A new type of sex education program: NDSU professor: Classes will help cut through misconceptions that circulateTwo North Dakota State University faculty members are teaming up with Planned Parenthood to launch a new sex education program to prepare local teens for the realities of relationships and being an adult.
By: By Ryan Johnson, Forum News Service, The Jamestown Sun
FARGO — Two North Dakota State University faculty members are teaming up with Planned Parenthood to launch a new sex education program to prepare local teens for the realities of relationships and being an adult.
Brandy Randall and Molly Secor-Turner were notified in September they were awarded a $1.2 million, three-year federal grant to launch the program — after North Dakota officials turned down the funding through the Affordable Care Act. About 45 states accepted the money, and many launched their programs two years ago.
Randall said the Reach One Teach One North Dakota classes that will start up in late January won’t encourage teenagers to have sex, but allow them to seriously discuss the topic in a setting that could cut through the misconceptions that circulate through high school locker rooms and hallways.
“It’s trying to get kids to really think about this hugely significant part of their lives with facts,” she said. “Sex is all around us.”
The associate professor of human development and family science said parents often choose to stick their heads in the sand because they’re uncomfortable talking about it or even knowing their children are thinking about it.
Without opening up the discussion, she said, teens can believe the rumors they hear or ideas they see on movies, TV shows or the Internet, often leaving them unprepared to prevent sexually transmitted infections, unwanted pregnancies and other consequences.
Randall said she’s still surprised by what her college students tell her they believed while they were in high school, including the notion that they couldn’t get pregnant if they had sex standing up.
“We know as adults that that’s just totally false,” she said. “But when you have these kinds of beliefs that are prevalent among young people, and because they don’t have adults who know what they’re talking about say, ‘Oh, that’s really not the case, this is how you can get pregnant,’ we let those be the louder voices.”
A new partnership
Secor-Turner said the grant must be used to offer comprehensive sex education that also teaches adulthood preparation skills like healthy relationships, setting goals, adolescent development and making the right decisions.
The funding also requires a rigorously evaluated program with evidence to back up its effectiveness, which is why she said they partnered with the regional Planned Parenthood to offer a program that’s well-developed.
As the main grantees, the NDSU faculty members and two research assistants will be closely involved in the courses.
“We’re tailoring the programs that they already do, using some of their expertise, blending it with what we know to be the science of what makes great comprehensive sexuality education programs and creating a program tailored for this grant and for North Dakota,” she said.
Secor-Turner said they’ve reached out to about a dozen community organizations that already work with teens to find youths ages 14 to 19 who will go through the 12-week courses. The program is voluntary, meaning only teens who want to participate and who have parental consent can get involved.
Randall said the plan is to run two courses at a time with about 10 teens in each course. By the end of the three-year grant, they hope to talk to about 360 youths in Fargo.
The classes also focus on peer education, with the goal of having the teens share what they’ve learned with friends, classmates and even their families.
She said the program will be a learning experience for the researchers. During the last six months of the grant, she and Randall will put together best practices and offer suggestions on starting similar programs in other communities across the state.
For more information or to participate in Reach One Teach One North Dakota, email ndsu.rotond @ndsu.edu.