I problem that might arise from trying to implement the program in elementary school is because children do not have the right to consent in participating in the program, so it up to the children's parents who will allow whether or not they should enroll their child or children in a sex education program.
Comprehensive sex education can reduce the likelihood of teen pregnancy. In Hall County, Georgia, female teen pregnancies between ages 10 - 19 per 1,000 were 36.3 percent in 2009, where Georgia’s average was 34.1 percent (Georgia Stats, 2011). As teen pregnancies rise, high school dropout rates will likely follow. A child born to a teenage mother is 50 percent more likely to repeat a grade in school, perform poorly on standardized tests, and drop out before finishing high school (March of Dimes, 2009) According to Georgia Stats, the percentage of students in Hall County who did not complete high school was 29.5, where Georgia’s average was 21.4 percent. About 64 percent of children born to an unmarried teenage high-school dropout will likely live in poverty (March of Dimes, 2009).
Comprehensive sex education has helped to diminish the likelihood of teen pregnancies by educating students about the risks, concerns sex presents, and how to keep one’s self and others safe from the consequences sex can involve. Researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle found that teenagers who received some type of comprehensive sex education were 60 percent less likely to get pregnant or get someone else pregnant (Beadle, 2012).
States have begun to reject federal funding for abstinence-only education so that they can offer evidence-based programs, such as comprehensive sex education (Bleakley, 2010), due to the positive effects it has generated (Bleakley, 2010). In January of 2009, twenty-eight states reported having rejected such funding.
An example of a comprehensive sex education program is Real Issues of the Sexual Kind (RISK). RISK is a program developed by the University of Illinois Extension Office designed to address teen pregnancy issues. RISK is an interactive program that illustrates the consequences of each individual's behavior; it provides a role-playing opportunity for each student in the classroom, with each student enduring the consequences of their sexual behavior (Olsen, 2012).
After introducing this type of program, the teen pregnancy rate fell 9 percent in 2010 from a year earlier, and 44 percent since 1991, according to the report from the Atlanta based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There were 34.3 births for every 1,000 15- to 19-year-old females in 2010 (Olsen, 2012).
In 2010, Greene County, Illinois, received a local United Way grant to provide teen health education like RISK for students, ages 12 – 14 (Olsen, 2012). At one time, the Greene County’s teen birth rate was 23.2 percent compared to the state average of 12.5 percent (University of Illinois Extension , 2007). According to the latest figures available (2004), Greene’s teen birth rate was 7.9 percent, the lowest it has been in the past 25 years (Nierzwicki, 200cool.
In Cass County, Illinois, there were 56 teenage girls giving birth per 1,000 females ages 15-19, according to the 2010 statistics after introducing comprehensive sex education in the public school system (Olsen, 2012).
In California, out of 1,284 surveys from California parents, parents preferred a comprehensive sex education instead of abstinence-only education by 89 percent (Constantine, 2007).
The content of sexuality education curricula in America varies widely by region, school district, and sometimes, by classroom. A sex education program’s objective is to teach at-risk students decision-making skills, refusal skills and the consequences of being or becoming a teenage parent (Olsen, 2012).
Types Of Sex Education Programs
There are mainly two types of sex education programs: Comprehensive and Abstinence (or Abstinence-only). Both programs are controversial; however, one out of the two has proven to be more successful in preventing teen pregnancies and making students more knowledgeable about sexual behavior. Those who received comprehensive sex education had a lower risk of pregnancy than those who received abstinence-only, or no sex education (Kohler, 2007).
1. Comprehensive Sex Education
Comprehensive sex education, also known as an Abstinence-plus program, provides information about abstinence, as well as, contraception and condoms.
Comprehensive sex education, providing balanced and accurate information on both abstinence and birth control, is a crucial part of equipping adolescents with the necessary skills to achieve healthy sexuality throughout their lives (Larua, 2006). The program offers unbiased, accurate information about sexuality and relationships including vital information on life-saving topics such as STDs, HIV, and pregnancy prevention (SIECUS, 2005). Over half of all new HIV infections in the United States and two thirds of all STD’s occur among young people under the age of 25 (Mohelnitzky & Ewoldt, 2009).
