All about the birds and the bees

Allison Remcheck

Kent high school students learn all the aspects of sex education

Ohio was ranked 48th in providing information about sex and birth control to student in a recent study. ALLIEY BENDER | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

Condoms. Diaphragms. Spermicide.

Gonorrhea. Syphilis. HIV.

Pregnancy. Girls. Boys.

Sex.

Ohio was ranked 48th in providing information about sex and birth control to students in a recent study released by the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit group that researches and educates the public about sex issues. Despite Ohio’s failing sex education grade given by the institution, students at Roosevelt High School are exposed to all aspects of the birds and the bees.

Linda Ferlito, health and physical education teacher and chairwoman of the Coordinated School Health Program for Kent City Schools, said much of the content of her sex education classes is devoted to the emotional issues in teenagers resulting from sex – and no sex.

“These kids are really into getting in touch with what they’re feeling and what their beliefs are,” said Ferlito. “They may be brighter than the average student, but they may not be as sophisticated.”

Ferlito said she believes many of her students talk about sex with their parents, but even so, students say they think their parents are naive about teenage sexuality.

Roosevelt’s program includes speakers from Planned Parenthood and a battered women’s shelter and focuses on STDs, contraception, date rape, relationships and the consequences of sex.

“My hope is that high school kids aren’t sexually active,” Ferlito said. “But we do think it’s the last time they’ll receive sexual education in their entire life.”

Kara, 16, said sex is an interesting subject for high school students and an important one. School officials asked that students’ last names not be used.

“Of course not everybody’s going to be abstinent,” she said.

But after the course, sex is not something Kara is participating in.

“I decided to be abstinent after having health (class),” she said.

Brittany, 15, said she thought sex education should be taught earlier and more often.

“I’ve heard of people who are 12 years old and are having sex,” Brittany said. “The pressure is on you. If you act like you are a whore and you act like you’re going to give it up, people are going to come to you.”

“I think any high school you go to there’s going to be pressure to have sex,” Brittany said. “It’s mostly a lot of talk.”

Lauren, 16, said the school should teach more about what happens when contraceptives fail.

“Once you get pregnant, what are you supposed to do?” Lauren said. “How am I going to tell my parents?”

Megan, 16, said guys want to have sex, but there is also a lot more pressure on them than girls.

“The guy just wants to have sex, but doesn’t want a relationship,” Megan said. “I think that they’re insecure because they think it’s something you have to do. Guys get teased a lot more. They’re almost pressured to have sex at as young an age as possible.”

There is also more pressure for girls who have already had sex once.

“More people would try to have sex with you,” Lauren said. “Just because you had sex once you might do it again. Respect is lost.”

But Kara said the conversations in class helped, and she learned “maybe not every guy is in it just for sex,” she said.

Boys said they felt most guys lose their virginity around their sophomore or junior year, during their first serious relationship. They also agreed sex is more important to boys.

“Guys are guys,” said Jared, 17. “They’re a little easier.”

A lot of the education about sex is self-explanatory, Jared said.

“You kind of just learn on your own,” he said. “You can even just watch a commercial and they’ll tell you to use a condom.”

Jared said he liked that the information in class was laid out in an unbiased way.

“You have your choice to either follow it and be safe or not,” Jared said.

But the guys said information about sex and contraceptives should start in sixth or seventh grade – before it’s too late for some people.

Terry Slattery, Roosevelt health teacher and head athletic trainer, said the sex-ed program is abstinence-based.

“It’s put into the 10th-grade health class,” Slattery said. “I think it would be great to do it at the junior high level.”

But he said the class doesn’t come too late because the students are still learning information, and much of his class focuses on dispelling sexual myths, which students need to be more mature for.

And much of the high school population isn’t sexually active.

“It’s not true – everyone is not doing it,” Slattery said. “They may be saying they are, but that doesn’t mean it’s true.”

LaChaka, 18, said she lost her virginity at age 13.

“It was a bad mistake on my part,” LaChaka said. “He didn’t pressure me into it.”

The first time she had sex, LaChaka didn’t use any form of contraception.

“I figured it out after a while,” she said. “Use condoms. Get on birth control. I am so happy I hadn’t ended up pregnant.”

Three of her high school friends had babies this year, LaChaka said.

Because her friends became pregnant, LaChaka said she was nervous and started using birth control with her boyfriend again.

“I started using condoms all the time now,” she said. “I don’t plan on having kids any time soon.”

Principal Roger Sidoti said the school should change its philosophy about sex education. Classes should have conversations about good base-line behavior, he said.

“The reason we don’t do that anymore, is because nothing is wrong anymore,” Sidoti said.

High school students are more socially sophisticated than they used to be, but adults still don’t want them to grow up, he said.

“We try to keep them in their childhood as long as we can. We’re trying not to let them grow up so fast,” he said.

“For far too long we think of sex education purely as thinking about the physical act of sex,” Sidoti said. “I think we would be better served if we could move the conversation from the teaching of sex to human sexuality.”

Contact features correspondent Allison Remcheck at [email protected]