US parents want more sex education for teens : LUSENET : TB2K spinoff uncensored : One Thread

Tuesday September 26 5:34 PM ET

US parents want more sex education for teens


By Todd Zwillich

WASHINGTON (Reuters Health) - Results of a new national survey show that sex education classes offered to public high school students are not as lengthy or as comprehensive as most parents think they should be.

It also shows that teaching sexual abstinence until marriage remains at the top of parents' sex education priorities. At the same time, the vast majority of parents also want their children to get more instruction about sexually transmitted diseases, contraception, and how to communicate with sexual partners.

``The results in their entirety challenge both sides in the debate to rethink their positions on (sex education) in the public schools,'' said Steven Rabin, senior vice president of media and public education for the California-based Kaiser Family Foundation, which conducted the survey.

Kaiser obtained the results from telephone interviews with a nationwide sample of some 1,500 students in the 7th to 12th grades, and 1,000 public school sex education teachers from those grades. Over 300 public school principals were also surveyed.

Overall, 89% of students reported having at least some sex education classes at school by the 11th or 12th grade.

Nearly all parents said that sex education classes should encourage teens to wait until they are married to have sex. But two-thirds said that the overall message to teens should be to wait to have sex, but use birth control and practice safe sex if they don't. Only one third of parents said that classes should encourage teens to only have sex when they are married.

At the same time, at least 75% of parents said that classes should cover a wide range of other topics, including homosexuality, abortion, proper condom use, and how to gettested for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

``Parents, simply put, want it all,'' said Tina Hoff, a Kaiser researcher who conducted the study.

But few sex education classes seem long enough to cover all the topics parents want their children to know about, Hoff added. Three quarters of the teachers said that their most recent sex education course lasted one or several class periods--a number that contrasts with what most parents said was ideal. Three quarters of parents said it should last half a semester or more.

And those shorter classes may be leaving out many topics parents think are important. While 97% of parents reported wanting sex education classes to instruct teens on what to do if they are raped, only 59% of teens said their classes had breached the topic. Similar gaps in parents' priorities and students' experiences were seen in areas of homosexuality and how to talk with parents and partners about sex. ``Parents are looking for real-life skills to be taught in the classroom,'' Hoff said.

The survey also seemed to uncover gaps between the models schools are supposed to be using for sex education and what students are actually picking up in class. While one third of teachers and principals said that the main message of their sex education classes was ``abstinence only,'' only 18% of students said that they had received and abstinence-only message at school.

Those numbers could mean that students who ask questions about sexual intercourse or contraception in class often get those questions answered, even by teachers mandated to teach abstinence-only, noted Dr. Ramon Cortines, a former New York City Chancellor of Schools, who was on hand when reporters were briefed on the study today.

``When the doors are closed in that classroom, it's hard to know what is really going on'' between teachers and students, he said.

-- (hmm@hmm.hmm), September 27, 2000


Letting hormone crazed teens out of the house without sex education is like letting them loose with a car without driving instructions.

I never trusted the schools to properly instruct my kids on sex issues. There are many good professionally written books to educate children on sexuality for different age levels. If parents don't feel comfortable answering questions or discussing sex with their kids and older teens, simply letting those books laying around the house will be sure to be picked up and read by the kids.

-- (, September 27, 2000.

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