Even before becoming involved with the Alabama Alliance for Healthy Youth, I could recognize the glaring inadequacies of abstinence-only sexual health education. These programs’ failure to provide young people with the information necessary to make responsible decisions has caused STI and teen pregnancy rates to increase throughout the southeast. These statistics are obviously unacceptable, but some more subtle negative outcomes accompany these abstinence-only, heterosexual-centric sex ed programs that cannot be summed up in numbers.
For instance, the shame. By the age of 19, 7 in 10 teens have had intercourse. So, imagine the thought process of a young person, who has likely already initiated sexual activity, listening to a teacher lecturing him or her about the mental and social dangers of sexual activity. Would this not instill a bit of shame in even the most indifferent of teens? In my opinion, there should be no place for even the slightest bit of disgrace such as this in a place of learning.
Also, the scare tactics that many students are forced to endure– including pictures of STI ridden genitalia– are extremely misleading. Seeing these slideshows of various inflamed STIs leads students to believe that anyone who does not have symptoms similar to those in the pictures is completely STI free. This is not true. So, not only are these programs withholding crucial information from students, they are also providing faulty information.
These programs have numerous flaws. They, at their best, ignore homosexuality and bisexuality, if they are not condemning it. They alienate already sexually active teens. They deny young people their right to information needed to lead healthy lives. Young people agree, parents agree, teachers agree, but many Alabama Legislators cannot seem to realize: Abstinence-only programs have no place in schools of 2012.