Target: Al Vernacchio
Goal: Applaud teacher’s commitment to sex-positive education for teens
Far from abstinence-only education or even the basics of birth control and STIs, a Philadelphia high school teacher is teaching a whole new brand of sexual education. Shying away from graphic pictures of STI worst-case scenarios, Al Vernacchio teaches his students about the pleasure of sex as well as the possible dangers.
In Vernacchio’s view, a major problem with sex education is a reliance on the “disaster model,” expecting teens to engage in healthy relationships without being presented healthy models of sexually active relationships. His sex-positive education emphasizes a reliance on information without fear. Judging by the rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection in states with abstinence-only programs, Vernacchio has a point. A recent report by the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States shows the failures of this type of sexual education in Mississippi—a previously abstinence-only state. The state has the seventh-highest rates of HIV infection, the second-highest rates of gonorrhea and Chlamydia infections, and the second-highest rate of teen pregnancies in the nation. Mississippi has since moved to allow schools to teach “abstinence plus” education, expanding information available to students while maintaining that abstinence until marriage is still the best course.
One of the major arguments against safety, contraception and hygiene-based education is that exposure to explicit information deemed inappropriate for teens could lead them to start having sex earlier and to have sex more often. However, a body of research released by the Guttmacher Institute in 2012 shows that far from increasing sexual activity or giving teens a license to start having sex early, education about contraceptives, pregnancy and safety have proven to delay sexual activity in teens and promote safer decisions about sex. It’s hard to imagine how much farther a fully sex-positive education could go in protecting teens if simple information-only models promote such different results.
Sign this petition in support of more informative education models that promote healthy relationships in teens instead of spurning them.
Dear Mr. Vernacchio,
Education geared towards stopping teens from having sex has proven ineffective in keeping them safe. In states with abstinence-only education, teen pregnancy and rates of gonorrhea, Chlamydia and HIV infections are higher. Clearly, leaving teens in the dark is not working. To force young adults to navigate blindly through their sexuality is not preparing them to make healthy decisions about sex.
Luckily, there are educators like you, who believe that the best way to lead teens to becoming healthy adults is by giving them an appropriate model of healthy adulthood. I support and applaud your sex-positive education and hope other teachers and schools can learn from the tools you have given your students.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: David Shankbone via Wikimedia Commons