Students advocate for sex education in schools

ASU graduate students are working with help from Planned Parenthood to educate Arizona’s youth on sex education through a media-based awareness campaign.

Five social work graduate students started an intervention as part of a class to help lower the rate of teen pregnancies in Arizona. They are working to educate ASU students about sex education facts and statistics.

The students decided to intervene after Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix, introduced Senate Bill 1457.

The bill would have required Arizona school districts to provide medically accurate and comprehensive sex education, including education about contraception and disease prevention. Currently, Arizona has an abstinence-only education policy. SB 1457 failed in the Senate in early February.

“Since we knew the bill did not have a good chance of being heard, we chose to do a media-based intervention to create awareness-building amongst the college-aged population,” said Alicia de la Vega, a social work graduate student who is part of the group.

The students chose to intervene because they were concerned with the high average of sexually active teens who need contraceptive services and supplies in Arizona. The group hopes to show Arizona voters the need for comprehensive sex education at both the high school and collegiate level.

“We chose this topic because Arizona has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the country, yet we don't educate young people about sex,” de la Vega said. “What we can do is continue to educate the public so there can be changes made in the future.”

Arizona has the third-highest pregnancy rate among teens in the nation, according to the National Campaign to Prevent Teenage Pregnancy website.

The intervention began with research on teenage and unplanned pregnancy and a drafted proposal of the intervention plan.

The plan proposes finding various media sources to publicize teen pregnancy and sex education facts and get the attention of college-aged voters.

As part of their intervention, the students have posted flyers around the Downtown campus.

“We are also working on teaming up with the Cronkite students to have a segment on one of their blogs,” de la Vega said. “We have written letters to our legislators and will be posting flyers around campus as well.”

Michelle Steinberg, the public policy manager and lobbyist for Planned Parenthood Arizona who is working with the graduate students on their intervention, said advocating through media is a good way to spread the message of SB 1457.

She said teen pregnancy numbers have risen “because Arizona embraces the abstinence promotion in education and does not incorporate prevention methods.

“Arizona is at such risk,” Steinberg said.

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