I distinctly remember the day that my school taught me its version of sex education. My middle school physical education teacher gave an uncomfortable presentation about STD / STIs while intermittently making jokes that elicited laughter from my classmates.
Today, as a high school student, this has been the only time that sex education has been taught to me. Of course, as a high school student, I know about sex. For most students, myself included, sex education comes from friends, siblings or older teammates.
Knowing the risks
What my peers fail to inform me of is the inherent risk in sexual engagement with multiple partners as well as the importance of contraception. Our conversations tend to focus on the experience.
This is the very reason why our states have laws requiring districts to have sex education implemented in curriculum. Kentucky’s lack of adequate sex education curriculum — especially in light of the overturning of Roe v. Wade, is especially problematic.
Not only do young Kentuckians face the near-total ban of abortion — but they’re not being adequately informed of the risk of having unprotected sex.
Our lawmakers are: choosing to allow their constituents to have a lack of access to contraceptives; choosing to allow their constituents to attend schools that have no serious adherence to sex ed curriculum; inherently responsible for the increasing amounts of accidental teen pregnancies.
Knowing the data
In fact, Kentucky’s lack of attention to sex education has created a problem that has become nationally recognized: 68% of Kentucky’s pregnancies are unintentional — and those numbers are before the Hobbs v. Jackson ruling that the Supreme Court issued in early July of this year .
In 2011, researchers at the Guttmacher Institute in New York completed a study on rates of unintended pregnancies — they found that Kentucky’s rate of 68% was amongst the highest rates in the entire United States.
This spectacle that Kentucky lawmakers have allowed to transpire should be viewed alongside an even more startling fact — according to Sex Education Collaborative, sex education in Kentucky is not required to be comprehensive, to include instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity, and is not required to include instruction on consent.
Kentucky students not only are left uniformed about the risk of unprotected sex — they’re never instructed to ask consent from their partner before engaging in sex.
With these startling statistics in mind, it’s no wonder that Kentucky’s rape occurrence rate tracks higher than the national average.
The most disturbing fact about all of these statistics is the fact they’re unlikely to improve anytime soon. Kentucky lawmakers have ramped up attacks on controversial curriculum in the most recent legislative session — a trend that has become commonplace in statehouses all across the country.
Our states reality is harsh considering our lawmakers are restricting curriculum despite the CDC’s findings that there are no laws requiring instruction for HIV or STD prevention — and that only about half of Kentucky students used condoms in their most recent sexual engagement.
More from Zachary CliftonEnsuring Kentucky schools continue to improve means keeping public tax dollars public
Students need support
Right now, students just like me are not being encouraged to abstain from sex – nor are they even encouraged to use contraceptives during sex. Actually, students are being given virtually no support in the instances where accidental pregnancy does occur.
Kentucky’s public school systems are more than equipped to introduce these topics into their curriculum — I have great confidence in Kentucky’s public school systems and educators.
However, in recent legislative sessions, my confidence in lawmakers has dwindled into something abysmal — reflective of Frankfort’s defunct lack of agency on our commonwealth’s most pressing issues.
My friends and older teammates taught me the basics of having sex. But I wish it had been a college-educated, public school teacher. In fact, these are exactly the adults who should be doing this.
For the next legislative session, I hope Frankfort will take heed of my advice and ensure a better future for students just like me.
Zachary Clifton is a board member of the KY YMCA Youth Association and a student at the Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science.