by Teresa Berenson
Planned Parenthood is touting a new study that found its middle school sex education program successfully delays sex for both boys and girls by the end of 8th grade by encouraging more talk about the subject between students and their parents outside the classroom.
The study, conducted by the Wellesley Centers for Women in partnership with Planned Parenthood, evaluated the Get Realprogram in 24 schools in the Boston area over the course of three years. The curriculum spans sixth through eighth grade and has students pair lessons in school with take-home assignments designed to start dialogues between them and their parents or caregivers. Of the 24 schools in the study, half used Get Real and half used their usual sexual education curriculum; 16% fewer boys and 15% fewer girls had sex in the schools using the Get Real curriculum. The study was published in the Journal of School Health.
“Awkward as this might be for some, Get Real makes it a little less awkward and easier to have these conversations,” said Lisa Grace, a parent in a Massachusetts school district using Get Real.
Along with highlighting parents as the primary sexual educators for their children, Get Real also focuses on relationship skills as an avenue for sexual health.
“If kids are able to negotiate relationships, they will be better able to negotiate sexual relationships,” said Jennifer Slonaker, a vice president of education and training for the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts.
Get Real is currently taught in 150 schools in Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island and Texas. Planned Parenthood representatives hope the program’s success can be replicated on a larger national scale, even in more conservative states.
“The curriculum does not espouse values,” said Grace, the mother in Massachusetts. “It makes it very clear that the parents should continue to be the primary sexual educators for their kids. So that reassured a lot of folks.”
“This is a program for older elementary and early middle school students that helps young people to delay having sex,” said Leslie Kantor, a vice president for education at Planned Parenthood. “So even states that stress abstinence… might be very interested in this type of program since it actually gets to these abstinence kind of outcomes.”