Most SexEd programs in public schools started in the 1980s. And, since then, calling it "education" has been a bit of a misnomer. Since 1982, the federal government has invested over $1.7 billion on abstinence-only programs. And a recent review of SexEd programs nationwide found that over 80% of them were teaching blatantly inaccurate information. For example, some public schools were teaching kids that birth control pills are only 20% effective in preventing pregnancy, that latex condoms cause cancer, that HIV can be transmitted through sweat or tears, and half of homosexual teen boys already have the virus (Orenstein, 2016). Even the good programs, that teach factual information, only have 1-2 hours to do it in.
Do you remember your SexEd?
If your SexEd was in the 1980s, you probably remember a squeeky AV cart, wheeled out by your gym teacher or another equally awkward instructor. You might have had a VHS tape, full of people with amazing bang-height and scrunchy ponytails. Maybe you got in trouble for giggling. Maybe you just tried not to make eye contact with anyone, especially if you thought you might be gay or trans.
It has not changed since the 1980s. Not in San Francisco. And definitely not in Dallas or Jackson.
Today, in the San Francisco Unified School district, we still use a VHS tape. We still hope that a teacher with no special support can handle the content with grace and equanimity. We still make no mention of the existence of gay or trans kids, we make no effort to help kids think through gender fairness and kindness, and we leave all these big hard lessons to a single 1 hour class in the 5th grade, rumors between kids, and the internet.
By age 11
more than a quarter of children learned about sex by watching hardcore porn online (Martellozzo et al, 2017).
By age 15
two-thirds of children learned about sex by watching hardcore porn online. At this age, 53% of boys think that porn is "realistic" (Martellozzo et al, 2017)
By age 17
most young people have had sexual intercourse, 21% without contraception and most outside of a "caring relationship." Only 41% of girls and 62% of boys describe their first time as “wanted” (Martinez et al, 2015).
By age 20
one out of four girls experience sexual assault, typically during the first year of college. 90% of these assaults are committed by boys who are repeat offenders, each one assaulting an average of 6 young women (Online College Social Life Survey, 2016).
We, the parents of San Francisco public school kids, decided to do something about it.
We are Bloom, a collective of diverse parents of public school kids. We are Muslim, Catholic, Jewish, Buddhist, and Check-All. We speak different languages, manage deeply disparate sizes of bank accounts, and we are conservative and liberal. But we have a few precious beliefs in common. The things that really matter. We love soccer. And, least we forget, we are incredibly worried about our kids growing up in a complex modern world without their schools, teachers, and families to guide them through puberty, sexuality, and love.
Our collection of Bloom Playbooks launch in December 2019. These are conversation-starters, games, and activities that inspire parents and kids to talk about biology, safety, and empathy at home.
With our partners, we are fundraising $1.5 million to launch our first collection of Playbooks for families. Together, we will launch a pilot with one San Francisco public school in Fall 2020 and offering our playbooks to districts, schools, teachers, and parents worldwide. Join us.