In the not-so-distant past - perhaps as recently as the 1970s and early '80s - the goal of sex education in the public schools was fairly simple: Give kids the basic facts so they understand where babies come from, and warn them not to have sex.
Teens who ignored the rules risked having to face two angry sets of parents, an early walk down the aisle, limited job prospects and all the rigors of parenthood while still being children themselves.
Pregnancy remains a significant risk for today's sexually active teens, but a recent report by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has put another problem in the spotlight. Based on a survey of 838 girls in 2003 and 2004, the CDC concludes that at least one in four girls between the ages of 14 and 19 has a sexually transmitted disease.
Those are stunning numbers that should serve as a wake-up call to anyone out there, including parents, doctors and school officials. ... Sexually active teenagers need to know the risks they're taking and how to protect themselves.
Heeding that call, Rep. Neva Walker, DFL-Minneapolis, has introduced a bill that would set broad, statewide sex-education requirements. School districts would have some ability to tailor their individual programs, but mandates would include an "abstinence first" approach that is supplemented by "age-appropriate materials that are medically accurate" in explaining sexually transmitted diseases.
We support the basic premise of Walker's proposal.
Some parents, of course, object to any discussion of sexuality in the classroom. That's their right, and even if Walker's bill becomes law, parents will be able to remove their children from sex-ed with no academic penalties. ...
But we encourage parents to allow their children access to information that will empower them to make smart, safe decisions about sex.
- Post-Bulletin of Rochester
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