Should Sex Education and STD Prevention be Taught in Public High-Schools, and Should it be Mandatory?


According to a study done in the early 1990s in 226 couples where one partner was HIV positive, in 171 couples who always used condoms, 3 partners became infected with HIV, while 8 partners became infected out of the 55 that did not always use condoms. Studies similar to these have been replicated with almost identical results: few people contract HIV from their partners when condoms are used consistently. Though it is statistically evident that effective condom use significantly lowers the chance of contracting HIV and other potentially life-altering sexually transmitted diseases, encouragement of condom use and preventative care education in public schools is still hotly debated.

Whether parents admit it or not, schools play a key role in the development of the adolescent, and students receive a significant chunk of their knowledge of the world during classroom instruction. A study done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that 91% of all high-school aged students attend public high schools. Of those surveyed in 2013, 47% have had sexual intercourse at least once, 34% are currently sexually active, 15% have had four or more sex partners during their lives, but only 13% of them had ever been tested for HIV though nearly 10 million of the 20 million people diagnosed with a new STD each year fall between the ages of 15 and 24, and 10,000 people between the ages of 13 and 24 were diagnosed with HIV in 2013. With the rise of birth control pills, shots, patches, and IUDs as the preferred methods of contraception, females and males alike are often choosing to ignore the power of the condom and opt out of STD prevention because the main focus is not getting pregnant. Though the chances of getting pregnant while on the pill decrease, the chances of catching an STD skyrocket.  

This could be prevented through the increased promotion of condom use through sex education courses, as shown in 2007 when the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy published a summary of the findings of 115 studies conducted during the early 2000s to measure the impact of sex education programs. In this publication, safe sexual intercourse education (not abstinence only) programs helped non-sexually active teens delay their first sexual encounter, sexually active teens reduce their sexual frequency and number of partners, and increase their condom use.

In a December 2016 Whitney Young Weekly Newsletter, an anonymous tenth grade student asked Principal, Dr. Joyce Kenner if the school’s health component of sophomore year Physical Education would include a discussion on sex education. Dr. Kenner replied “we will include a special sex education unit that will be taught to all sophomore classes…in addition, all freshman classes will have a sex education unit as part of their 2nd semester health class.” However, Dr. Kenner added that based on a new Board Policy, a parent may opt their child out of this unit by submitting a note to the Physical Education instructor prior to its start.

Whitney Young upperclassman Francesca Quezada ‘17 agrees that “public high schools should teach correct condom use in health classes that feature physically available condoms.” However, people still disagree on whether or not sex ed should be mandatory, such as in the case of Aja Jones ‘18 who believes “parents should not be able to opt their children out of sex ed classes” versus Nia Martin ‘17 who believes “parents should at least have the choice.” Besides religious restrictions, Sierra Orr ‘18  believes they should not. “Students miss valuable information when not present and active in sex education classes. To opt out simply because you feel your child is not old enough or you don’t feel they should be exposed to such taboos is doing them a disservice. When they grow up, they will be behind, and have a greater risk of ineffective condom use and contracting an STD.” Orr says. Though sex education is proven to do more good than bad, the debate on whether it should be taught in public schools or not rages on.