January 10, 2012 in Nation/World

Experts offer new sex ed guidelines

Minimum standards presented
The proposal

Below are some of the recommendations offered Monday to states and school districts on sexual education by a coalition of health and education groups.

• By the end of second grade, students should be able to: Use proper names for body parts; explain that all living things reproduce; identify different kinds of family structures; explain that all people have the right to not be touched; and explain why bullying and teasing are wrong.

• By the end of fifth grade, students should be able to: Describe male and female reproductive systems; understand changes during puberty; define sexual orientation as “the romantic attraction of an individual to someone of the same gender or a different gender;” define HIV and ways to prevent it; describe healthy relationships; define teasing, harassment, bullying and sexual abuse.

• By the end of the eighth grade, students should be able to: Differentiate between gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation; explain the range of gender roles; describe the signs of pregnancy; compare and contrast behaviors including abstinence to determine the potential risk of disease transmission from each; define emergency contraception and its use; explain why a person who has been raped or sexually assaulted is not at fault.

• By the end of high school, students should be able to: Analyze how brain development has an impact on changes of adolescence; define sexual consent and its implications for sexual decision making; explain why using tricks, threats or coercion in relationships is wrong; and compare and contrast the laws relating to pregnancy adoption, abortion and parenting.

WASHINGTON – Young elementary school students should use the proper names for body parts and, by the end of fifth grade, know that sexual orientation is “the romantic attraction of an individual to someone of the same gender or a different gender,” according to new sexual education guidelines released Monday by a coalition of health and education groups.

The nonbinding recommendations to states and school districts seek to encourage age-appropriate discussions about sex, bullying and healthy relationships – starting with a foundation even before second grade.

By presenting minimum standards that schools can use to formulate school curriculums for each age level, the groups hope that schools can build a sequential foundation that in the long term will better help teens as they grow into adults.

Experts say schools across America are inconsistent in how they address such sensitive topics.

Despite awareness of bullying, for example, Debra Hauser, president of Advocates for Youth, one of the groups involved with creating the standards, said some schools don’t address it – or at least not in relation to sexual orientation or gender identity, which is where she said a lot of the bullying occurs.

Other organizations involved with the release include the American Association of Health Education, the American School Health Association, the National Education Association – Health Information Network, the Society of State Leaders of Health and Physical Education, and the Future of Sex Education Initiative. The latest suggestions were already drawing less enthusiastic reactions from some.

Cora Collette Breuner, a pediatrics professor at the University of Washington and Seattle Children’s Hospital and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics committee on adolescence who was not involved in the creation of the standards, praised the approach of encouraging discussions at an early age.

Valerie Huber, executive director of the National Education Abstinence Association, said she does not agree with the topics and goals of the standards. Like the anti-smoking campaign of the last few decades that has had success, abstinence should be the focus of such programs, she said.

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