselves from sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy, both of which require contraception, then they can't be safe," said Stacy Tessler-Lindau MD., Asst. Prof., U of C Medical Center.

Some students are now turning to popular "sex-pert" Web sites like sexetc.com, teenwire.com and scarletteen.com

Show creators say about 150,000 viewers subscribe to the "Midwest Teen Sex Show" podcast, filmed in Chicago. This group of young comedians, producers and writers - not experts - talk sex, and it's racy.

"We don't sugarcoat things. We're not x-rated. We use language you use to talk with your friends," said Britney Barber, Midwest Teen Sex Show.

At the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health, experts offer sex ed training to teachers and teens, like Keisha Hoye, who bring the knowledge back to the classroom

"Some of my friends actually believe that, 'Oh, I am on the shot, I am on the pill, the patch, so I can't get a disease," said Hoye.

It's estimated that about one-third of Illinois schools practice "comprehensive" sex ed programs. Another one-third teach minimum requirements of HIV/AIDS education.

The final third are "abstinence only," which is the only type of program that can receive federal funding. That is the reason why teens from the Illinois Caucus recently protested. They also argue that many studies show abstinence-only programs are not effective. Still, some schools, including Chicago's Catholic school system, believe it's simply right.

"It's not about what's failing out there, what isn't failing, it's not about telling horror stories. It's about making that choice to respect and chose abstinence because of the value," said Marty Frauenheim, Archdiocese of Chicago.

A value also practiced by an area performing arts group called Breakdown. They spread their message in skits and wear abstinence rings. Some of the students at Kelvyn Park High also made the same choice.

All experts say no matter what type of sex ed a child is learning, parents need to be involved. They say parents should be responsible for passing on values and morals.

Related Links:

WWW.SEXETC.com

www.teenwire.com

www.scarletteen.com

www.midwestteensexshow.com

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