Sunday, November 2, 2014

Teenagers Teaching Sex Ed?

At last week's board meeting, the always-touchy subject of sex educaton policy was up for review by the board.  As with many topics, the general content of what we teach here is dictated by the state.   But the two citizens who spoke up, one a local parent and the other a leader of the Parents' Rights in Education group, brought up some serious concerns about our curriculum.  What concerned me the most was that our "My Future My Choice"  program includes the use of high school teen volunteers to help lead discussions in middle school sex ed classes.  They have to go through an extensive training/certification program first, but it seems to me that teenagers should not be leading class discussions in this area, regardless of their level of training.   Why do I say this?

  1. Our laws directly state that kids are not ready to make decisions about sex until age 18, and about alcohol until age 21.   We have age of consent laws regarding sex, and a minimum age for the sale of alcohol.   Since we have agreed as a society to not trust kids of high school age to properly judge these topics, no matter how seemingly mature they are or how much training they receive, isn't it somewhat inconsistent to trust them to counsel younger kids on these matters?
  2. Some of the high school kids will have experimented with sexual activity or drugs, and the younger kids will likely pick up on this.   Although the training teaches them to change the subject when inappropriate topics come up, I have a feeling it won't be as smooth as in the ideal training conditions.   The younger children will recognize that the older teens are being evasive, and some my be more influenced by their inferred real behavior than their teacher-dictated official statements.
  3. Teenagers are very skilled at telling adults what they want to hear, then doing the opposite.   Back in the 80's, at my high school (a public school in New Jersey) there was a program called "Teens Need Teens" (TNT), similar in philosophy to this one, where teen leaders would learn to counsel their peers in avoiding drug use and sexual activity.   During my senior year, the advisor abruptly resigned, when the news came out that many of the "responsible student leaders" of TNT had been spending their weekends attending wild parties filled with alcohol, drug use, and sexual activity, while officially preaching the exact opposite as part of their TNT programs.
So, for these reasons, I am very uncomfortable with this concept of teen leaders helping run middle school sex ed classes.   As we discuss next steps to take on the board, I'm interested in hearing further about your children's experiences, positive or negative, with this program.