It turns out that the rural counties and Las Vegas have more in common then either would like to admit. We both have troubling issues with current sex education standards taught in our districts. During the push for the comprehensive sex education bill at the 2013 Legislature rural folks were quick to point fingers at Clark County as the problem child when it comes to our state’s fourth highest teen pregnancy rate. Turns out, our buddies up in Lyon County know a thing or two about getting fucked — so to speak.
Not only does Lyon County have — what was that about the Hispanics in Clark County being the problem? — one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the state but recent controversies over their efforts to revamp their school district’s sex education curriculum is a master class in how to fail at improving educational standards with maximum shenanigans!
Last month I went on The Agenda to talk about the first wave of these shenanigans. It starts with proposed changes to the Lyon County sex ed curriculum that would have embedded homophobic hate-speech within the instructional standards.
The actual (proposed) language read:
Homosexuality shall not be presented as an acceptable lifestyle.
And, honestly, that was just the beginning. There are numerous examples of problematic, moralizing, non-medical language. Including this (emphasis added):
- Describe … sexual abstinence before marriage and fidelity in marriage shall be supported. Love can be expressed in non-sexual ways.
- Discuss second chances (concept of Secondary Virginity) and the idea that it is never too late to practice abstinence.
Discuss the increase in the rate of teen pregnancy and abortion and their impact on one’s future. Promiscuity shall not be presented as normal/acceptable behavior.
What the hell is “Secondary Virginity?” Where is that defined in a medical text? I’m sure I can infer the meaning and the implied pressure to remain abstinent. And I’m all for teenagers being abstinent. It’s the only fail-proof way to avoid pregnancy or STDs. Full stop. But the implication here is that virginity is a prize and that by having sex, that person somehow is not as good anymore. So thankfully, “secondary virginity” is an option? How about not stigmatizing sex? How about teaching kids how to learn and use boundaries to have healthy relationships and make the best decisions possible for their bodies, their health, and even their spirit?
And then there’s that tricky word: Promiscuity. What does “promiscuity” mean? Is it having sex before marriage? Having sex with five people? Being raped (because only “bad girls” get raped)? Let’s set aside for a moment the absolutely steaming pile of slut-shaming going on in this language. Let’s just look at the guidance this so-called standard is giving educators to work with. These concepts are not terms that can be taught with consistency or based in facts. These are concepts that are rooted in the value-system and moralization of some people, but not all. And that has no place in our public education system. What needs to be taught in our public education system is — to borrow an old-school phrase — just the facts, ma’am. Parents can take over teaching their kids their own beliefs on their own time.
But last month, seeing a problem, Lyon County officials tabled the discussion of revising their standards. That is until this week, when they voted to throw out the proposed revisions and elect a committee to research and write new standards.But the funny thing about this is that according to current state law, Lyon County should already have a committee to revise and establish sex education standards. Whoopsie! Meanwhile, this same week the ACLU of Nevada filed a lawsuit against Lyon County for including hate speech in their sex ed curriculum. (Thanks, ACLU!)
The really disturbing truth here is that Lyon County is not alone in this kind of woefully inadequate (at best) and terribly hateful (at worst) sex education curriculum standards. And since we don’t have a statewide standard for comprehensive sex education, we are going to continue to get mired in these kinds of messes as each of Nevada’s 17 counties eventually tackles updating their curricula. In the meantime, kids in Lyon County are still getting pregnant (at one of the highest rates in the state) and some are getting STDS, perhaps even deadly diseases such as HIV/AIDS because of a lack of fact-based education.
And that, my friends, is the real crime here. If you want to be morally outraged, be outraged that we endanger the public health, our economy (because teen pregnancy rates are strongly correlated with drop-out rates, which are strongly correlated with lower incomes and therefore lower economic vitality of communities), and the futures of our next generation. All because some folks can’t handle talking about sex.