In order to graduate, all students must, at some point, take a semester of health. A part of this required class, much to the delight of snickering freshmen, includes an education in contraception. In spite of this, many pregnancies have hit CVHS this year.
“Some students just think that having a kid is just changing diapers. No, no, no,” says health teacher Sue Anderson. “It’s one of the biggest life changes, regardless of age.”
In her class, Anderson strongly encourages students to consider the benefits and consequences of becoming sexually active. Too often, she claims, students do not take a measured approach in considering the possible effects of their actions.
“Being sexually active changes who you are,” stated Anderson. “More often than not, we make decisions without thinking about the consequences.”
To help her students understand the repercussions of an uninformed decision, she uses a simple, but powerful, metaphor:
“Would you like to drive down the boulevard at 70 m.p.h., blindfolded and drunk, in the middle of rush hour? What are your chances of getting hit?” she asks.
California does not require teachers to inform students about contraception, but it certainly does not oppose its instruction, as it is the only state that has refused federal funding for abstinence-only education. The state only requires that teachers inform students about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and drugs, but many health teachers in California make consistent efforts to educate students about several different types of contraception. The controversial nature of this subject has caused CVHS families to pull their children out of lessons in the past, but that has not stopped health teachers from teaching students about contraceptives.
“In my class, I give an overview of different types of contraception, be that the barrier or hormonal method,” explained health teacher Jean Emrich. “But, I also teach that the only way to not be at risk for either pregnancy or an STD is to be abstinent.”
However, Anderson emphasizes that every student must make an individual choice.
“It’s up to the individual. They have to be the one that makes those decisions. But it should always be an informed decision,” she said.
“Knowledge is power,” agreed Emrich. “After students take health, they’ll probably have more knowledge than they did before. And if they’re more informed, then they’ll use that information to improve their safety.”
Both teachers also stress the difficulties that inevitably come with pregnancy.
“Often times,” Anderson said, “students who become pregnant are minors. They usually don’t have a lot of requisite skills. Now they have this added thing called ‘I’m pregnant.’ What are they supposed to do?”
With only about a week to teach such subjects, one of the health teachers’ biggest challenges is making their lessons remain in their students’ minds.
“I think that having more time would definitely help, and I think that I do a pretty good job of making things stick. But ultimately, it’s up to the listener to learn this stuff and make informed decisions,” said Anderson.
Anderson’s final point of emphasis to her students is to not lose sight of their future.
“Honor yourself, and honor what your goals are,” she tells them. “When you’re prepared for life’s responsibilities, then you’ll succeed.”