The United States has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates among developing nations, despite also being among the wealthiest. In the U.S., 24 states and the District of Colombia mandate sex education; however, almost half of those states are not required to teach with medically accurate information.
Nebraska is not one of the 24 states that requires sex education; however, the Nebraska State Board of Education does give power to local school boards to choose whether or not to teach comprehensive sex education in their schools. While giving power to local school boards can be a smart technique, the State Board of Education strongly encourages an “abstinence-only approach” in relation to sex education.
The age of consent in Nebraska is 16. This means that once a Nebraskan reaches age 16, they can legally consent to having sex with an adult. It is no surprise, however, that boys and girls under the age of 16 are having sex as well, despite any abstinence-only sex education they may have received in their schooling. Since Nebraska acknowledges that teens are having sex, they need to begin implementing medically accurate, comprehensive sex education in schools and if not to help the teens themselves, this improved sex education could save Nebraska millions of dollars each year on unintended pregnancy costs.
As with most policy changes in U.S. laws, this will require parents and community members in Nebraska to push for these sex education changes by going to meetings and calling to speak with school board members until they see change. To push for change, it is important to know the facts and what studies have shown.
Nebraska teen pregnancy rates have declined since their peek year in 1988, but not due to abstinence-only education; improved contraceptive use has brought these declining numbers. While there is no age restriction on who can purchase condoms, without the proper education many teens are not aware that they can buy them. Those who are aware of this tend to experience incorrect information on contraceptive use.
Along with common misconceptions that can result in pregnancies and STI’s, not teaching teens about sex can evoke shame. A majority of the programs in Nebraska do not teach students that it is completely healthy and normal to have frequent sexual thoughts and the want to experiment. Without that information, teens can go through their days feeling ashamed of normal thoughts and behaviors. This can cause an abundance of emotional issues for them.
Looking at all of the financial, emotional, and physical benefits of comprehensive sex education, it undeniably should be brought into the Nebraska schools. Make it a point to call and email Nebraska’s representatives and push this issue forward.