Zack Jarrett

The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writer.

Tucson Unified School District’s existing sex-ed curriculum is inadequate to the task of preparing students for adulthood. I should know; my daughter took Health, which includes sex-ed, in high school last year. The current program focuses exclusively on heterosexual relationships, marriage before sex, protection of virtue, and presents students with a false choice between abstinence and a calamitous future of pregnancy, poverty, sexually transmitted disease, and misery.

It does nothing to prepare students for the messy and complicated world of early adulthood. It is fear-based and exhibits one goal: to scare teens into abstinence. As someone who was once an invincible teenager, believe me when I say that fear does not help kids make better decisions; knowledge, strategies, and forethought do.

I have read every word of the proposed Family Life Curriculum, and it is so much more than sex-ed. It espouses five main values: 1. Show respect for the values and uniqueness of each individual. 2. Show respect for every family unit. 3. Accept responsibility for one’s own actions. 4. Accept responsibility to protect self and others. 5. Accept responsibility as a member of society. I believe the proposed curriculum teaches those lofty values and prepares students for real life.

Throughout the curriculum there is an emphasis on social-emotional topics of personal responsibility, family dynamics, respect, self-esteem, decision making, communication, relationships, media, bullying, empathy, self-determination, personal safety and human interdependence. These are important topics that reflect our shared values and should be addressed year round.

The curriculum teaches that individual and familial differences do not make people better or worse. It teaches that everyone deserves dignity and respect regardless of those differences.

The curriculum respects that it is the responsibility of parents to be their child’s first teacher in all matters while recognizing that it is our shared responsibility to make sure every child has access to the knowledge and skills needed for life.

The curriculum protects the innocence of youth. There is absolutely no sexually suggestive content or topics presented to fourth, fifth or sixth graders. For those students, the focus is on social-emotional learning, puberty, basic reproductive anatomy, hygiene and personal safety.

The curriculum for seventh grade, eighth grade and high school honestly addresses the fact that youths are having sex. The CDC’s 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance summary reports that 9% of females and 22.4% of males have had sex before age 13 and that 20.7% females and 27.3% of males have had sex by ninth grade.

The curriculum for older students uses plausible real world scenarios to engage student learning in topics such as how to evaluate relationships, recognize good and bad peer pressure, and analyze the influence of media. It addresses honestly and candidly the topics of contraception, pregnancy, parenting, adoption, elective abortion, sexually transmitted infections and personal safety from sexual harassment, abuse and rape.

Some may argue the curriculum will encourage youth promiscuity. It will not. When I took driver’s ed, my teacher taught us what to do if a tire blew out, how to drive defensively to avoid accidents, and what to do should an accident occur. He didn’t leave out the tough, challenging, uncomfortable parts. He addressed the hard parts because they were hard! The point of the class was not to encourage dangerous driving, but to make us safe drivers.

The point of Family Life Curriculum is to make better adults, and this curriculum achieves it. It is a model the likes of which should be adopted nationwide, and I wholeheartedly support it.

Zack Jarrett is a native Tucsonan and a graduate of Amphitheater Public Schools. He is the son of a retired TUSD teacher, the husband of an Amphitheater administrator, the proud father of a TUSD graduate, and an advocate for public schools.