The United States has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates of all the industrialized countries and nearly half of the 19 million new STDs each year effect young people aged 15 to 24 years old. High schools across the county offer teens sex education classes to help teens bridge the gap between what teens think they know about sex, and what teens actually know about sex. But for Long Beach teens, whose school district cut sex education classes two years ago, young people are beginning to look for facts about sex in a variety of different places.
“I’ve been forced to direct my questions about sex to my mother,” said Bellflower High School senior Samira Jahromi. “Other teens…look to their friends or the Internet. Sadly what they don’t understand is that their friends don’t know much more than they do.”
Wilson High School student Ben Gerber says he didn’t receive a sex talk from his parents, but believes he needs to obtain the information somehow.
“Teens will have sex whether their parents like it or not and they need to know what is out there…they shouldn’t just be taught abstinence,” said Gerber, who looks up his sex-related questions on the Internet. “If you don’t know what to look out for, you may end up ruining your life or ending it…what you don’t know can hurt you.”
In the absence of sex ed class, some members of the local community are stepping in.
Randall Bowden, a Wilson High teacher, is using theatre and peer education methods to teach students about sex.
“The reason we’re doing this play is because I care about the health of my students the same way I care about the health of my own kids,” said Bowden. “It’s about STDs, HIV and AIDS. Because LBUSD is cancelling health classes, a lot of students on campus don’t know about this information. We want to keep them healthy.”
Local community organization, Khmer Girls in Action (KGA). KGA, is advocating for the return of comprehensive sex education to Long Beach schools.
“We want communities and individuals to have the power and the resources to make healthy, informed decisions about their bodies, gender, sexuality and their lives and families,” said KGA’s Media and Program Coordinator Justine Calma who along with a coalition of other local youth organizations, is now pushing to have wellness centers in high schools to improve the health of our Long Beach students. “It’s important for students to fight for the resources and the support that they want and need…if sex education is something they want, students can stand up and fight for it.”