A Sex Education: Sex, Pregnancy & Birth Control at FLHS

Published on November 14th, 2011

By EMILY FISH

In the past month, FLHS students have become used to seeing certain words prominently displayed on posters around the school that are not commonly found there. The brightly colored posters are covered in statistics regarding students’ opinions and habits on sex, abstinence, using protection, teen parenthood, and the like.

“The purpose of putting up the posters is to get people thinking and be aware,” says child development teacher Linda Mushala. The posters were made by Mushala’s two child development classes, which are open to all except freshmen, although they are predominantly made up of sophomores.

Though one of Mushala’s main goals is to get her students and FLHS at large to “think about what you believe,” the posters have not generated as much interest as they have in the past.

“By now, everyone’s sick of hearing about it,” says Maddy O’Brien, a junior in child development. The child development classes two years ago did this very same project, and O’Brien believes that many upperclassmen probably found the statistics more interesting the first time around.

Some of the posters are strategically placed above water fountains and on bathroom doors to get students to read them.

Others distrust the posters because they don’t know where the statistics come from. The child development classes gathered the data from a total of 240 people; each student gave an anonymous survey to 3 female and 3 male “peers,” which could include high school students from any school in any grade. Because the classes are almost entirely made up of sophomores and juniors, these two grades may be over-represented.

“They probably should have asked at least three homerooms in every grade,” said senior Jack Farrell, upon learning of the survey method.

According to Mushala, there is value to the posters, though.

“A lot of people go around thinking that other people’s values are the same as theirs,” says Mushala.

According to students in a child development class, some of the most surprising statistics were how many girls would get abortions if they became pregnant “right now” (23%), how many said they had had unprotected sex (36%), and how many boys said they felt they “were ready for a baby” (8%).

“This is a no-judgement zone,” Mushala says of her classroom. “Those decisions are very personal.” The school curriculum takes a similar tone in regard to students’ choices, allowing for a combination of abstinence and contraception education in health classes.
“That number should be zero,” said Rachel Barchie, a health teacher at FLHS, about the number of students who said that they were ready to become parents. Barchie and Cynthia Stetter, another health teacher, agree with Mushala that the most important goal of sex education in FLHS is simply to get students to think. Though the two health teachers were surprised at the number of students who felt they were ready to become parents in the next year and the number of students who have had unprotected sex, over all, they believe that students do benefit from sex ed., especially the lessons on STDs.

“We have a lot of students who get STD testing when we do that unit…I think that while you’re in (the classroom), it raises awareness and promotes testing” says Stetter.

The posters, which are frequently covered in question marks, exclamation points, and other bolded words for emphasis, were not meant to be biased. The effect of the bright colors, lettering, and punctuation was intended to make the posters louder and attract more attention from passer-by, according to Mushala.

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