I understand why certain people want to push abstinence in schools

When I was in grade 10 (1990) I thought it was weird to see a girl in grade 12 pregnant. I sat beside her in band and it was just …weird. Why does that happen? is probably something I asked myself at the time. I don’t mean “how do babies get made” because I knew that but why didn’t they use protection and avoid the whole risk? Did she really want to start a famiy so young? Made no sense.

By the time I was in university, though, the high school had a daycare running. My mother used to work a few hours a week there. I think I thought it was a little weird then, too, but if you have high-school age moms, isn’t it smart to have a day care at the school so they can finish grade 12? Or 11? Or 10? or whatever..

I wasn’t sexual in school. Not by a long shot. I had very tame crushes on a few of the boys in my class but would have been mortified if any of them talked to me or noticed I was interested. I fantasized about holding their hands and having dates like in the song Palisades Park.

There were a few girls who — going by rumours anyway — were active enough sexually to have rumours flying, though. I remember there being one girl in grade eight or nine who supposedly was out of school on account of her intestines collapsing, but everyone I knew who talked about her said it was an abortion. I don’t even know if I knew what that was at the time. (I don’t know if I caught that bit the first time I watched Dirty Dancing, either. Young Minion: synonymous with clueless.)

In grade seven there were rumours about a new girl at the school who’d gotten pregnant and given the kid up for adoption or something. (At the time I thought just sitting on a boy’s lap was enough to make pregnancy happen and got slightly scared when my period was late one time…)

There was another girl in junior high whose nickname was “the wiener lady” because she’d supposedly experimented with certain processed meats and had an emergency hospital visit. I was still friends with her at the time and never did ask if any of the rumours were true. I think it was just a case of her being a bit weird and people creating a story to add to her weirdness.

Long lead up, but here’s the story from way back in July 2014: Edmonton school board drops abstinence-based sex ed after complaint

Eighteen-year-old Emily Dawson and her mother Kathy have filed a human rights complaint over a workshop that the Edmonton Pregnancy Care Centre put on at McNally High School last year, which she says misled students about contraception, sexually transmitted infections and other issues in an effort to push abstinence.

“That was highly disappointing,” Dawson told CBC News.

Phone calls, emails and social media comments in response to media reports about the Dawsons’ complaint prompted board officials to make the change.

“We’re getting a significant (amount) of push back on the group, in terms of the program that they’re offering in our schools,” said Lorne Parker, acting superintendent with Edmonton Public Schools.

I would hope so. Abstinence doesn’t work and it’s been proven time and time again to not work. But, schools like this still continue to push it as the only proper way to deal with teenage sexuality and do a great disservice to their students and the community at large.

The flaws in this strategy have been making headlines since at least 2007:

For the report, Christopher Trenholm and colleagues at Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. interviewed more than 2,000 teenagers with an average age of 16 1/2. They lived in rural and urban communities in Florida, Wisconsin, Mississippi and Virginia.

About 1,200 of them had taken part in abstinence-only education programs four to six years before.

“Over the last 12 months, 23 percent of both groups reported having had sex and always using a condom; 17 percent of both groups reported having had sex and only sometimes using a condom; and 4 percent of both groups reported having had sex and never using a condom,” the researchers wrote.

Abstinence-only sex-ed made little difference in terms of likely sexual encounters.

And we can go further back using studies published in 2014:

A new report on Mississippi’s sex education programs highlights how disastrous the state’s approach to teen sexuality has been over the past decade. The report, produced by the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS), notes that Mississippi has consistently had some of the worst sexual health indicators in the country. The state has the second highest rate of teen pregnancies, the second highest rates of gonorrhea and chlamydia infections, and the seventh highest rate of HIV infections.

It’s a far better idea to lay the facts out there, offer up the birth control options and just admit that kids are gonna do it so they ought to do it safely.

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