Survey finds sex ed in California schools is inconsistent, incomplete
LOS ANGELES – Many California public school students receive poor sexual education, according to a study released Tuesday suggesting youth pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases could rise as the state’s teen population grows.
Unless steps are taken to strengthen the curriculum, ”There will continue to be misinformation, and our teen-agers will continue to get pregnant,” said Dawn Wilcox, public information director for the Get Real About Teen Pregnancy Campaign of Santa Monica.
The state’s teen-age population is expected to grow by more than one million in the next decade.
The study was commissioned by the Los Angeles-based California Wellness Foundation, a nonprofit organization that is midway into a 10-year effort to reduce teen pregnancies statewide.
It surveyed teachers, principals and other administrators in eight public school districts in separate counties and concluded that schools were taking a piecemeal approach to sex education.
Among the findings:
-Most teachers did not know whether their districts had policies governing sex education.
-Teachers said they developed their own lesson plans because there was no standard or typical method for teaching sex education.
-Some teachers thought they were hindered by local policies preventing them from teaching about contraception, intercourse or homosexuality, when in fact no such policies existed.
One of the biggest concerns was the abstinence-only curriculum taught in many districts, Wilcox said.
”It was just a straight abstinence message – just don’t have sex,” she said. ”There was no other information being taught.”
Wilcox said the Get Real About Teen Pregnancy Campaign, which is the public information arm of the Wellness Foundation’s anti-teen pregnancy effort, supports abstinence education. But she said information about contraceptives and disease also needs to be offered for students who are sexually active.
Public schools are required to provide sex education in 22 states, but not in California. Nevertheless, 87 percent of California districts provide some form of it.
Statewide, the birth rate among 15- to 19-year-olds is higher than the national average, although it has fallen for six years, according to a state report released earlier this year.
The survey’s goal is to see that it continues to drop, Wilcox said. To do that, school districts must strengthen their lesson plans to provide consistent and complete information, she said.
A state law that takes effect Jan. 1 requires that schools teaching sex education must use information that is medically accurate and free of gender, racial or ethnic bias.
In addition, Wilcox said a model curriculum would include instruction about how to obtain contraception, human physiology, changes to the body during puberty, relationships from dating to raising children, and how sex is portrayed culturally.