To the Editor:
For too long, we have left young people behind when it comes to empowering them to make their own decisions about dating and relationships. The requirements in Massachusetts that schools teach sexual education does not require the lessons to be medically accurate, age appropriate, or inclusive. That is a serious mistake.
As an openly gay student at the Greater Lawrence Technical School in Andover, I’ve had the experience of our sexual education classes being provided by an aggressive male gym teacher, who continued to point me out during the classes stating that for me things would be “different.” The class didn’t provide me with any information regarding what a healthy, safe relationship would look like with other men, something that many high school students think about. I found the experience embarrassing and didn’t have supportive family members who’d be willing to provide such information. We can do better.
An Act Relative to Healthy Youth— or the Healthy Youth Act (S.318/H.673)— will give Massachusetts youth the foundation they need to protect their health and plan their futures. The legislation will ensure that districts offering sex education provide age-appropriate, medically accurate information. It will require those districts to teach consent, the benefits of delaying sex, how to build healthy relationships, and how to prevent pregnancy and STIs when a person does have sex.
It will also require the curricula used to be LGBTQ-inclusive. And it will enhance the ability of parents and guardians to exempt their children from school-based sexual education.
We need to empower youth with the education and resources that will help them build healthy relationships. They need to learn what a healthy relationship is and what it is not, so they can avoid sexually transmitted disease, infections, and instances of violence and mistreatment.
We need to support young people to be able to make their own decisions in an ever-changing world that is moving faster, not slower.
Please contact your state representative and state senator in support of the Healthy Youth Act so that every school district throughout Massachusetts will be required to provide this information to every student. It’s better when we are all on the same page. Let’s do our young people justice and give them these necessary life tools.
Matthew J. Shochat
The letter writer is an associate member of the Boston Ward 17 Democratic Committee and a Dorchester resident.