The wrapper of a condom, one of the many forms of contraception that should be taught about in school. Photo by Mabel Miller

Public schools in Oregon are required to teach sex education twice and to varying “age appropriate” levels between seventh and twelfth grade (once in middle school and once in high school), but many schools wait until nearly the end of that range.

According to the American Psychological Association, concepts of sexual and gender identity start as early as 10-14 years old. Knowing this it should come as no surprise that teenagers experiment with sex. In fact, by graduation, 41% of US high schoolers reported having sex in a survey conducted by the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Because puberty can bring an understanding and interest in sex, sexual education should be taught as early as possible in high schools.

The issue of stunted sexual education was apparent here, at Franklin, as well. The way the health curriculum is set up at Franklin, students are unable to take sexual health until their junior year. Given that, based on a CDC survey in 2013, 20% of high school freshmen report being sexually active. This leaves a vast number of students having sex with their only guaranteed source of sex education being the usually brief discussions in middle school.

Luckily, this shortcoming did not go unnoticed. The Franklin health department has decided to change the curriculum to address issues like sexual health earlier. They plan on switching what is currently covered junior year with what is taught freshman year (nutritional health). “We felt that some of these issues needed to be tackled sooner,” Ms. Feuz, a health and physical education teacher, said. “The sex ed., the depression, the mental disorders, the drugs and alcohol, because typically it is the freshman year that they are exposed to these.” Though these changes are definitely a step in the right direction, they will not be fully put into place for about another two school years. This is to ensure that students that started with nutritional health their freshman year are taught the rest of the health curriculum their junior year.

The new timing of sex education at Franklin will allow every student to have the knowledge and resources to make smart choices about their health, but national progress on this issue is still very limited. Only 24 states require sex education to be taught in public schools. Continuing to push for sex education in schools through a vote or a voice is essential to change this.