Oakland youth's new vision for sex ed

Monday, September 10, 2012

by Amanda Wake

The Clovis Unified School District in Central California was just sued by the ACLU of Northern California for teaching abstinence-only education and not complying with California state sex education policy. In Oakland, the youth of Forward Together have found that their own school district is not meeting the state sex ed standards, and have just launched their Sex Ed the City campaign to change that.

This campaign launch has been in the making for a year now, and I’m so proud to say that it’s bursting out with a bang. We’ve just released Forward Together’s youth-generated research report called “Let’s Get it On: Oakland Youth’s New Vision for Sex Education.” Our report documents the state of sex education in the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD). Over 500 surveys, five focus groups, and 30 workshops later, Forward Together’s youth program participants have put together a comprehensive analysis of the sex education OUSD students are and are not getting. This is the first assessment of its kind on OUSD’s sex education, and the whole process was led by the hard work of our youth programs. The Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) process was envisioned and implemented by our youth participants, from the survey creation and distribution, to focus group facilitation, data analysis, and report writing.

This compelling report also includes recommendations for how decision makers in the OUSD, the city of Oakland, and Alameda County can bring OUSD’s sex education into compliance with state law and improve the lives of young people in Oakland. Sex education is not a side issue, it encompasses information that supports students in their everyday decisions. Our vision is for sex education to include topics like healthy and unhealthy relationships, sexual health information for all sexualities, sexual orientation, gender, problematic gender roles, body image, pregnancy options, caregiver communication, and safety. We believe the more information young people have, the more informed decision they will make and the better students they will be.

This vision for sex education was expressed in full force at our Oakland Speaks event in August. Through poetry, music, skits, dance, and video our youth made audience members laugh, cry, and understand more fully what an important issue sexual education is to young people’s lives.

I believe in creating a community where young people can be exactly who they want to be at all times. That is why Mai, Jack, and I do this work, and that is why I’m so proud to work with the incredible youth of Forward Together, who inspire me every day.

You can stay updated about our Sex Ed the City campaign and see more from the Oakland Speaks event by liking Forward Together Youth on Facebook or joining our mailing list.

We are excited to move forward together with all of you, as we transform our vision for sex education in Oakland and beyond into a reality.

Amanda Wake is the Youth Organizing Manager at Forward Together.