Does you school or system have a comprehensive sexuality Education curriculum?

In this article Saskia De Melker, puts the case for a comprehensive sexuality education course starting with 4 year olds in kindergarten.

You’ll never hear an explicit reference to sex in a kindergarten class.In fact, the term for what’s being taught here is sexuality education rather than sex education. That’s because the goal is bigger than that, says Ineke van der Vlugt, an expert on youth sexual development for Rutgers WPF, the Dutch sexuality research institute behind the curriculum. It’s about having open, honest conversations about love and relationships.

By law, all primary school students in the Netherlands must receive some form of sexuality education. The system allows for flexibility in how it’s taught. But it must address certain core principles — among them, sexual diversity and sexual assertiveness. That means encouraging respect for all sexual preferences and helping students develop skills to protect against sexual coercion, intimidation and abuse. The underlying principle is straightforward: Sexual development is a normal process that all young people experience, and they have the right to frank, trustworthy information on the subject.

“There were societal concerns that sexualization in the media could be having a negative impact on kids,” van der Vlugt said. “We wanted to show that sexuality also has to do with respect, intimacy, and safety.”

Beyond risk prevention

The Dutch approach to sex ed has garnered international attention, largely because the Netherlands boasts some of the best outcomes when it comes to teen sexual health. On average, teens in the Netherlands do not have sex at an earlier age than those in other European countries or in the United States. Researchers found that among 12 to 25 year olds in the Netherlands, most say they had  “wanted and fun” first sexual experiences. By comparison, 66 percent of sexually active American teens surveyed said they wished that they had waited longer to have sex for the first time. When they do have sex, a Rutgers WPF study found that nine out of ten Dutch adolescents used contraceptives the first time, and  World Health Organization data shows that Dutch teens are among the top users of the birth control pill. According to the World Bank, the teen pregnancy rate in the Netherlands is one of the lowest in the world, five times lower than the U.S. Rates of HIV infection and sexually transmitted diseases are also low.

I can’t see that Australia is quite ready for this yet but, given how quickly we have moved our majority view about equal marriage, maybe this is not too far behind.

Now I was one of the 62 people who got ‘same sex married’ in the ACT when, for a very short space of time, this was legal.  It was overridden and our marriage is now invalid.  Even though I felt strongly enough to take this step, my view is that comprehensive sexuality education is even more important, not just for the reasons about sexual health practices outlined above, but because it may reduce the sense of isolation and marginalisation young people who don’t conform to gender typical and or heterosexual norms can experience in our schools.

I have heard it said that equal marriage is the last remaining barrier for LGBTI people but I beg to differ.  Providing a safe, inclusive environment for all children and young people to understand their developing selves: and their sexual and gender identities should also be on our political radar and no legislation is required to achieve this.

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Think of the Child

My children grew up with a deep dark secret. Their mother (me) was/is a lesbian. They usually confessed this to their friends after they felt confident in the relationship. But school in the 80s and 90s really was a toxic sea of homophobia and I can quite understand their reluctance.

One day post school, my daughter was chatting with a group of her old class peers. One boy said that he really regretted not telling everyone that his mother was a lesbian. My daughter, astonished at this revelation said the same. The group then discussed how this news would have been treated and agreed that they would have been really cruel to both of them.
I felt an overwhelming sadness that both children endured living with this dark secret alone and unsupported. I can only hope that this is less likely today. But this requires making information like this safe and ordinary and standing up against campaign like ‘think of the children’

Boob in a Box

My six-year-old son’s best friend is an amazing girl called Pascal. They have been solid buddies for almost three years now. They don’t attend the same school, but have regular play dates and sleepovers, where they play outside in the dirt with items pilfered from my kitchen concocting’ant stew’ (which doesn’t actually involve any ants), make indoor tents out of sheets strung over dining chairs, and put on puppet shows using old fridge boxes as the stage. They have tennis lessons together on a Friday, joyfullyrunning to meet each other at the courts and racing around in circles like a pair of excited puppies.

Their beautiful, innocent meeting of hearts and mindshas given rise to a broader friendship at the family level, which has been cemented through trips to the theatre, lunches and dinners out, birthday parties, and camping trips. The camping trips have been a real revelation, as anyone…

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If you think that queer/GLTBI politics and issues have nothing to do with teachers, schools and children – think again

In the most recent editorial of a progressive educational Journal called Rethinking Schools the authors relate the story of Sasha Fleischman.

On Nov. 5, Illinois became the 16th state to legalize same-sex marriage. And Sasha Fleischman’s skirt was set on fire on an Oakland, California, bus by a 16-year-old student from another school (Sasha is an a gender youth*). What a contradiction. And what a clear example of the complex state of LGBTQ issues at this moment in history. What does this contradiction mean for students, teachers, and schools?

The schools response to this tragedy was very important. Students and teachers immediately mobilised support for Sasha; money to cover medical expenses; an organized “Stroll for Sasha” along the bus route; and new t shirts for the basketball team marked with ‘No h8’ on the front and Sasha’s name on the back.

The authors make the point that “homophobia, misogyny, and other forms of hatred are alive and well, and even progressive schools and classrooms have a long way to go in creating nurturing spaces for students, parents, and staff who don’t conform to gender and/or sexuality “norms.””

They point out that it doesn’t matter how strong our ‘generic anti bullying programs and policies are, because the anti-bullying framework positions bullying as an individualised behaviour problem and does not address the systemic issues.

To lump disparate behaviors under the generic “bullying” is to efface real differences that affect young people’s lives. Bullying is a broad term that de-genders, de-races, de-everythings school safety.

The reasons for teachers’ reluctance to name issues related to diverse sexualities, homophobi, transgender are readily understandable. Parent, community backlash, moving into unknown territory with students are not imaginary barriers.

So how do we move forward?

For those who wish to think and act more deliberately to address these issues this article is an excellent place to start. And although the examples provided in this article of current event stories worth using are all US based, I am sure it is possible to find Australian and other examples.

* The term refers to having no gender: meaning an individual does not identify as either male or female