Sex education bill must pass

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By Kate Dowd, Contributor

There’s a scene in “Mean Girls”where the gym teacher is facilitating a lecture on “sex ed,” and as he chomps loudly on a piece of gum, he yells, “Don’t have sex, because you will get pregnant and DIE!” He then holds up a plastic bin of condoms and, ironically, adds, “OK, now everyone take some rubbers.”

While this example is a bit inconsistent and a tad unorthodox, it does demonstrate one way to teach sex education. Having it taught in a school setting – by a far more qualified educator than the gym teacher in “Mean Girls,” obviously – is not a bad idea.

On Tuesday, Feb. 8, a hearing will be held on Senator Brenda Council’s Legislative Bill 192, which would require all Nebraska public schools to teach comprehensive sex education.

If passed, the new curriculum will begin with the 2012-13 school year, and will include age-appropriate, medically accurate facts on how to prevent unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections, as well as treatment options. The bill also will provide an opt-out for parents who aren’t comfortable with the school teaching their children about sex.

It’s important to note that while LB 192 requires a curriculum that instructs students about how to prevent pregnancies and infections through the use of contraceptives, the curriculum also would include the benefits of abstinence, emphasizing that is the only 100 percent effective means of preventing unintended pregnancy and STDs.

Given the staggering rates of STDs among our youth in Nebraska – and Douglas County, in particular – this bill is not only practical, but will prove to be effective, enlightening and empowering for our youth.

TV shows like “16 and Pregnant” only glamorize what a lack of comprehensive sex education can do, and it’s not as pretty as it may appear on MTV. Being 16 and pregnant won’t guarantee you a spot on the reality show. In fact, the harsh reality is that unprotected sex can lead to unplanned pregnancies and STDs, and it will happen whether there’s a camera crew following you around. Because the United States has such a high rate of teen pregnancies, there needs to be more opportunity for honest dialogue about prevention.

When Planned Parenthood Federation of America Inc. did a study in 2008, they found that “children of teenage mothers are often born at low birth weight, experience health and developmental problems, and are frequently poor, abused, and/or neglected.” None of which, of course, is shown on programs like “16 and Pregnant.” The same study found that 90 percent of Americans believe that comprehensive sex education should be taught in schools, and that 82 percent of Americans and 75 percent of parents want their children to receive information on subjects that include “communications and coping skills, contraception and condom use, the emotional aspects of sexual relationships, safer sex practices, [and] sexually transmitted infections.”

This is Nebraska’s opportunity to step up and do the right thing for its children. Every student in Nebraska has a right to know how to protect him or herself. Every young woman has a right to be able to take care of herself when things happen too quickly, and she has a right to have options available to her, especially growing up in a culture that practically throws sexuality into every aspect of the media. Every young man has a right to engage in an open and sincere conversation that doesn’t make him self-conscious about the number of sexual partners he’s had or his sexual orientation.

LB 192 will give students these rights, and we have Brenda Council to thank for standing up for what’s best for Nebraska teenagers.

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