Surprisingly, Idaho currently does not mandate sex education in its schools. The decision to offer sex education is left to school districts and sometimes to individual schools themselves. This creates a patchwork of different levels of education throughout Idaho, a state already sorely lagging behind the rest of the U.S. in educational standards. One of the ways we can boost our educational ranking and help to make more informed citizens is mandating comprehensive sex education throughout the state.
Comprehensive sex education is extremely important for youth. It educates them about a number of important topics, including safe sex, their bodies, reproductive health, reproductive rights, consent, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), sexuality, sexual responsibility, pregnancy, and other related topics. Comprehensive sex education has been shown to be effective in lowering the rate of teen pregnancies, which is important, considering America has the highest rate of teen pregnancies in the developed world. It has also been shown to be effective in lowering the rate of STIs and increasing contraceptive use.
Comprehensive sex education should also include LGBT health and topics as well. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth deserve to have information regarding their sexuality and health just like heterosexual and cisgender students. LGBT youth need inclusive education to keep themselves safe and informed when dealing with different situations than their heterosexual peers. With some studies showing up to 10 percent of the population being LGBT, this is an important segment of students who should not be excluded from the conversation.
Unfortunately, what passes for sex education in schools can include abstinence-only education, a non-effective, values-based program that advocates no sex until marriage and does not cover the many topics listed above. Abstinence-only sex education has been shown to be ineffective in lowering the rate of teen pregnancies, lowering STIs, or increasing contraceptive use. Since it’s ineffective, there’s no real reason to include it in school curriculum. Funding abstinence-only sex education is not only a waste of taxpayer dollars, it takes the place of comprehensive sex education that could actually teach Idaho youth real-world information and skills that could help them in the long run.
Right now, the patchwork of comprehensive sex education, abstinence-only programs, and nothing at all means some students are receiving sub-par education while others are gaining the information they need. State mandated comprehensive sex education will help lower teen pregnancies, reduce STIs, increase contraceptive use, shore up our fledgling educational system, regulate standards, and give each student the same access to information regardless of where they reside in the state.
Our lawmakers in Idaho have the responsibility to mandate education that will actually help Idaho students with real world knowledge and skills, not hoist responsibility for a “hot potato” topic onto school boards and school districts. In taking responsibility, they will be helping students all across the state learn vital information. And isn’t a more informed citizenry better for us all?