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We can all play a role in sexual education

Waterloo Record by Lyndsay Butcher 8 May 2015

It’s the question that strikes fear in the heart of every parent: “where do babies come from?”

This week, so many parents were afraid of their children finding out the answer that thousands of students from across the province were kept home from school. These parents feel sexual health education has no place in our schools.

To be sure, parents play a critical role in educating their children about the birds and the bees, but as a society we also have a role to play. School-based comprehensive sexual health education is the best way to equip all children with the information and tools they need to protect themselves.

The stakes are high and the consequences are life-changing. More teens in Waterloo Region get pregnant on average than in the rest of the province. Youth between the ages of 15 and 24 account for close to 70 per cent of all chlamydia cases in our community. We also know from local news reports that kids as young as 11 years old are sending nude photos of themselves via their smartphones.

Critics of the updated sex-ed curriculum argue that it exposes kids to too much information too soon. However, it is much better for kids to hear about these issues from highly trained and trusted teachers than on the playground or online. I encourage parents with concerns to review the curriculum online and see for themselves. The material in the curriculum is well researched and age appropriate.

Comprehensive sexual health education is more than just reproduction and safer sex. The new curriculum includes respecting differences, healthy decision-making, and provides tools to help kids stand up to peer pressure and those who may try to exploit them online.

Research conducted by UNESCO (The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) of over 90 sexual health education programs from around the world found that comprehensive programs delayed the onset of sexual activity, increased the likelihood of safer sex being practised and reduced the number of teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.

As a society, we are all harmed when a teenager gets pregnant and drops out of high school. We are all harmed when a young person contracts HIV and has to live with it for the rest of his life. We are all harmed when a child is exploited by an online predator. That’s why as a society we are responsible for ensuring comprehensive sexual health education is available to all children.

I know that talking to kids about sex can be scary, but we all have a role to play. Planned Parenthood Waterloo Region is here to help parents and teachers start the conversation with resources, guides and one-o- one support.

Lyndsey Butcher

Executive director

Planned Parenthood Waterloo Region

Kitchener