Advice from Marybeth Hicks Advice from Marybeth Hicks

To: Marybeth
From: Annoyed by Unhealthy Questions

I’m a freshman in high school. Our health teacher has a policy that there is no such thing as a stupid question about health, or no topic that is off limits. She makes a point to stress that she is willing to answer any question about sex and sexuality, and seems to want kids to ask about graphic and embarrassing things.

Consequently, a group of rude kids in my grade go out of their way to come up with disgusting questions just to see if there really is no such thing as a topic that the teacher will not discuss. My friends and I have told her that this is just a game to these kids, but she insists that some teens really do want this information and may be too embarrassed to ask about it. I can’t even tell you the topics we have had to listen to in this class. I don’t want to involve my parents because they would make a huge case about this and I would end up being at the center of it. What is your opinion?

To: Annoyed (for good reason)
From: Mb

How awful. I’m sorry you’re subjected to such an embarrassing and unnecessary situation. It must feel excruciating to sit in class and listen to graphic discussions about sex and sexuality that have no actual educational value, but are simply meant to be shocking and uncomfortable.

Usually, I’m counseling parents about their rights with respect to health education in the schools, but you have rights, too. You have the right not to be humiliated and to be taught specific curricula that have been adopted by your school district, not just one teacher’s advice and opinions about sex and sexuality.

Your mom and dad probably already are aware they are entitled to know in advance exactly what material will be presented in the classroom about sex and sexuality, and that they have the right to opt you out of any lesson that they feel is inappropriate or unnecessary for you.

When a teacher offers to answer any question of a sexual nature, she’s actually undermining the law with respect to parental rights. The atmosphere that your teacher has created — in which students make up questions that subject everyone to graphic presentations about sex — is exactly what must be avoided in order to preserve the rights of parents to direct the education of their children.

The fact is, she’s wrong — there are such things as topics that are off limits. It’s true that some folks believe, as she does, that all matters pertaining to sex should be allowable in a high school health class, but state and local school boards create sex education curricula that must be followed. Most states have specific laws that prevent a teacher from adding to the curriculum as your teacher is doing. And while your teacher may be right — some children are genuinely curious about sexual matters — it’s not her job as a health teacher to provide this information in the classroom.
As a freshman, I can understand why you wouldn’t want your parents to make a big deal about this problem, but as a parent, I know I would want my children to tell me what was happening. Suppose you tell your parents about this situation but ask them to help you devise a strategy to deal with this problem on your own (at least initially) rather than go to bat on your behalf. It sounds like you need to meet with the principal or a school counselor.

With a little research, you can easily find the rules in your state about sex education and health curricula. When you learn what the law says, you can let your teacher and principal know that you no longer want to be subjected to graphic discussions about sex that aren’t meant to be included in the health curriculum.

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Copyright 2013 Marybeth Hicks