This year, the Cuyahoga County Family and Children First Council made the decision to defund the comprehensive sex education program across the county. Fortunately, through the diligent work of the Collaborative for Comprehensive School Age Health, this decision was reversed; however, as of this writing, we do not yet know at what level we will be funded. I suspect that funding for this program may be in jeopardy in the future as well.

Beech Brook has been providing comprehensive sexual health education since the 1940s. Back then, it was called “The Art of Personal Living,” likely to not draw too much attention to the topic.

Ohio has a long history of being unable to talk about sex. Forty-nine states have health education standards. The lone state that does not? Ohio.

Ohio does not have health education standards largely because the topic of comprehensive sexual education (CSE) has stymied lawmakers for years.

Current Ohio law emphasizes the importance of abstinence until after marriage. CSE, in fact, does teach that abstinence is the only thing that works 100% of the time against STDs and pregnancy; however, that information alone simply is not enough given the fact that so much erroneous information is available online.

The reality is that our kids are being educated one way or another. CSE provides medically accurate information. Every person will have to make important decisions about their sexual and reproductive health one day; however, most adolescents do not have the information they need to make those decisions responsibly.

Comprehensive Sexual Education is about much more than sex. It's about understanding and taking care of your body. It is about human growth and development; reproductive anatomy; pregnancy prevention; prevention of sexually transmitted diseases; discussion of sexual orientation; gender identity; recognizing and preventing domestic partner violence; and healthy relationships - all taught at the right age and at an age-appropriate level. No one is teaching your first grader about condoms here.

Some believe that CSE leads to promiscuity and early sexual activity or that it is somehow erotic and focuses on sexual pleasure for children. Nothing is further from the truth. CSE does not lead to earlier sexual activity or riskier sexual behavior. In fact, these programs have been shown to reduce risky behaviors. And as far as being erotic? CSE is a serious subject that is more like a combination of a science and social studies class.

While the topic has not been studied enough, research over the last 30 years shows that CSE produces positive outcomes in many other areas that get lost in the sexual education discussion. Specifically, school-based CSE can lower homophobia and homophobic-related bullying; can increase understanding of gender and gender norms; can improve knowledge and skills that support healthy relationships; can build child sex abuse prevention skills; and can reduce dating and intimate partner violence.

Meanwhile, the adults in Ohio can’t talk about sexuality, so funding for CSE is always at risk. There is collateral damage. Erin’s Law is currently stuck in an Ohio Senate Committee even though it passed the Ohio House by a margin of 86-8. The bill would require public schools to provide age-appropriate child sexual abuse prevention instruction, something that is notably included in many CSE curriculum.

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