NEW YORK – A new study published by the British Medical Journal finds that sex ed classes, even those that teach abstinence, are having almost no impact. The classes are not stopping kids from having sex and they're not convincing them to use birth control.
The study has revived an old debate between those who say formal sex ed has no place in public schools and those who say more or improved education is needed.
"The best people to teach sex actually are the parents, because sexuality is all about intimacy," Patrick Fagan of the Heritage Foundation said.
Judith De Sarno, president of the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, disagreed.
"What the study shows is that none of the abstinence programs work," she said. "There has been an increase in the teen pregnancy rate and what it shows is what logic would tell us: giving our kids wrong information and giving them scare tactics doesn't work. Our kids are smarter than that."
It is difficult for teachers to compete with the messages kids are getting from outside the classroom, Sarno added. "We have sexy TV shows, sexist advertisements, but when it comes to talking to our teens we get very squeamish."
But Fagan argued that kids would be willing to listen to the straight facts from someone they trust.
"There's a huge hunger out there on the part of teenagers for a change in sexual messages," he said.
Researchers analyzed dozens of studies conducted over 30 years that included nearly 20,000 kids, primarily in the United States.
The study's authors concluded that new techniques, even bringing in the kids to find out what would make them take the risks of teen sex to heart, must be employed.