New Sex Education Program in Monroe County Schools
Womankind, Inc. received the Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP) grant from the Department of Health and Human Services in September of 2012. The grant award is for $600,000.00 to be used over a three-year period for the implementation of comprehensive sex education in Monroe County School District. The grant includes two distinct curricula tailored for middle and high school students: the Draw the Line/Respect the Line curriculum for grades 6-8, and the Safer Choices curriculum for grades 9-10.
Draw the Line/Respect the Line (grades 6-8) is a three-year classroom-based program that was evaluated in three school districts in urban Northern California between 1997 and 1999. Using group discussions, small group activities, and role playing, the program aims to delay the initiation of sex in order to reduce the incidence of STDs, including HIV/AIDS, and pregnancy.
Draw the Line/Respect the Line was designed to be used in a classroom setting. The goal of the program is to encourage middle school-aged youth to delay having sexual intercourse. This abstinence-focused program also focuses on developing teens’ interpersonal and intrapersonal skills so that they can set sexual limits. Among sexually experienced teens, the program focuses on reducing sexual activity and encouraging condom use.
Draw the Line/Respect the Line includes 19 classroom sessions that can be given during a standard 45-50 minute classroom period. During the first year, sixth grade students participate in five lessons focused on using refusal skills in non-sexual situations. In the second year, seventh grade students receive seven lessons that address setting sexual limits, understanding the consequences of unplanned sex, handling pressures regarding sexual intercourse, and practicing refusal skills. In the final year, eighth grade students receive seven lessons on practicing refusal and interpersonal skills and participating in activities regarding HIV/STD education. The program uses social cognitive theory and social inoculation theory based on the assumption that knowledge and constant skill practice can influence sexual risk-taking behaviors.
The primary message conveyed through Draw the Line/Respect the Line is that postponing sexual activity during adolescence is the healthiest choice. Program sessions encourage participants to discuss social and peer pressures to have sex, to set limits, to abstain from sexual intercourse, and to stay clear of risky situations. Draw the Line/Respect the Line also provides information on HIV, other STDs, and pregnancy prevention, as well as correct condom use; however, the main message is that postponing sexual activity is the healthiest choice.
Safer Choices (grades 9-10) is a multi-component STD, HIV, and teen pregnancy prevention program for high school students. The program aims to reduce the frequency of unprotected sex among high-school-age students by reducing the number of sexually active students and by increasing condom use among students who are sexually active. It seeks to motivate behavioral change by increasing students’ knowledge about HIV and STDs as well as by promoting more positive norms and attitudes toward abstinence and condom use at the student, school, and community levels.
The program contains five components, and begins with schools establishing a Health Promotion Council, composed of teachers, students, parents, administrators, and community members. The Council has lead responsibility for organizing and planning the other four components of the program.
The second component is the two-year curriculum, which consists of 11 lessons in level 1, taught during 9th grade, and 10 lessons in level 2, taught during 10th grade. The curriculum uses interactive activities to provide information about HIV and STDs; teach effective condom use, refusal skills, and decision-making skills; and promote positive attitudes and norms about refusing sex and using condoms. Peer leaders, selected by their classmates, facilitate several activities.
In the third component, Peer Resources and School Environment, each school convenes a student organization to reinforce the curricular messages in the broader school environment through school-wide activities, events, and services. Suggested activities include publishing articles in the school newspaper, presenting dramatic skits, or organizing speakers and assemblies.
For the fourth component, Parent Education, schools engage parents in the program’s goals through newsletters, child-parent discussions on sexuality topics, and parent education workshops or speakers. This outreach and engagement is strengthened in the fifth component, School-Community Linkages, which seeks to connect students with community resources such as local information hotlines, clinics, and testing services. Students receive homework assignments that require them to find out more about the services available in the community.
Womankind has already begun preparing teachers in Monroe County schools to implement the Draw the Line/Respect the Line and Safer Choices curriculum, and is excited to announce that students will begin receiving these vital lessons this spring.