Today I have been pondering how to best provide high quality comprehensive sexuality education in a school setting. If I could wave a magic wand and design a program for all young people, what would it look like? Here is a general outline:
I would provide a semester of sexuality education to all students in the second half of seventh grade. This could easily be paired with a semester of health education in the first semester of the year. I would provide another semester of comprehensive sex ed to the same batch of students during the first semester of either tenth or eleventh grades. In the last semester of the senior year, we would have a few days to gather to talk about navigating sexual norms in college. The rest of the time, I would offer occasional one-class sessions on a variety of topics and I would be available to the students and the parents to come and talk with, ask questions of, and generally be available as a resource.
I have this sort of relationship with a number of families, where I provide on-going support through adolescence, but providing it in the school setting has some distinct advantages. First, young people whose parents aren’t going to search out additional sex education for their young people will still have access to it. Second, it validates and normalizes the entire process, thereby providing higher level of buy-in from the young people.
In many ways it is the consultations that I think would provide the most substantial benefit for young people. The classes are a way to ensure that everyone in the peer group is informed and knows that the people around them are informed. However, it is ensuring that every student has an adult who they know and trust to talk with about sexual matters that would make this approach to sexuality education so revolutionary. Facts and information are generally out there, and many young people know how to access it via the Internet. Knowing how to interpret, use, and apply the information in a real-life setting is an entirely different matter.