Educators, social workers and others involved in sex education will gather in Des Moines today for the annual “Eyes Open Iowa” conference. Keynote speaker James Wagoner, president of Advocates for Youth, says the Iowa summit is coinciding with some very encouraging news.
“The federal government has returned to science and evidence-based programs for teen pregnancy and it was announced last week that the state of Iowa will be receiving $500,000 in comprehensive sex ed dollars,” Wagoner says. “I’m in to talk to my colleagues in Iowa about how best to move ahead to protect young people against early pregnancy.”
Wagoner says he’d advocate some of that money be invested in a program called PREP. “The PREP program goes in the school, it’s the Personal Responsibility Education Program,” Wagoner says. “It’ll be available to schools to use to educate young people about how to prevent early pregnancy, STDs and HIV, stressing both abstinence and the use of contraception.”
He says sex ed starts in schools with kids as young as kindergarten, with instruction for their protection on “safe touching” and strangers. It progresses to more anatomical and biological instruction, as well as contraception, in middle and high school.
Wagoner says parents are the key element in the sex ed equation, not just telling their kids the facts, but also transmitting the morals. “Parents are the prime and most important sex educators for their children,” he says. “That’s really where the values come from. Schools are critical in providing the basic information so young people are informed. Being informed and being educated is a cornerstone of personal responsibility but parents really do need to speak to their young people early and often.” He says schools may teach the “how” but parents need to address the “when.”
Several workshops will be held during today’s conference at Drake University, including one called, “Once Bitten, Twice Shy: The Influence of Vampire Obsession on Youth Sexuality.” Participants in that workshop will examine how media romanticize violence and influence youth perceptions of gender roles, partner equality, abstinence and virginity.
Learn more about the conference here.