Back to school season may seem like an unusual time for Sexual Health Awareness Month, but it allows all of us to think about starting fresh. A new school year, even for those of us who aren’t in a classroom, is full of possibilities. We can try new activities and start new groups. (There are even a few new evidence-based programs to review!)
The theme for TPPP’s Annual Conference this year was 2020 Vision: Innovating, building resilience, and advancing equity in a new era and we ended the day with a panel of young leaders from Teen Advocates for Sexual Health. Their perspective really made me want to give sex ed in Missouri a fresh start this fall. When asked about the sex ed they received, a panelist summed up his experience in one word … “wack”.
Yet, the teens gave the audience ample ideas on what sexual health education could be: fun, relevant, inclusive, pleasure-centered with a focus on healthy relationships of all types. Now is the time to make those ideas a reality and move from basic, impersonal sexual health education to programs and curricula that address the topics teens want and need in ways that engage and center them.
One way to move towards this vision is to take a critical look at our existing programs and materials. Are you meeting the grade level standards in the 2nd edition of the National Sexuality Education Standards? Are your lessons inclusive of LGBTQIA+ students? Do they address equity and reproductive justice? Are your activities working in an online classroom? Are you soliciting feedback and partnering with youth to adapt and improve?
This September is sure to be challenging for many of us as we adjust to new health and safety measures and support students impacted by uncertainty, but I hope that won’t stop you from trying something new. Start with just one of the questions above and see where it leads you. We invite you to work in partnership with TPPP and our members to make this school year a great one for sexual health education and awareness. Check out TPPP’s social media channels for new resources and data and together we can move towards the conference panel’s vision for what sex ed can be.