By Isabelle Mellon, Contributor
Sex. The word alone gets anyone’s attention.
For 29 years, South Carolina has required public schools to teach students the “Comprehensive Health Education Act” (CHEA). Though the implementation of a program with the purpose of “maintaining, reinforcing, or enhancing the health, health-related skills and health attitudes and practices of children and youth that are conducive to their good health” was necessary, it by no means enhanced South Carolina children’s understanding of sex.
As stated in the code of laws describing the CHEA bill, the reproductive health education does not include instruction concerning sexual practices outside of marriage, but should first and foremost be grounded in abstinence.
Abstinence is the only completely effective method to prevent STIs and unplanned pregnancies. But there are so many more factors to consider, so many more important facts to relay to the youth of one’s school and so many more teens who are already having sex.
In South Carolina, the proportion of sexually active teens is above the national average. According to the 2003 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 56 percent of high school students in South Carolina report having had sexual intercourse, compared to 46.7 percent nationally. In addition, in 2003, South Carolina ranked fourth nationally in diagnosed cases of gonorrhea.
Limiting the curriculum of sexual education to abstinence has not been effective and is in dire need of a structural change. Teens are having sex. Abstinence is no longer a course of action for many high school students. Therefore, teachers need to improve the education to include extensive knowledge about contraception and the dangers of STIs.
One of the biggest mistakes South Carolina is making is not providing contraception to the students. As stated in the CHEA, “No contraceptive device or contraceptive medication may be distributed in or on the school grounds.”
Colorado is a shining example of a state that has exponentially decreased its rate of unplanned pregnancies and improved its overall contraceptive use. The secret: providing contraception. Between 2009 (when Colorado first started distributing contraception) and 2013, the abortion rate declined 42 percent, while teen pregnancies fell by 40 percent. According to the New York Times, it is young, unmarried women in less than favorable economic circumstances who have benefited the most.
If I had it my way, public schools would have vending machines full of contraception. But for now, I will settle for a more in-depth curriculum that is run with the assumption that over 50 percent of their students are already having sex.