State-wide health standards necessary for healthy adults

Gnally Boukar, Co-EIC

A recent Omaha World Herald article conveyed that the state education board does not plan to permanently abandon the effort to create state-wide health standards. 

Sex education is an essential part of being a well-rounded adult. Yet it remains one of the most controversial subjects taught in school. We are taught how to be healthy citizens in every other aspect of health education from diet and exercise to maintaining healthy boundaries and relationships. However, in my experience, our sex education is lacking inclusivity and open-mindedness. 

I took health my freshman year, and in complete honesty, nothing about it was particularly notable.  Talking about sexual autonomy was framed as taboo, similar to a scene from the 2004 film “Mean Girls”: if you do choose to have sex you’ll get a sexually transmitted infection, your private parts will corrode, and the worst part of it is you may never know. The importance of STI and STD awareness is undeniable, but the school neglects to acknowledge sex in a positive light. 

In elementary school, students should learn the difference between safe and unsafe touch and how to respond. Additionally, comprehensive sex education stresses the importance of personal boundaries as well as respecting others. According to Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, one in nine girls and one in 53 boys are predicted to experience sexual abuse at the hands of an adult. For a victim to report an assault they have to comprehend what happened to them in the first place, and in the case of children that doesn’t always ring true. It will never be “too early” to teach students their rights.

Twenty-four states in the United States have mandatory sex education, but Nebraska is not one of them. In Nebraska, sex education is not regulated by the state, but there is a mandated emphasis on abstinence

Our current sex education curriculum lacks inclusivity for students who may not identify as straight. Centering sexuality as a universally heteronormative experience creates an exclusive environment inducive to shame for not falling within the societal boundaries of desiring the opposite sex. 

During the summer of 2021, the State Board of Education proposed a plan to require schools to embrace a more comprehensive health curriculum (referred to as CSE), including information surrounding sex education. This comprehensive curriculum would create a state-wide standard instead of districts setting their own curricula. For example, Omaha Public Schools adopted comprehensive sex ed years ago, while Bellevue has not.

However, there was heavy opposition to the proposal. Governor Pete Ricketts issued a statement calling for the Nebraska Department of Education to “scrap” the new proposed health standards. He stated new standards would, “not only teach young children age-inappropriate content starting in kindergarten but also inject non-scientific, political ideas into curriculum standards.”

Historically there has been a lot of opposition to sex education. Opposers protest that “sex education should be taught by parents.” Major groups like STOP CSE and The Nebraska Family Alliance assert that the new standards “normalize sexual conduct.” However, the recommended health standards do the opposite: they emphasize consent, identify and discuss gender roles, explore the difference between gender and sex, and teach students the importance of reproductive health.

Teaching students at a young age about consent does not encourage sexual promiscuity. Adopting a rights-based sexual education would teach students to respect their bodies, as well as others’.