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Sex education at Sedona-Oak Creek School District seems to be a touchy subject.

With no employed health teacher to ask about district policy regarding sex ed, fingers were pointed around the district with no one willing to go on record.

School district administrators, health officials, teachers and the district attorney, 10 in all,  either didn’t know the district’s policies on sex ed, deferred the questions to someone else or refused to go on record.

 

Alison Ecklund
Larson Newspapers

 

Sex education at Sedona-Oak Creek School District seems to be a touchy subject.

With no employed health teacher to ask about district policy regarding sex ed, fingers were pointed around the district with no one willing to go on record.

School district administrators, health officials, teachers and the district attorney, 10 in all,  either didn’t know the district’s policies on sex ed, deferred the questions to someone else or refused to go on record.

Sedona Red Rock High School senior Anela Malik said she got the same runaround when she started researching for her senior project on sex education in public high schools.

It turns out, there isn’t much to hide, as there isn’t much going on, Malik said, in terms of educating on the topic.

Malik got the idea for her senior project after a 16-year-old SRRHS student came into a class with her baby to speak to the students on teenage pregnancy.

“I know we have other girls  with babies and others who are pregnant and I’m a senior and I know I’m not ready for a baby,” Malik said. “So, I knew I wanted to research sex ed in schools.”

Before she moved to Sedona from North Carolina for her junior year, Malik said she had  comprehensive sex ed at her previous school, where health was a required course.

It was a stark contrast from  SRRHS, where three classes are taught for one hour in humanities classes for freshmen and sophomores, Malik said, but even then, not all students are reached.

The first class shows a video on sex, the second class covers sexually transmitted diseases and the third covers teen pregnancy.

Since Arizona receives funding from Title V of the Social Security Act, sex ed in public schools must be abstinence education.

Title V-funded programs cannot advocate or discuss contraception, except to make an example of failure statistics, Malik discovered through her research.

Abstinence programs just receive a bad rap, according to Diane DeLong, program director of North Star Youth Partnership, in Prescott.

North Star offers an abstinence program that goes to Big Park Community School and West Sedona School to teach seventh- and eighth-graders.

Although it is abstinence education, DeLong said they cover STDs, HIV/AIDS, healthy and unhealthy relationships and consequences of pregnancy.

“We cover contraception only to a point,” DeLong said. “We dispel myths, explain effectiveness and failure rates and if they prevent HIV. We stop there because that’s the nature of our grant.”

That’s not going to cut it, according to Malik.

“All my studies say that abstinence education doesn’t work. Gov. [Janet] Napolitano decided not to reapply for Title V for abstinence funding because abstinence isn’t working,” Malik said.

After years of federally

funded abstinence education in public schools, teen pregnancy has been going down, DeLong said, until 2007, when  “there was a little blip.”

“In this field, whatever you’re trying to prove, you can find something to prove it and disprove it,” she said.

To demonstrate DeLong’s point, Malik had also found a statistic that teen pregnancy rates were down, but according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, that is because American teenagers are more likely than ever to use more than one method of contraception, not because they’re abstinent.

Since high schoolers spend an average of five to six hours every weekday at school, Malik thinks it’s the perfect place to teach kids a comprehensive sex education that incorporates contraception use and availability.

Malik realizes that some parents think it is their duty, not their school’s, to talk to their kids about sex, “but the parents who aren’t comfortable having sex ed taught in schools are the same ones who aren’t going to be comfortable talking about sex at home,” she said.

What some SRRHS staff are doing to inform students in humanities classes is useful, Malik said, and she gives them credit for doing the most they can within the laws and with limited resources.

“Knowledge is power,” she said. “In Florida, kids were drinking bleach because they thought it would prevent HIV/AIDS and pregnancy. That’s how lacking our education system is.”

Students planned to listen to Malik present her senior project to school judges Tuesday, April 8, because they wanted to learn what they’re not hearing anywhere else, Malik said.

After all her research, Malik said the most shocking fact was that 1 in 4 American girls will get an STD.

“One in four,” she repeated, “one in four.

She suggested that a poster with an innocent-looking girl and “1 in 4” written across it and the phone number of a clinic should be on every wall in every school.

When students ask her for the county clinic’s number, she readily gives out and assures them that if they wish, their visits will remain confidential.

She encourages kids who are having sex to go to the clinic for free STD testing and birth control.

“Eighty percent of teenage moms will live below the poverty line for at least 10 years,” Malik said. “I know a girl who had a baby when she was 15. She hasn’t come back to school, she has no future. What’s she going to do?”

 

Alison Ecklund can be reached at

282-7795, Ext. 125, or e-mail

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

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