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MN Parents Shouldn't Assume Their Children are Getting Sex Ed in School



August 22, 2011

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Kids across Minnesota will soon be back in class, and while many parents may believe that education on sexuality will be part of the curriculum, that's not necessarily the case. Teenwise Minnesota Executive Director Brigid Riley says the state does require schools to teach about HIV and some other sexually transmitted diseases, but that's it.

"There is no discussion in the statute about teaching young people about pregnancy prevention or anything like condoms and contraception, so there's no requirement for that."

Riley says schools can choose to do more, but most simply cannot because of tightening budgets. Therefore, Riley says, the lack of a requirement on sexuality education means it's important for parents take a leading role and to do some of their own research.

"We really encourage parents to think about talking to the educators in their district. They should be talking to the school principal, asking the teachers what's going to be taught, because parents often think the schools are taking care of this for them, when in fact the schools may not be."

Regardless of what's being taught in schools, Riley says, sexuality education needs to start at home with age-appropriate lessons - some of which may have to come earlier than parents would like.

"A lot of the saddest stories we hear are about girls as young as 11 or 12 who have started a baby and had no idea that what they were doing was going to lead to that. So, it's pretty important to be doing this."

Riley says the good news is that the teen pregnancy rate in Minnesota has dropped by 43 percent since the early 1990s, although major disparities still exist when it comes to race and ethnicity. Teen girls growing up in communities of color are two to six times more likely to become pregnant than their white counterparts.

More information on Teenwise Minnesota is available at www.moappp.org.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN