Sex education in spotlight

By Brendan Manning, Sam Hurley

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Hawke's Bay principals are reviewing a controversial new report claiming sex education in schools promotes sexual behaviour among young people.


The report was commissioned by conservative lobby group Family First and written by United States psychiatrist Dr Miriam Grossman.

The report - R18: Sexuality Education in New Zealand - A Critical Review- analysed various sex education resources and has been sent to every New Zealand intermediate and secondary school.

It found sex education resources recommended to adolescents were "seriously flawed" and claimed the overall message to young people was that sex was okay as long as you used a condom.

Napier Intermediate principal Wendy Gray said while she hadn't fully reviewed the report, it contained some "quite hard hitting statements".

"Basically, we don't teach sexuality education, we teach pubertal change, which is about what's actually happening to adolescents' bodies.

"We don't take it any further than that."

Dr Grossman said while most of the resources claimed to promote sexual health, they offered little encouragement of restraint or self-discipline.

"Instead, students are informed that at any age, sexual freedom is a right.

"Sex is seen as risky only when it's unprotected. The efficacy of condoms is overstated - in some cases, vastly so.

"Young people are led to believe that sex is easily divorced from emotional attachment."

Dr Grossman has regularly spoken about sex education in America, but has come under fire for her strongly conservative views and church affiliations.

During a visit to New Zealand last year, Dr Grossman said sex education should present the "ideal" - one sexual partnership for life, delayed until adulthood.

Arohanui Christian Centre parishioner Margaret Burgess said the use of the Family Planning programme encouraged a "sexual liberation" where people could have sex with anyone, anytime, anywhere.

"Sex to me is about marriage - teaching children that it's ok to have sex before marriage causes a lot of emotional damage, especially to the girls."

She said after witnessing the sexual education programme her daughters were taught it has over the years become "progressively worse and worse".

Sex education is compulsory in New Zealand schools up until the end of Year 10. However, parents have the right to withdraw their child.

In the early years children learn about body parts, and identifying gender differences. Then, from late primary onwards they learn about the physical and emotional development of puberty, and about reproduction and sexual behaviour.

Family First director Bob McCoskrie referred to cases where 14-year-old girls were taught how to put condoms on plastic penises, and a female teacher imitated the noises she made during orgasm to her class of 15-year-olds.

Principals Federation president Phil Harding said sex education in schools was sometimes criticised for revealing too much, but it was vital to discuss with children so they could

The report's release follows publicity last week about an 11-year-old Auckland boy who fathered a child after having sex with his best friend's 36-year-old mother. Hawke's Bay Secondary School Association president and Napier Girls' High School principal Mary Nixon refused to comment and said the report had nothing to do with school curriculum.

Napier's Sacred Heart College principal Steve Bryan and William Colenso College principal Daniel Murfitt both said they had not had a chance to read the report.

Meanwhile, Taradale High School principal Stephen Hensman, Napier Boys' High School principal Ross Brown all declined to comment on the report.

Central Hawke's Bay College principal Lance Christiansen and Wairoa College principal Brian Simpson could not be reached for comment. Hawke's Bay ranked third in New Zealand for cases of chlamydia per 100,000 residents in the latest report for the Ministry of Health.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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