The school district in Oklahoma’s second largest city has begun to implement a plan to teach comprehensive sex education in its schools. According to Tulsa’s Channel 9 News, the district plans to launch the program in four selected schools, then expand to include the entire district.
Classes will be taught to 7th, 9th and 11th graders at two high schools and two middle schools. Officials said the state’s status as fourth highest in teen pregnancy has spurred educators to abandon abstinence-only education.
“Forty-four percent of students who become pregnant or who are married at that age fail to graduate from high school, and that’s something that affects them for the rest of their life,” said Tulsa Public Schools spokesperson Steve Mayfield to Channel 9.
Mayfield told the Tulsa World that to his knowledge, sex education classes that include information about contraception and STD protection have never been taught in Oklahoma schools.
“I can’t remember it ever being a topic in TPS – even embedded in a biology class or something before,” he said. “I’ve read the entire curriculum, and the first priority is abstinence. The key to this that I really like is it shows you the HIV and disease rates. Kids don’t think in those terms, but they need to.”
Oklahoma, like many Republican-led states, has no statewide sex ed requirements for students. And like many of those states, Oklahoma is not seeing the steady decline in teen birth rates that states with comprehensive sex ed are enjoying.
The Guttmacher Institute — a non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of sexual and reproductive health and rights worldwide — released a study September 1 that showed that states without comprehensive sex ed for teens consistently have the highest numbers of teen births per year.
Kim Schutz, Director of Oklahoma’s Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, told Channel 9, “We really view the teen pregnancy prevention program as a drop out prevention program. This is really going to help students stay in school, finish school, go onto college, get good jobs, make Tulsa a better place to live.”
“I think, ignoring the issue is something we don’t have the luxury of doing any longer,” Schutz said.
Parents will be given the choice to have their child opt out of the classes, which are being offered to students by a coalition of outside agencies. Youth Services of Tulsa, the Tulsa Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy and the Tulsa City-County Health Department are all working together to craft and develop the curricula and practices needed to teach Oklahoma teens about reproductive health.
Watch video about this story, embedded below via Tulsa’s News9.com:
[hat-tip to Think Progress]