Comprehensive Sex Education is Condom Sense

By Stephanie Wang – 12th Grade, Peters Township High School

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The GirlGov Sex Education Rally in the PA Capitol Rotunda (Photo Courtesy of Blayre Holmes)

When thinking about sex education, one particular moment in pop culture stands out to me—a scene in the 2004 movie Mean Girls in which their health education teacher says, “Don’t have sex, because you will get pregnant and die!”

While it is certainly unlikely that today’s high school health teacher would say something along those lines, one thing is the same: the fact that a majority of Pittsburgh’s and Pennsylvania’s high schools focus on teaching abstinence-only sex education. As a rising senior in high school, I’ve certainly been exposed to sex education classes, and while I was lucky to be taught basic methods of contraception, many of my peers who go to other schools were not. This current abstinence-only education taught in many PA schools has been found to lead to increased teen pregnancies and a greater risk of contracting STIs, with one in four teens contracting an STI. On the contrary, comprehensive sex education, which addresses methods of contraception, has been found to delay the initiation of sex, the incidence of unprotected sex, and increase the use of condoms and contraception among sexually-active individuals.

Under current PA requirements, schools also do not have to teach life skills for avoiding coercion, healthy decision-making, healthy relationships, or family communication. That means under the current policy, many girls do not know what a healthy relationship looks like, leaving them to be vulnerable to a mentally, sexually, verbally, or physically abusive relationships. In fact, 1/3rd of adolescent girls are the victims of dating partner abuse. Even worse, current sex education requirements are not very inclusive either, focusing only on heterosexual relationships.

As a result, seeing that current sex education is simply not enough, GirlGov, a program of the Women and Girls Foundation comprised of 100 high school girls around Southwest Pennsylvania who seek to instill change through advocacy, has decided to make comprehensive sex education our mission for this year. We plan to help introduce a bill to the PA state legislature early next year requiring all public schools teach science-based, up-to-date, and inclusive comprehensive sex education that includes what a healthy relationship looks like, what consent is, and how to prevent STIs and pregnancy. In addition to working at the state level to pass this bill, we will also continue to advocate at our individual high schools and ask our school board members to implement comprehensive sex education.

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GirlGovers Ciara Bailey and Maggie Mullooly speaking at the rally (Photo Courtesy of Blayre Holmes)

Every year for GirlGov, we take a trip to Harrisburg. At this year’s, besides learning about government, advocacy, and civics and having the opportunity to shadow a legislator, we organized a sex education rally in the PA Capitol Rotunda. At this rally, GirlGov participants shared their stories and spoke about the importance of comprehensive sex education. As a unified group, we voiced our support for comprehensive sex education.

In addition to the rally, I was also part of a group that lobbied with PA Representatives and Senators and their staff aides. After sharing our stories and information, many legislators agreed that they would take a look at the bill and offer suggestions to help it pass. While we certainly know that getting our comprehensive sex education bill to pass will be a challenge, it’s something we’re willing to fight for– we’re united in our goal of implementing comprehensive sex education in all of PA’s public schools. And as teenagers directly impacted by sex education, we know that current sex education is just not cutting it.

 

 

If you have any further questions about the bill or how you can help/get involved, you can reach me at 17WangS@ptsdwebapps.com or Blayre Holmes, the Program Manager at the Women and Girls Foundation, at blayre@wgfpa.org

 

 

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Stephanie Wang is a rising senior at Peters Township High School. She was a PYM Reporter last year and is the current head editor of Business Funnel. Stephanie has been published in media outlets like the Almanac and Pittsburgh’s Post-Gazette. Besides writing, Stephanie enjoys cooking and making bad puns.

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