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Story by Abigail Karlin-Resnick, executive director, Health Connected.
Much has been made in recent years of the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses. To address this, many higher education institutions have implemented sexual assault trainings for entering students.
This is a step in the right direction, but Health Connected, a local health education organization, has worked with local schools to ensure that high school students are prepared to have conversations about consent well before they become independent young adults.
Health Connected is a leading provider of sexual health education in the Bay Area and California. Health Connected's four sexual health curricula have been designed and developed in South San Mateo County and are distributed nationally. In the 2016-17 school year, Health Connected will provide sexual health education courses to approximately 10,000 students in Peninsula and South Bay classrooms.
Health Connected implements age-appropriate sexual harassment and sexual assault education as early as the fifth grade, but in recent years has put particular emphasis on these conversations with older high school students.
Health Connected's newest curriculum, Teen Talk High School Refresher, builds on sexual safety content presented in their earlier courses, with a specific focus on how to identify potentially problematic situations and intervene in those situations as a bystander or friend.
Sexual assault is not the only potential challenge older teens face. According to a 2014 report by the National Center for Health Statistics, two-thirds of teen births occurred to girls ages 18 and 19. Additionally, in 2015, the federal Office of Adolescent Health noted that there are few sexual health education programs currently designed specifically for older teens and limited research on these programs.
Health Connected developed the Refresher course in response to requests from students, parents, and teachers in the Sequoia Union High School District and began implementing the course in select classes at Sequoia and Menlo-Atherton high schools in 2014. The course has since expanded to Woodside High School.
In 2016, Health Connected received a grant from a national foundation to conduct an initial evaluation of the Teen Talk High School Refresher course. This small-scale evaluation will provide a research base and inform the adolescent sexual health field on the value of providing multiple "doses" of sexual health education in high school.
While this research is an important step to bringing this critical education to more teens, it's comments from students themselves that demonstrate the value of this programming.
One student wrote: "Without (health educators) like you, so many teens wouldn't know about STIs or how to get them treated. I also learned so many things I didn't know that seem so obvious to me now. For example, I had no idea that consent is only consent if both parties are sober."
Go to health-connected.org or call (650) 367-1937 for more information. The address is Health Connected, 480 James Ave., Redwood City, CA 94062.