Gaps in Wisconsin students’ sex ed inspires improvement on and off campus
Sex ed evokes different memories for different people — some may recall putting condoms on bananas or having a teacher reminiscent of Mean Girls’ Coach Carr who warned, “Don’t have sex because you will get pregnant and die.” For some, memories of sex ed may be absent because it wasn’t provided.
Some teachers, like Madison West High School’s Scott Maier, are trying to broaden sexuality education’s (sex ed) traditional script. For one day each semester, Maier brings the Gay Straight Alliance into his health classroom to talk about sexuality.
Despite Maier and other teachers’ efforts at expanding curriculum, sex ed often lags behind, leaving some students without proper education.
Wisconsin’s sex ed varies largely across the state, according to Cindy Kuhrasch, a faculty associate in the UW-Madison Kinesiology Department which includes the health education minor. Course length and content depends on the educator and influence from outside forces, like school boards and review committees, she said.
Additionally, Wisconsin high schools are often limited to teaching an abstinence-only curriculum. only requires HIV education, not sex ed, and outlines that abstinence should be stressed as a means of protection.
“Someone could have a wonderful sex education and 30 miles away someone could be taught that their gender and sexuality is completely invalid and not worth discussing in class,” said Madison Neinfeldt, a facilitator at UW Madison’s Sex Out Loud, an organization that promotes safe, healthy sexual practices on campus.
Neinfeldt explained it is not uncommon for students to come to college having missed the proper sex ed for their gender or sexuality, or, like her, not received it altogether. Her own lack of education was one reason Neinfeldt joined Sex Out Loud, and she hopes the organization helps other students reflect on their own education and think about their current relationship with sexual knowledge, health and orientation.