What made Howard County go backwards?
In the 1990's frank and open discussions about condoms with our high schoolers was essential because AIDS was out there, it was a death sentence, and the most important thing was to protect our kids. Now even saying the word condom in front of a high schooler is publicly condemned and all our sex education is abstinence-based.
This is just crazy.
I saw two films over the last week that I'd like to recommend to you and to the Howard County School System. One is Coming Out, from Nick News and Linda Ellerbee, and the other is Let's Talk About Sex, directed by James Houston. It is clear to me from recent events that we need to have a community conversation about healthy sexuality and how we as a community support that for our kids. Just saying "don't talk about it, don't do it"?
"Coming Out" addresses middle schoolers and their journeys as LGBTQ individuals. The movie is prefaced by Linda Ellerbee, who says, "This is not a movie about sex." And it isn't. It is about kids understanding who they truly are, and about how it can be a struggle for acceptance from family and friends.
Think middle school is too young to "know/decide" you are gay? When did you "know/decide" you were heterosexual? Kids like the ones in the film are in our schools and our middle school curriculum does nothing to support them or their classmates in developing better understanding and acceptance. Not addressing these issues leaves the playing field wide open to bullying and a higher risk of suicide. The Howard County schools don't even touch on this in middle school.
"Let's Talk About Sex" does exactly what it says. It looks at how we deal with the issue of sexuality education with our kids, and then compares it to another country--The Netherlands. In both countries, sexual activity begins at around the same age--between 16 and 18. But in the U.S., where abstinence-only programs have become the norm, rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases far surpass those in The Netherlands, where open and candid sex education begins earlier, talking about condoms is accepted at school and at home.
Research shows that, when kids get comprehensive sex education early enough, and can really talk about it, they actually postpone sexual activity.
So how's that abstinence-only thing workin' for ya, Howard County? How's that "don't talk about it" thing working?
We must do better than this.