Editorial: Let’s talk about sex; Students need sex ed

A logical approach to prevention?
A logical approach to prevention?
A logical approach to prevention?

According to a study on teen pregnancy released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, eight out of 10 teens fail to receive sex education before their first sexual encounter. Though the study shows the rate of teen pregnancy has decreased over the past decade, it also suggests that sex education could further decrease the overall prevalence of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.

Living in Texas — one of the top 10 states for high teen pregnancy rates — it’s important to make sure all students are informed about the risks of having sex before they enter into their later teen years when premarital sex becomes more prevalent.

As it is now, Texas does not do enough to make sure teenagers are educated before they engage in sexual intercourse. All students in public school should receive a basic understanding of sexual risks.

According to the Guttmacher Institute’s study on sex and HIV education released April 1, Texas does not mandate all of its public schools teach sex or HIV education, but sex education is mandated in 20 other states and the District of Columbia. When sex education is provided in Texas, it is supposed to stress abstinence and include information on the importance of sex within a marriage.

The Guttmacher Institute study showed states teaching abstinence-only programs had higher rates of teen pregnancy. In fact, eight out of the top 10 worst states for teen pregnancy taught abstinence-only programs when sex education programs were offered at all. The states with the lowest teen pregnancy rates, such as Vermont and Minnesota, tended to mandate sex education in public schools and did not limit the education to only abstinence.

While abstinence and sex within a marriage are the best ways to avoid sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies, the fact is that not all students will follow this advice. Some will engage in premarital sex and will be underprepared for the risks of their decision.

Some may argue the sex talk should be a private issue taught within a family. Though sex is a private matter, many teens do not get a full understanding of sex education at home and some do not even have “the talk” with their parents at all.

Sex becomes a state matter when it becomes a financial burden on taxpayers. According to the National Campaign, an organization focused on preventing teen pregnancy, Texas taxpayers spent $1.2 billion on teen childbearing in 2008. With comprehensive sex education offered in all Texas public schools, this cost on taxpayers would decrease.

There is also the argument that sex education actually encourages young teens to have sex before they are ready and mature enough to do so.

This argument makes the assumption that young teens are not already exposed to sex through television, music, Internet, friends and other sources. The fact of the matter is most teens have already been exposed to sex. It is the responsibility of public schools to make sure that these students are well informed so they can make a responsible decision when it comes to having sex.

It doesn’t make sense to avoid sex education with teenagers because, as much as parents may not like to admit it, a lot of teenagers are having sex.

Another Guttmacher Institute study from June 2013 showed 16 percent of teens have sex before they turn 15 years old. After 15, those numbers rise rapidly to about one in three teenagers having sex by the time they reach 16. With those odds, it’s important to make sure kids know about sex and its risks before they reach these ages where they may feel pressured by their bodies or their peers to engage in sexual intercourse.