Howard County, purveyors as we are of a world class education, offers abstinence based sex education units as a part of its Health Curriculum. We must be extremely committed to that point of view, since the Board of Education thinks that even a passing reference to condoms in a dinner conversation where high school students are present constitutes sexual harassment. Forget about abstinence-based, their actions make us look as though we're abstinence only, abstinence all the way, wash out your mouth with soap, by golly!
There's just one problem. Abstinence based programs don't work. Data on this is readily available. As the United States began to rely more heavily on abstinence based programs, the results have been linked to a crisis in teen pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted infections. In countries like Amsterdam where the focus is on open discussion of the realities of sexual feelings and experiences, plus emphasis on birth control, especially condom use, teen pregnancy and STI's are dramatically lower.
Statistics show that teens become sexually active at pretty much the same age around the world. We really have a choice whether to give them the tools to make good choices, plus access to birth control when they need it, or to keep them under a dome of false purity and "protect" them. Recent events in the news are a harsh reminder that we do not protect children by keeping them in ignorance.
This is not purity. It is a deliberate neglect of our responsibility to educate our children to be able to make healthy, safe decisions for themselves.
As the Howard County Schools begin their new partnership with PFLAG, I hope this will be an opportunity to examine our Health and Sexuality Curriculum in a variety of ways. Of course we need to do more to support LGBTQ students. We need to be willing to discuss non-binary sexuality. And, while we are at it, we need to take a hard look at the data on abstinence based programs and then make a concious choice to do better.