Teen activists working with the Hyde Square Task Force (HSTF) are pushing Boston Public Schools (BPS) to institute a sexual education curriculum in Boston’s high schools.
Currently, BPS schools offer no standardized sex ed classes, though some schools offer wellness classes, which may or may not cover some sexual health material, said Carla Poulos, a HSTF community organizer who is working with the teens.
According to a 2004 poll by NPR, the Kaiser Family Foundation, and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, 93 percent of adult Americans believe sex ed should be included in school curricula.
The original push started in 2007, Samantha Brea, a senior at Snowden International School, told the Gazette, with efforts to reduce sexual harassment in schools. From that, she said, she and her fellow teen organizers saw that “youths weren’t being taught what they needed to be taught regarding sexual education,” she said.
Then, she said, “We were going to take on sex ed.”
Currently, the youth team is meeting with BPS officials to develop and eventually implement the sex ed curriculum.
“We’re hoping [the class starts] as soon as possible, but we have to fit into their schedule,” Brea said.
“We’re writing new health education frameworks for BPS that do include sexuality education,” said Barbara Huscher-Cohen, health education program director at BPS. Frameworks, however, only cover recommended—not mandated—material for any given class.
The teens researched and produced an 18-minute video that discusses the state of sexual activity and information among teenagers in JP and the statistics involved: 56 percent of BPS high schoolers reported having sex. Thirty percent of those reported having 3 to 5 partners. Twenty-three percent reported having six or more partners.
According to the video, JP has has the highest rate of sexually transmitted infections in Boston. The chlamydia rate in JP, for example, is 2.3 times higher than the rest of the city. According to the Health of Boston 2010 report, chlamydia rates for women 15 to 19 in Boston have increased by 70 percent since 1999.
According to Poulos, the biggest current source of sexual information for the teenagers they surveyed is pornography.
The video can be viewed at bit.ly/HSTFSexEd.
Right now, Brea, Poulos and the rest of the team are spreading the word and “getting our base together,” Brea said. “We’re trying to focus on meeting with the school committee members and then the superintendent to try to get this class implemented.”
“Our youths come up with the next step. We just facilitate the conversation,” Poulos said.
At-large City Councilor Ayana Pressley has become involved with the effort, calling for hearings on the condom availability program and teen pregnancy reduction and BPS School-Age Parents Policy review efforts. The School-Age Policy covers what kind of support BPS schools offer treat parents who are still in school.
The condom program, Brea clarified, would be an availability program, not a distribution program. Condoms would be available for free pick-up in schools, but would not be actively handed out by teachers, she said.
“The condoms are free to the state,” Brea said. “We want that to go along with the classes.”