By Hadley Barndollar
Sex education is not mandated in New Hampshire schools. And Planned Parenthood hopes to change the legislation.
Part of “Sextober,” VOX and Planned Parenthood teamed up to host an open discussion on Tuesday evening about sex education in schools. As of Aug. 1, 2015, only 22 states and the District of Columbia mandate sex education. New Hampshire requires only HIV education, and it is left up to the school districts how to teach the subject.
“We’ve been working with VOX and Sylvia Foster of the Women’s Commission,” said UNH ’13 alumna Lauren Banker, who currently works for Planned Parenthood in Concord. “There are students here who are very passionate about this issue.”
Banker works with students from across the state to spread education and awareness, and influence New Hampshire legislators. She attended Oyster River High School in Durham where she recalled her lacking sex education experience.
“I did not have a great sex-ed program,” she said. “My parents were harsh with me and made me feel guilty asking for birth control. I wanted to advocate for sex ed in schools.”
Crowd participators were asked to describe his or her own experience with sex education. Descriptors included “insufficient,” “misleading,” “immature” and “open.”
“I’d call it immature because the gym teachers who taught it catered to the rowdy kids in the class who always fooled around,” said one crowd member. “They could have taken it more seriously for those of us who wanted to be educated.”
Several people mentioned how middle school and high school sex education did not cater to the LGBTQ+ community. The concept of inclusiveness was emphasized, for all genders and sexualities.
In a New Jersey sex education class, Planned Parenthood worker Ilyssa Sherman learned about STD’s, but never the act of sex.
“We watched a video called ‘Making Stupid Decisions,’ and it had nothing to do with sex,” she said. “Those two things linked together for me. (Sex ed]) is very fear based. Don’t get pregnant, don’t get pregnant.”
New Hampshire parents also have the choice to opt their child out of sexual education. According to the August 2015 report by the Guttmacher Institute, New Hampshire schools are not required to cover any of the following topics: contraception, abstinence, sexual orientation, negative outcomes, consent, family communication or condoms. Once again, these topics are left solely up to the school districts.
“At college, I realized I did not know enough,” said one crowd goer. “There’s more to sex education than contraception and barrier methods.”
To end the discussion, motives were discussed to bring to the attention of state legislators. People hoped for a disappearance of the divide between genders in sex education, added inclusive environments and medically accurate information delivered by professionals.
“Every dollar invested in preventative care saves you $7 in the long run,” said a female VOX member.