Inclusive Sex Ed

COVID caused lots of problems with student learning in math and English, but guess what else?

Sex Ed.

Even sexual education classes suffered from the turn to remote learning. Schools across the country had to set their own priorities and adjust classes on the spot, which led to a decrease in school-based sexuality education. Moreover, many schools gave up on striving for an inclusive, culturally sensitive approach covering a range of topics, such as safe sex practices, consent, sexual harassment and assault, and bodily autonomy.

At Eastside, Sex Ed is mainly taught by English teacher Amy Reilly, but during remote learning, much less time was devoted to it.

Some students, like senior Jocelyn Guzman, wish that there were more sessions related to Sex Ed — not just the two sessions at the beginning and end of her junior year.

“I think they should really incorporate more classes or more sessions where they talk about it more because I feel that it’s not really talked about here, compared to other high schools,” Jocelyn said.

English and Sex Ed teacher Amy Reilly said that it’s important for everyone to make informed decisions that are in alignment with their value systems and their goals.

“I try to make it okay for people to advocate for their sexual health,” Amy said. “I think if we deny that this is a part of adult life, […] it puts people in a difficult situation when they’re trying to reckon with it, and they don’t know what they’re supposed to do.”

High-quality, evidence-based Sex Ed is critically important for students, and can help prevent unplanned pregnancies. Limiting access to that instruction threatens the health and safety of young people, particularly those in states where access to reproductive health care is scarce – a problem that has only worsened since Roe v. Wade was overturned in June.

The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to have negative long-term effects on school-based Sex Ed nationwide. Sex Ed curriculum is taught in various states with the goal of empowering teenagers and adults about the autonomy of the body in an appropriate way. But other states define sexual education very narrowly, only teaching that young people should avoid sex.

Andrea Gil, a youth coordinator at Youth Leader Institute of San Mateo County and a strong advocate for gender equality, said that most current Sex Ed curriculum lacks accurate representation for all students.

“There’s not enough time spent on same sex relationships, not enough time spent on the different gender fluidity, gender identities that students have,” Gil said. “[So] you are not really adhering to all the representations in the room.”

The various shortcomings of the current Sex Ed curriculum does not mean that the whole program should be eliminated. Rather, creators should focus their attention on the different kinds of people they are trying to teach.

“It is important for sexual identity to be healthy, for you to feel good about it, to feel good about your choices,” Amy said.

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