Sex education should give kids all the facts

If our election practices aren’t identical across the state, at least our voluntary sex education programs can be.

For the third year in a row some legislators are trying to pass a bill that would require schools that teach sex education to follow a standardized program. This time around the proposal stresses abstinence, but not at the expense of providing accurate information about sex, contraception and sexually transmitted diseases.

Lawmakers should give the bill the OK so students can get the medically and scientifically accurate information they need to make smart decisions now and for the rest of their lives.

It’s unfortunate the two “sides” of sex education have been pitted against each other for so long. This delicate issue shouldn’t be about undoing the value system parents have instilled in their children or hiding valuable information from them that enriches their understanding of themselves and their world.

The program is encouraged and endorsed by the state Department of Health and the Office the Superintendent of Public Instruction, and it includes guidelines for sexual health information and disease prevention that should impress parents at both ends of the spectrum.

“Evidence suggests that sex education programs that provide information about both abstinence and contraception can delay the onset of sexual activity in teenagers …” according to “Guidelines for Sexual Health Information and Disease Prevention” released by the state DOH and OSPI earlier this month. It also says that parents communicating with their children about sex and sexuality plays a critical role in determining how kids will behave later on. So, parents who are worried a sex ed program at their child’s school will remove them and their values from the picture should be reassured that’s not the case at all. Just the opposite.

And if you’re wondering what all this talk about “medically and scientifically accurate information” is about – it means the information has been given the OK by respected organizations such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Parents who argue teaching kids about sexual health encourages them to have sex are just as far off the mark as those who argue, “they’re going to do it anyway, we might as well tell them about it.” Responsible sexual health isn’t about sheltering teens or throwing up our hands in defeat. It’s about equipping young people with the scientific and medical information they need to effectively apply their values and principles to their real-life experiences.

Healthy sexuality means different things to different people. Sex ed programs that respect all these differences while offering accurate information stand the best chance of helping children keep themselves healthy – a goal every parent shares.

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