Las Vegas Sun

May 30, 2017

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CCSD students to ‘The Daily Show’: We want better sex ed

When the Clark County School District's proposal to reform its abstinence-based sex education standards was met with outrage from parents, one group was conspicuously underrepresented in the debate: students.

On Wednesday, they finally got the chance to weigh in: A group of CCSD and UNLV students aired their grievances about the current CCSD sex ed standards in a satirical news report on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart."

The students, who represent the Nevada Teen Health and Safety Coalition and are lobbying the district for reform, say the standards are outdated and don't give students accurate and complete information.

Here's some of what they told "Daily Show" correspondent Jordan Klepper.

1. Sex education is not even offered in some CCSD schools.

"I didn't have an experience in sex ed, because ... it wasn't offered," said Zakury Walters, a CCSD graduate now studying at UNLV.

"Yeah but you turned out fine," Klepper responded.

"No, actually I got two women pregnant in high school," Walters said.​

Caitlyn Caruso, an 18-year-old CCSD student who was also interviewed in the segment, told the Sun on Friday that the district's sex ed policy is inconsistently applied across its schools.

"The honest truth is that sex education varies class to class," Caruso said. "Two students in one school may receive entirely different [sex ed classes], another might not receive anything at all."

2. Programs only focus on abstinence.

"My sex ed experience was basically 'this is why you shouldn't have sex, because you're going to end up pregnant,'" 17-year-old Arbor View High School student Cassandra Charles said in the interview. "I would rather learn about what I need to know so I can stay safe."

Clark County currently has an "abstinence-based" program, but students argue that's basically another way of saying "abstinence-only."

"'Abstinence-based' here in Vegas means if they teach anything outside of abstinence, it's very little and it all comes down to, 'Don't have sex before marriage,'" Caruso said.

She said if students have questions about sex that fall outside the abstinence-based curriculum, they are often told to Google it.

"It's really hard to sift through all the medically inaccurate information on the Internet," she said.

3. Sex education in Clark County is wildly out-of-date.

"Do they really want knowledge or do they really want sex?" author Susan Patton asks Klepper in the segment.

When Klepper jokingly throws the question back at the students, they get pretty detailed with the questions they have.

"Is [the human papillomavirus infection] transmittable through other things than intercourse?" asks Piper Bell, a middle schooler at Roy Martin.

"What are the pros and cons of different IUDs [intrauterine devices, a type of birth control]?" Charles asks.

Patton argues, like many parents opposed to sex ed reform in the district have done, that parents should teach their kids about sex. But when she's asked the students' questions by the "Daily Show," she doesn't know.

Caruso said that's because many parents don't have the medical knowledge required to properly teach sex education, and the district's abstinence-based policy doesn't help things.

"CCSD doesn't seem to think that these issues are pertinent enough to our youth to be providing them," she said.

The segment has only helped to elevate the county debate to a national level. Caruso said she was contacted by the "Daily Show" staff after she and her fellow students appeared in stories in the Huffington Post and Think Progress.

"My Facebook has been blowing up and almost everyone I know has been in agreement," Caruso said.

The students are advocating for a move to comprehensive sex education, which includes curriculum covering all facets of sex, from education about sexually transmitted diseases and modern forms of birth control to relevant information for gay and transgender students.

The problem is the district took its own plan for comprehensive sex education off the table late last year when a group of parents, most of them from rural communities in Clark County, said it was akin to teaching elementary students "how to masturbate."

The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, the national group that helped Clark County draft reforms late last year, called that "misinformation."

But the debate is far from over. The students are proving to be as feisty as the parents, and the district is still in the infant stages of its sex ed review process.

"We're not going anywhere," Caruso said. "We're gonna be there meeting after meeting."

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