Student Well-Being

Teenagers Are Taking Over Sex Education

By Ross Brenneman — June 04, 2013 1 min read
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The following are real questions that students ask about sex:

1. If a woman is drunk or high and agrees to sex, is that still rape?

2. Should you tell any partners if you have a sexually transmitted infection?

3. Can a woman get pregnant having sex standing up?

These are examples pulled from events at the St. Martin de Porres Family Center, in Cleveland, where a group of peer educators has taken to helping fellow teenagers understand sex and its consequences, according to the Plain Dealer.

(The answers to all three are “yes,” by the way.)

Case Western University Reserve started the program, known as the Infectious Diseases Alliance, and while it faces retention problems, peer educators feel they’re making some inroads among the community. It’s another example of how educators increasingly see peer groups as a good way to engage hard-to-reach pupils.

Anything probably helps: Ohio has a high rate of gonorrhea infection among teens, with areas in Cleveland being particularly bad.

The state of Ohio emphasizes abstinence, but Cleveland’s standards allow comprehensive education; indeed, school officials have attended ID Alliance meetings. The program is less about trying to undercut the schools than it is to supplement them; if students don’t listen to teachers, maybe they’ll listen to other students.

(This all being noted, some state legislators recently tried restricting sex education by opening teachers up to fines of $5,000 for promoting anything other than abstinence. The Republican-controlled House ultimately defeated the amendment.)

Evidence suggests peer programs provide real benefits, with schools across the country tapping students to help other students. Some use peer programs for remediation among students with autism. Others use students as centers of discipline, setting up peer courts that mete out justice.

Or put another way, if students would jump off a bridge because their friends are doing it, as some research suggests, then maybe they’ll have safer sex for the same reasons.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.