Melissa’s Musings: Parents must face reality about subject

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 18, 2002


Forget “Neverland.” It does not exist, not anymore. On every television channel, on every playground, in every community, at every school, children face violence, drugs and sex head-on. Innocence is quickly lost. Children are forced to grow up too soon.

Most middle and high school students know more about drug culture and sex than educators, parents and even some college students. The pressure to experiment, to fit in, has become as much a part of school life as reading, writing and arithmetic. It is something students face daily, something that has become so common it fails to shock even on the most basic level. Whether parents tell them or not, children know what drug use encompasses and they know what sex is.

Children are growing up faster, but that does not mean they are growing up informed. They learn from peers and from television, not from informed adults. Why? We are afraid for them to know. Somehow, we reason, talking about drugs and sex condones drug use and promiscuity. But would we rather have them find out on their own?

St. John the Baptist Parish School Board, in a 10-0 decision, boldly agreed Thursday to have a pre-med student go into high school classrooms to talk to students about HIV and AIDS. The guest speaker, a third-year medical student at St. Louis University School of Medicine and a 1996 St. John Student of the Year, proposed the lecture and listed his objectives at the last board meeting. The lecture will include discussions of HIV and its progression, how HIV is diagnosed and treated and, of course, the dreaded discussion on abstinence and safe sex.

Parents will be asked to sign a permission slip before their children are allowed to view the presentation. Some will consent. Others, too afraid, will deny their children this opportunity to learn the real facts about sex. I cannot say that I understand that obstinacy. How can we deny that sex exists and that, at some point, our children will be faced with it? How can we, as parents and educators, refuse to prepare our children for that moment?

Sexual education is something that I have grown up with. The first sexual health presentation I heard, outside of a regular science class, was held at my elementary school during my sixth-grade year. Since then, I have been exposed to sexual health lectures in middle school, high school and even college. So far, not one of those speakers has said to me, “It’s OK to go have sex.” In fact, every authority on the subject has promoted abstinence first, precautionary measures second. If that is the case, what parent would want their child to miss out on the lecture?

The pressure on teens is increasing, as is the spectrum of sexually transmitted diseases known. It is time for permission slips to become a mere formality . . . or better yet, to go the way of the dinosaur. Parents should want teens to have all the pertinent information to help them make the right choices. Information, not silence, is the best way to protect children.

MELISSA PEACOCK is a staff reporter for L’Observateur. She may be reached at (985) 652-9545.