BROWARD COUNTY – Today, the School Board of Broward County voted unanimously to adopt a new, comprehensive sexual health education policy that is medically accurate and developmentally-appropriate.
"This vote is the culmination of nearly two years of work by the Broward County School Board with the assistance of Planned Parenthood, medical professionals, concerned youth and parents, and community organizations," said Cory Neering, Vice President of Education for Planned Parenthood of South Florida and the Treasure Coast. "The Family Life and Human Sexuality policy ensures all students receive the same level of education as their counterparts in other parts of the country, education that truly works to stem the high tide of HIV and AIDS in our community."
Broward County ranks FIRST in the nation with the highest number of AIDS cases. It is second only to Miami-Dade in the number of HIV infections, with an HIV infection rate that is nearly double the state's rate. Estimates show that 60 percent of HIV positive young people do not know their status, and that youth are becoming infected at an alarming rate.
As an organization that provides comprehensive sexual health education to 15,000 teens in South Florida, Planned Parenthood saw an urgent need to help Broward County Schools improve their sexual health education program.
Planned Parenthood and Advocates for Youth created the Broward County Youth Council, a group of young leaders passionate to bring about a healthier community. The Council's students, with Planned Parenthood's support, were instrumental in advocating for the new policy and helped edit it to meet the area's diverse needs.
"Young people like me worked hard to get approval for a sex education policy that is comprehensive because we need the facts in order to stay healthy and have a chance at succeeding in life," said Mario Lopez, a recent Broward County high school graduate and advocate for the policy.
The new policy follows national standards for sexual health education created by Advocates for Youth, SIECUS, The American School Health Association, the American Association for Health Education and other health educators.
More than 100 studies have demonstrated that students who are equipped with medically accurate information are more likely to remain abstinent. They are also more likely to use protection when they do become sexually active, helping to prevent teen pregnancy and diseases such as HIV.
"As a parent and an educator, I know first-hand just how important it is for students to get reliable information and to follow up on that information with their parents and others they trust," Neering said. "This policy does that. Congratulations to the Broward County School Board and all of the students, parents, and community organizations who came together to get this policy passed."
Public opinion polls consistently show that more than 80 percent of Americans support teaching comprehensive sexual health education in high schools and in middle schools. The new policy addresses a wide array of health issues – from HIV prevention to preventing teen pregnancy and dating violence—and develops communication skills that make it easier for parents and children and peers to talk about human sexuality. This is especially important for students who may not have parents at home to discuss these issues.
"I've been in the foster care system since I was 11, and growing up I didn't have access to anyone I could trust to give me accurate information about healthy relationships and sexual health," said Jessica Oliveira, a Broward County high school student. "My situation made me realize that all young people deserve to be educated about staying healthy no matter what their home situation looks like."
Planned Parenthood of South Florida and the Treasure Coast, Inc. was founded in 1971. Our mission is to provide comprehensive sexual health care through the provision of clinical services, education and advocacy.
Our 9 health centers in South Florida are dedicated to providing services that are affordable, accessible and available to all women, men and youth in the community, regardless of the individual's income, race, marital status, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or residence. Our goal is to create the healthiest generation ever.
May 22, 2014