Sex Ed Program Being Re-evaluated

Twenty-eight percent of Andover students have had sex, 42 percent have engaged in oral sex and 20 percent are in committed relationships, according to the The Phillipian’s 2013 State of the Academy survey. Despite metrics that indicate a high number of students who are sexually active, no more than seven hours of a student’s Andover career is dedicated to sex education.

Although no concrete plans have been made for a full sex education course, Andover’s Sex Education working group—a group of faculty created last spring to discuss potential changes to the sex education curriculum at Andover—is currently evaluating and crowdsourcing improvements to Andover’s sex ed program.

Andover students who enter as Juniors or Lowers receive sex education in one class of Physical Education (PE), three Lower Personal and Community Education (PACE) classes, Biology classes and dorm meetings about room visits, according to Dr. Amy Patel, Medical Director of Isham Health Center and member of the Sex Education working group.

Students who enter as new Uppers, Seniors or Postgraduates (PGs), however, do not attend the PE sex ed class or PACE classes. Additionaly, day students do not take part in the room visiting meetings, which are supposed to offer a safe space to discuss healthy relationships, according to Patel.

“If we value sex education and sexual health within our community, we have to determine a reasonably consistent way to have people experience that curriculum…I think we owe it to everyone in this school to have those experiences,” said Frank Tipton, member of the Sex Education working group and Dean of West Quad North Cluster.

Last spring, the working group adjusted the PE sex ed class to encourage discussion about Andover-specific situations. The class now lasts a double period and uses statistics on sexuality at Andover taken from a school-wide health survey, according to Katherine Vozeolas, Director of Nursing at Isham.

The working group worked with dorms to standardize and broaden the reach of sex ed resources, according to Patel. Last spring, Isham nurses held a second room visit discussion at Stimson House to discuss issues of sex, sexuality and contraceptive services offered by Isham.

“I think [the Isham talk] was really helpful, because a lot of the times when it’s being led by House Counselor, it’s hard because they’re so involved with your lives, so it was a good balance between getting the information and not actually having the house counselors there,” said Melanie Oliva ’14, a proctor in Stimson.

Other dorms, including Fuess, are planning a second sex education discussion independent of the sex ed working group to further the conversation on self-respect and sexuality within the dorm. The discussions, conducted in small groups by the proctors, hope to be another comfortable place for students to discuss their questions about sex and sexuality on campus, according to Harry Wright ’14, a proctor in Fuess.

Sex ed extends beyond the classroom or dorm and into Isham’s clinical realm. Before being prescribed birth control, female students discuss their decision to have or not have sex with an Isham Nurse Practitioner.

“Some students don’t feel that they can have that conversation with any other adult, and that’s a safe, confidential space for them to do be able to do that. And at the end of the conversation, they might say, ‘I don’t think sex is for me,’ or they might say, ‘I’m really ready and committed and feel really comfortable and sex is the right option for me.’ So whatever choice they make, we want them to make the safest choice possible,” said Patel.

Patel said that the lack of precedent is the biggest challenge facing the working group.

Though no formal plans have been made, the administration is considering creating sex ed through requirements in an online sex education course that students could complete in modules, allowing students who enter at any year to take the course.

“If we might be able to do some of the more biological or the nuts and bolts discussions or education online, then some of that time that teachers and students are in a room together can be used to take that conversation to the next level, ” said Patel.

Tipton said, “It feels a little bit like we’ve got these puzzle pieces scattered around, and we haven’t yet created a comprehensive image and then we have to pull those pieces together. And by pulling those pieces together, we can also identify what’s missing and we can decide what, as a community, we really care about.”

Students express need for new program:

State of the Academy 2013: