The truth about sex ed from a pro-choice, pro-education, pro-health mama!

What follows is the text of the speech given by Minnesota NOW State Board member and longtime reproductive rights activist Kriss Hakala at the 2010 Pro-Choice Lobby day on March 4.

I’m 3rd Generation Pro-choice, a Daughter, a Sister, an Aunt, a Granddaughter, and a Mom from the Forest Lake School District. Today is a very important event, not only for us to get energized but especially for all of the UNPROTECTED kids here in Minnesota.  – !
This is my story as a parent, but more important, IT’S THE KIDS’ STORY AND I THANK THEM FOR THEIR PERMISSION TO TELL IT.  My boys are students in the Forest Lake School District, which is comprised of a lot of small towns.

In fifth grade my boys learned about AIDS and STIs.  Their assignment was to make an AIDS project and I was happy to help! However, when I suggested COLORED CONDOMS for Hunter’s MonopolAIDS GAME PIECES or the word CONDOM for one of the words for Jake’s crossword puzzle, both boys told me that they couldn’t use THAT WORD.  I was taken aback, but thought maybe in 8th grade it would be okay.  In 8th grade a note came home to opt out of sex education.  I was happy as I thought they would get the Real thing – comprehensive sex education – !

Well, in 8th grade, they separated the boys and girls and talked at them about anatomy, pregnancy, AIDS and STDs, but failed to talk about contraception, how to protect themselves, or about having healthy relationships.    I was sick as I knew from my sons and their friends that the teens were having sex; there were multiple pregnancies in the High School, not to mention the Junior High Schools.
A very popular teen couple told their story of an unintended pregnancy to the Forest Lake press.  Her Mom wouldn’t agree to birth control until she got straight A’s and was responsible enough to load the dishwasher.

(Editor’s note: read the story here and consider how the glowing spin on their story actually makes teen parenthood alluring–call it Bristol Palin syndrome.)
All along I had been discussing facts with my kids, giving them the information they needed to be safe and the information they could share with their friends, rather than the locker room talk that can get them into trouble.
But what about the kids I didn’t know or talk to?

I decided to take action.  I called the Superintendent to enlist his help in changing the growing statistics of pregnancies and STIs in our community.  He rejected my request. Next, I got educated from everyone and anyone who would talk to me; I bought hundreds of condoms, directions and fact sheets.  I got all of my help from the pro-choice community.
While it may be true that one person can’t change the world – I’ve set out to prove that ONE PERSON can make change a School District.
Forest Lake hired a new Superintendent, Dr. Linda Madsen, last fall.  I immediately contacted her with my concerns. She called me the next day, created a Curriculum Review Committee, and invited me to speak to all of the Health Teachers to give them every available resource and the reasons WHY our kids deserve comprehensive sex education.  The Committee will make recommendations early next year to the School Board.  Sigh of Relief – I had possibly made a difference.  I was fairly confident that I had done my job and was continuing to educate kids.
I WAS PRETTY PROUD OF MYSELF UNTIL …….. my son came home to tell me a very disturbing story.  Hunter is 16; he is sophomore and enrolled in “Health Class.”  He happened to have a guest speaker that day.  Her name was Kelly; she has a website called Solid Options and her curriculum is called “no touchy.”

She started class guaranteeing them that “after today none of you will be having sex.”  She than asked for a raise of hands – how many of you talk to your parents about sex? 10 kids raised their hands.  Then she asked: how many of you are comfortable talking to your parents about sex? 5 kept their hands raised.   The class continued on the dangers of AIDS and STIs and teen pregnancies but not about how to prevent them.

Kelly told the class that 2% of teens know how to use condoms.  Hunter raised his hand and asked her to show them.  She said THEY DON’T WORK ANYWAY.  (Editor’s note: Kelly, if you’re reading, try getting the facts at Planned Parenthood.) She continued to say that girls should never touch a boy’s JUNK, because you won’t know what will happen.  If you are making out, say TURNIP.

TURNIP, according to Kelly, is a safe word.  What happened to NO?
This is why we need evidence-based sex ed:

  • To help kids prevent STIs by using condoms properly
  • To build healthy relationships so kids can avoid unwanted sexual experiences
  • To help protect our kids instead of treating them like they are too young or dumb to understand things

We have the same end result in mind–we only differ on the means.  We care about the health of our kids. We want them safe, free from disease and harm, and educated so that they make responsible decisions.  But we need to educate our kids using medically accurate facts and in a non-judgmental way rather than through distortions and moral judgment.
I am lucky enough to have the support of many organizations that help me get accurate facts and I’m ok with talking in a frank manner with my kids, but not everyone has the same network I do, and not everyone is ok with having these hard conversations with their kids.   This is why we need schools to be prepared with facts and no judgment, so our kids can get FACTS that will protect them.
I have experienced firsthand the impact when teens don’t receive comprehensive, medically accurate and objective information about preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.  Ignorance is not bliss, and the research is clear: Informing young people about these topics does not make them have sex.  In fact, evidence- based Sex Education has been proven to be effective in delaying the onset of sexual activity and increasing responsible contraceptive use among sexually active teens. Abstinence-only education has not.
I WILL NOT ACCEPT that our students shouldn’t have comprehensive sex education.  This is what I WANT:
1)    Each and every one of us has to do our part to EDUCATE ALL kids.