Real Issues of the Sexual Kind (RISK) is a comprehensive sex education program. RISK’s interactive method and guided discussion provides teens with a visual understanding of the costs associated with sexual behavior (University of Illinois Board of Trustees, 2012). According to Health Department of Stephenson County, IL (Nierzwicki, 200cool:
The purpose of “RISK: Real Issues of the Sexual Kind” is to impact the beliefs and attitudes teens have about sexual risk-taking. By making non-risky and less risking behaviors more relevant and recognizably beneficial to adolescents, RISK encourages youth to change or avoid sexual risk-taking behaviors. RISK is a simulation activity with guided discussion that provides teens with a visual understanding of the costs associated with sexual behavior. The simulation tells a story in which each participate because a character. The characters face issues related to sexual activity, including pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), HIV/AIDS, abstinence, contraceptive use, drug and alcohol abuse, sexual abuse, and rape. RISK incorporates national statistics into the storyline. This program is available to anyone and lasts about forty-five minutes.
Real Education About Life Act (REAL) is a bill created to be administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that would award $206 million per year to states for comprehensive sexuality education that is age-appropriate, medically accurate, and stresses abstinence while also educating young people about contraception. Funded programs would also stress family communication, responsible decision-making, and negotiation skills (SIECUS, 2005).
2. Abstinence Sex Education
Abstinence sex education is a hands-off perspective of sexual behavior. It emphasizes abstinence from sex. Abstinence education focuses on refraining from sexual activity until marriage. Abstinence-based programs exclude certain aspects of sex education, such as using birth control and safer sex.
For the past decade, abstinence education has been the primary U.S. government strategy for dealing with youth sexuality (Kantor, 200cool. The funding for Abstinence education to federally funded schools is 176 million dollars (Bleakley, 2010). However, the research behind Abstinence education does not justify its spending. The extensive body of scientific research on what works to protect young students from HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and unplanned pregnancy does not support the abstinence approach to sex education (Collins, 2002).
For purpose of abstinence, an educational or motivational program which:
(A) has as its exclusive purpose, teaching the social, psychological, and health gains to be realized by abstaining from sexual activity;
(B) teaches abstinence from sexual activity outside marriage as the expected standard for all school age children;
(C) teaches that abstinence from sexual activity is the only certain way to avoid out-of-wedlock pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and other associated health problems;
(D) teaches that a mutually faithful monogamous relationship in context of marriage is the expected standard of human sexual activity;
(E) teaches that sexual activity outside of the context of marriage is likely to have harmful psychological and physical effects;
(F) teaches that bearing children out-of-wedlock is likely to have harmful consequences for the child, the child’s parents, and society;
(G) teaches young people how to reject sexual advances and how alcohol and drug use increases vulnerability to sexual advances; and
(H) teaches the importance of attaining self-sufficiency before engaging in sexual activity.
A comprehensive sex education program abides by ethical guidelines that are designed to be beneficial, respectful, and promote equity with participants throughout the duration of the the program session(s). Participants freely decide whether they would like to contribute to the program and should not be coerced in any way (Royse & Padgett, 2009). Students in the program are likely under the age of 18, therefore, their legal caretaker must consent for them. Although the student is underage, they can still give their own consent, or dissent, to whether they will participate in the program (Royse & Padgett, 2009). A simply worded legal document is sent home to his/her guardian, describing the comprehensive sex education program with its purposes and goals, and will ask whether they would like their child to enroll into the program. In the document, parents can give their consent along with their child. The participating students have the right to withdraw from the program anytime they feel it necessary. A student should not feel as if they cannot refuse consent (Royse & Padgett, 2009). Even with the exposure to sensitive information, students will not be harmed as a result of participating in the program. The privacy and protection of participates is guarded, and any identifiable information that could be harmful to a student will be concealed (Royse & Padgett, 2009). Anonymity and confidentiality will be promised to all participants, preventing anyone from recognizing or identifying them by their sociodemographic information (Royse & Padgett, 2009).
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