The United States has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the
developed world. In Palm Beach County,
13 teenagers per week gave birth to a child during 2013 (source: Children's
Services Council of Palm Beach County). Additionally, the 2012 teen birth rate in Palm Beach County was 22.1 live births/1,000 females aged 15-19 (source: Palm Beach County Counts), compared to 4.6 in Japan and 5.1 in the Netherlands (source: United Nations).
I believe our sex education model is outdated and needs to reflect the
current science that is recommended by leading public health entities,
including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), AIDS Healthcare
Foundation (AHF), and our country's leading public health universities (i.e.,
Johns Hopkins, Emory, UCLA, Harvard and UNC).
I absolutely believe that condoms and comprehensive sex education must be available in all of our high schools, and perhaps even as early as middle school. Nobody likes to think that their children are having sex, but the public health data are consistent. Kids are indeed having sex, and we need to do the morally responsible thing by educating them about sex and available contraception and providing them with the necessary means to protect themselves, should they decide to make that choice.
According to the CDC, in 2013, 46.9% of Palm Beach County teens have had sexual intercourse, and 34% did not use a condom (Source: CDC Youth Risk Behavior Survey Fact Sheet - Palm Beach County)
Sex education programs in Palm Beach County Schools should be utilizing the Family Life and Human Sexuality curriculum, a comprehensive sex education program developed by the CDC and recently adopted by the Broward County School Board in May 2014. This would help establish, promote and support health-enhancing behaviors for students in all grade levels--from pre-Kindergarten through grade 12.
Currently, Palm Beach County schools are using a district developed "abstinence-plus" curriculum entitled "Human Growth and Development," which is not sufficient. For example, LGBT issues and instructions for proper condom use are not addressed in the current curriculum. Why is this a problem? Aside from the obvious issue of having a teen pregnancy rate that is almost 7 times higher than other developed countries, the 2nd leading cause of death among young people age 10-24 is suicide, and LGBT youth are 4 times more likely to take their own life. Thus, we need to support our LGBT students and not exclude them from the discussion when it comes to sex education.
Moreover, Palm Beach County Schools have only one on-site health department clinic in the entire district (i.e., the Rams Clinic at Palm Beach Lakes H.S.). If elected to the school board, I would work with legislators to secure additional funding to build more health clinics at district schools. The clinics are funded by the state health department and do not take money away from local district schools.
I also support mandatory human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccinations for boys and girls at age 11 or 12, per CDC recommendations. The vaccine, Gardasil, manufactured by Merck, is proven safe and effective at preventing cervical cancer and genital warts. Parents would have the option to opt-out their children from this program.
Lastly, I support the ability of students to test for pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) at the school health clinics.