|Community Health Educators Brooks Michael, Lanita Patterson and Monique Ingram join David Nova, VP, at Patrick Henry HS during August 27th training of Roanoke City teachers|
Schools that incorporate sex education in the classroom need not fear a backlash from parents. The public school system in Roanoke, Virginia apparently doesn’t. A Planned Parenthood Health Systems poll of 363 Roanoke City (Virginia) parents with school-aged children indicates strong support for the teaching of sexuality education. Upon reviewing the polling results, Roanoke City Schools invited Planned Parenthood to provide a professional training workshop to more than 40 of its health educators.
“Our polling data demonstrate that 80% of Roanoke City parents with school-age children believe sex education should be taught in Roanoke City Schools,” said Melissa Reed, Vice President for Public Policy. “There is a deep recognition among parents that such education needs to be initiated before high school.”
Roanoke parents overwhelmingly reported that specified sexuality education topics are “appropriate to teach” in Roanoke public schools. Specific topics include: the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases (96%), the basics of reproduction (95%), how to use birth control methods (90%), sexual orientation (85%) and abstinence until marriage (85%).
Moreover, strong majorities believe in the appropriateness of teaching these and other topics in (or before) middle school: prevention of sexually transmitted diseases (85%), basics of reproduction (82%), abstinence until marriage (74%), how to use birth control methods (71%) and sexual orientation (70%). [Click here to access the complete polling questions and results.]
“Planned Parenthood believes that age-appropriate, medically accurate information regarding health and sexuality assists students in making responsible and informed decisions, protecting the public health, reducing student drop-out rates and saving Virginia taxpayers millions of dollars in costs associated with teenage pregnancy and birth”, stated David Nova, Vice President. He and several community health educators conducted the system-wide training for Roanoke City teachers.
Much of the training was geared towards delaying too-early sexual activity, which has risen steadily among Roanoke City middle-school students in recent years. Based upon longitudinal data from the Roanoke City Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), the percentage of middle-school students that have had sexual intercourse has steadily risen: 24.6% in 2002, 27.0% in 2005, 33.4% in 2007 and 35.6% in 2009. (The YRBS is a study conducted biannually by the Centers for Disease Control and the Commonwealth of Virginia to measure health risk behaviors of middle and high school students.)
Roanoke’s teenage pregnancy rate in 2008 was the fifth highest in Virginia and is a major factor in contributing to the high student drop-out rate. Based upon the latest data from the Virginia Department of Education, roughly 18% of students who entered either of Roanoke’s two public high schools as ninth-graders in 2005 had dropped out of school before graduation. (The statewide dropout rate is under 8%.)
“The polling results show that there is no disconnect between parents’ perceptions and youth behaviors and they support prevention through education,” said Nova. “Fortunately, Roanoke City Schools are taking educational steps to reduce teenage pregnancy and, consequently, the dropout rate.”
The 14-question telephone survey, commissioned by Planned Parenthood Health Systems, Inc. (PPHS), was conducted June 8-10 by Public Policy Polling of Raleigh, North Carolina (www.publicpolicypolling.com) using Interactive Voice Response technology. The margin of error is 5.1%.