This Letter to the Editor, written by PP Votes! South Atlantic board member Diane Parfitt, originally appeared in the Fayetteville Observer.
The Fayetteville Observer did a good job of covering the debate in the Cumberland County School Board over the Get Real Comprehensive Sex Education Program. I first read about the issue when a letter to the editor was published condemning the program. The Observer followed up with articles about the concerns expressed by a group of parents and the debate at the school board meeting. After the school board voted to drop the program, the Observer wrote an excellent editorial stating that the board backed down too quickly in voting to discontinue the program.
Not mentioned in all of this was a discussion of the curriculum itself, as well as the proven effectiveness of the program. The local school board members obviously did their research initially when they voted to adopt the program. A brief explanation of the curriculum makes it clear why this is such a successful program.
The Get Real curriculum was based on national models that emphasize important learning skills such as self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. The goals of the program, as stated by the Get Real literature, are to:
- Delay sex among middle school students;
- Empower parents to be the primary sexuality educators of their children and help their kids delay sexual activity;
- Reinforce family communication and improve communication skills for healthy relationships.
These goals and the activities designed to reach these goals are laudable. Parents are engaged in the process and the students actively work on the skills in the curriculum. And most important of all, the program works. Studies have shown that 16 percent fewer boys and 15 percent fewer girls had sex compared to their peers who did not take Get Real. These are successes all parents can agree are worthwhile. In addition, the teen birth rate has declined almost continuously over the past 20 years and this has been concurrent with the nationwide effort to implement evidence-based sex education programs.
Because of a small group of parents who want to bury their heads in the sand when it comes to educating their children about sexual health, the school board is denying this program to the majority of students whose parents want them to have it. The opponents to the program already have the option of opting their kids out of the program, so why are they preventing others from opting in?
Uninformed teens can get caught up in unsafe sexual activities in spite of the strongest admonitions to abstain. In an ideal world, kids would not engage in any sexual activity at all until marriage. But who thinks we live in an ideal world? As parents, we want to do everything we can to protect our children. Shouldn’t that include giving them the best possible information in an effective way to help them make wise choices? We know abstinence-only programs do not work as effectively as evidence-based programs. Isn’t it time we get real?
To learn more about the program and why it is one of the most effective programs for delaying sex among participating students, go to their website at http://www.getrealeducation.org/.
Diane Parfitt is a nurse, educator and former legislator who represented Fayetteville in the N.C. General Assembly.