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Navigating The Tricky Subject of Sex Ed In Schools

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Associated Press

What should children be taught about sex and when should they be taught it?

Last month, the debate over sex education in Clark County schools started in earnest again. 

The Clark County School District board of trustees held a meeting to talk about a number of different issues, including what should be taught when and whether the current opt-in approach should continue.

After six and a half hours of discussion, the school board did not make any big decisions on changes to the curriculum and decided not to push the state to change the opt-in approach.

School board member Patrice Tew told KNPR's State of Nevada that they are trying to make the sex education standards current, but they also want to listen to parents about what they want their children taught.

“We are looking to be responsive to what the needs of the community are,” she said. 

Click here: Clark County School District sexual education curriculum

However, Amanda Morgan, a sexual education teacher at UNLV, said only a quarter of the students from CCSD schools have a basic understanding of sexual transmitted diseases or how the infections can be transmitted.

"Many of them do not understand that oral sex can be dangerous and that other types of behaviors have risks to them," she said.

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She also said some of the students she has worked with don't know the medically accurate names of their body parts. 

Tew pointed out that Morgan is really dealing with a small number of students from CCSD schools, and she said that many students have said they do get good information from sex ed courses.

For many people 'comprehensive sex ed' means children will be taught about homosexuality, gender identity and gender expression. 

Morgan said that many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer students don't feel represented by the current curriculum.

“They felt that the sex education they received in high school did not speak to them,” Morgan said.

Danielle Bell runs the Lifespan Faith Development for Unitarian Universality Church. The church uses a more comprehensive program for teaching sexuality. 

She said including a discussion about sexual orientation, gender identity and gender is vital. 

"We have to acknowledge that otherwise we're shortchanging our participants by not really allowing them to be sexually healthy individuals," she said, "If we're totally skipping that piece, then our students won't have a strong sense of self.'

Tew said when it comes to teaching students in CCSD about these topics parents aren't opposed to their children hearing about it. 

"Parents aren't afraid of knowledge," she said. "They're not afraid of exposure. Their concern, that they're bringing forward, is advocacy and that there will advocacy for one lifestyle or another."

Bell says bullying is another reason children need a broader understanding of human sexuality.

"Sexuality plays a significant role, probably a central role, in bullying," she said, "And sexuality related issues from body size to perceived sexual orientation and gender expression, female sexualization, non-traditional family structures... bullying behavior is likely going to fall into one of those circles of sexuality."

While the discussion about teaching sexual education continues in Southern Nevada, it will be the State Legislature that will make any changes.

Bell also discusses media representations with her Unitarian Universalist students. Currently, CCSD has no media curriculum, but Washoe County does. Below are slides from a power point presentation for 7th graders in Reno.

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Washoe County School District

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Washoe County School District

What is McDonald's selling here?

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Washoe County School District

There are differences between how men are 'sexy' and women are 'sexy.'

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Washoe County School District

This is from "Teen Magazine." How many parents know what their kids are seeing?

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Washoe County School District

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Washoe County School District

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Washoe County School District

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Washoe County School District

Superman is drawn from the front. He is fully clothed and is 'powerful'...

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Washoe County School District

... Wonder Woman is drawn from the side and is scantily clad.

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Washoe County School District

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Washoe County School District

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Washoe County School District

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Washoe County School District

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Washoe County School District

Guests

Patrice Tew, Clark County School District Board Trustee;
Amanda Morgan, sexual education teacher at UNLV; Danielle Bell, Director of Lifespan Faith Development for Unitarian Universality Congregation of Las Vegas

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