Michigan youth groups urge inclusive sex-ed curricula

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Michigan youth groups seeks to create a more inclusive sexual education curriculum

Youth advocates for comprehensive sexual education are urging school districts to adopt curricula that use inclusive and anatomically-correct language.

In Michigan, sex education is not required - although HIV/AIDS education is - and when it is taught, it's supposed to stress abstinence.

Gracia Perala is a member of the MY Access Youth Advisory Council, part of the Michigan Organization for Adolescent Sexual Health, or MOASH. She said it's important to have safe spaces to discuss topics such as consent, boundaries, birth control and more.

"Uninclusive sex education really leads to a lot of misinformation and uninformed youth," said Perala. "And so I think that right now, a lot of sex-ed programs are insufficient, and that there's an alarmingly low volume of specific resources tailored to specific identities."

Roughly 35% of Michigan high school students reported they had had sexual intercourse according to the most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey data. And just over 45% of sexually active students reported using a condom.

Research shows students who receive comprehensive sex ed are less likely to participate in unprotected sex that can lead to unplanned pregnancies or sexually transmitted infections.

Devin Goldstein is disability access coordinator and MY Access Youth Advisory Council facilitator with MOASH. He said youths need to be given scientific and accurate information to understand the changes their bodies are going through.

"Regardless of disability, you will go through puberty," said Goldstein. "It might look different, but not being taught because someone doesn't know exactly how your body will respond is what leads to so many negative outcomes, especially for disabled youths."

Goldstein added that youths with disabilities often have been left out of conversations around sex education, even though research shows they are at greater risk for negative health impacts, sexual abuse or intimate partner violence.

MOASH is hosting a summit for youths with disabilities across the state later this fall, to create a safe space to talk about these issues and empower folks to advocate for inclusive resources.

Originally published on August 30, 2021 by Michigan News Connection. It is republished here with permission.

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