The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writer.
We are community-based primary care physicians in Tucson who care for youth from all backgrounds. We have cared for young teens who are pregnant, those with sexually transmitted infections and teens who chose to wait to have sex. We have cared for kids and adolescents who are questioning their sexuality, those who are transitioning their gender and others who have attempted suicide because of bullying.
We regularly see the negative consequences of teens being poorly informed about their health, their bodies and their sexuality. While it would be ideal for parents to teach about sex and sexuality in the home, we rarely experience this done in a way that best empowers teens with the information they need to make informed decisions and protect themselves fully.
The Tucson Unified School District has an opportunity to make a positive impact on the lives of youth by adopting an age-appropriate, medically-accurate, comprehensive and inclusive curriculum. We agree with the medical community, supported by every single major medical organization in the U.S., that this is in the best interest of students.
Among the organizations that have issued recommendations and policy statements encouraging schools to adopt a comprehensive and inclusive sexual education curriculum based on scientific research are the American Academy of Pediatrics , the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Psychological Association .
Each of these organizations has over 50,000 physician and health professional members, and reviews all the evidence available to drive policy statements and positions. There is consensus in the medical community on what is medically accurate.
The importance of teaching about safer sex practices is further evident by the fact that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than half of US high school students report having sexual contact. A comprehensive curriculum will give teens their best chance for health.
Finally, it is vital for the curriculum to be inclusive of concepts including sexuality and gender. For those students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or another sexual minority (LGBTQ+), it is important to see themselves and their families reflected in the curriculum. For those students who are questioning who they are, the curriculum serves as an opportunity to learn terms and concepts that can help them better understand what their feelings mean.
Inclusive curriculum, however, is as important for the majority of the students who are not LGBTQ+. Teens in Tucson are not blind to what is going on around them. They recognize the differences and diversity inherent in humanity that they experience day in and day out.
An inclusive curriculum does not promote, nor does it recruit. It describes. Understanding the variation through medically-accepted vocabulary enables students to make sense of what they see and experience amongst their peers and in our community.
An inclusive curriculum will empower all TUSD students to make informed decisions about their health and body and better understand and describe the world around them. We join the mainstream physician community and call on the TUSD Governing Board to put our students first and adopt this curriculum update.
Tracey Kurtzman, M.D., is a pediatrician. Ravi Grivois-Shah, M.D., is also a candidate for TUSD’s Governing Board.
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