The numbers are in and teen pregnancy rates are down, but are conservative sex education courses the reason for this decrease?
Sexual education has always been a hot-button issue in public school systems. As of now, not all school districts are implementing sexual education programs. In most cases, parents must give consent for their child to participate in sex education courses. Even though a child is given the opportunity to receive education on sexual activity, they might not be guaranteed access if their parents do not give permission.
“As a whole, the country is in a decline with teen pregnancy rates,” says Jennifer Moore, a program coordinator for Healthy Futures of Texas. Moore works exclusively with school districts to provide quality, fact-based sex education lectures.
Healthy Futures of Texas currently works with San Antonio Independent School District (SAISD) and New Frontiers Charter School along with 18 other school districts. Their goal is to teach students the consequences of sexual activity and to encourage abstinence along with safe sex practices and preventative pregnancy measures.
“We promote abstinence as the healthiest choice,” says Moore, “we teach skills on how to resent peer pressure and focus on how teens can be abstinent.”
Some of the other programs offered by Healthy Futures of Texas also include the well-known, Me Now…Baby Later, which is sponsored by Healthy Futures Alliance–another program that advocates reducing teen pregnancies.
Overall, the general techniques for teaching these lectures have not changed much, aside from updated statistics. “It’s about being more approachable to students and saying that abstinence can lead to meeting your goals and dreams,” says Moore.
Dr. Janet Realini, a family physician from San Antonio, created all of the course material, which is in compliance with current Texas Law. Realini, who studied at the University of California, has over 30 years of medical experience.
Texas Law states that it is not a requirement for schools to participate in sex education classes. If a school district decides to teach sexual education they must teach students about abstinence before marriage. Instruction on STDs and HIV/AIDS education is not mandatory.
Although, Texas has the fourth highest rate of teen pregnancies in the nation, this year marks the third consecutive year that the numbers have lowered.
In Mississippi, which has the highest rate of teen pregnancies, it is required for schools to instruct students on abstinence before marriage as well as education on HIV/AIDS and STDs. However, information on contraception use is not required.
According to the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, a study by the University of Washington showed that teenagers between the ages of 15 and 19 who were exposed to comprehensive sex education instruction fared much better when it came to low teen pregnancy rates. They also showed lower reported instances of sexual activity.
Sadly, the study showed that abstinence-only based courses do not have much of an effect on students and in some cases showed the same response rate of those who had not received any sex education instruction at all.
The study also found that comprehensive sex education programs saw a reduction in the number of reported teen pregnancies by 50 percent along with a reduced rate of sexual intercourse activity. Abstinence-only programs did not see a reduction in either case.
The Women’s Resource Center at UTSA serves as an outlet for students seeking help or guidance on the subject of sexual health. Amanda Graves, Health Education Coordinator, believes that the counseling and clinical aspects of the program have made great progress with students.
“At the Health Education Department, we provide one-on-one consultations, women’s wellness exams, and go over risk reduction options, birth control methods and general women’s health information” says Graves.
Most services are provided free of charge upon visit due to the Student Health Services Fee which is included in tuition fees. Visits are confidential. Lab work, immunizations and prescriptions are available through a medical provider, which can be covered by the Student Health Insurance offered at UTSA.
For these services, students who have the Student Health Insurance will only need to pay the co-payment. Any extra type of medical attention will be recorded to insure the student’s safety.
Sex education presentations and lectures are also offered to classrooms, dorms, student organizations, fraternities and sororities through the Health Education Department.
On helping students achieve optimal health while in school, Graves says, “we want to help you succeed in all areas of your life, not just academic.”