Sex ed Whose job is it?

May 05, 2006|by JULIE E. GREENE

Kami Hoffman started talking to her son about safe sex when he was 14, the age she was when she became pregnant with him.

"We're very open. He knows how hard our life was in the beginning," said Hoffman, 31, of Boonsboro.

Codey, 16, also knows birth control doesn't always work, something Hoffman learned when she found out she was pregnant despite using birth control pills.

She still stresses to him to use a condom if he does have sex.

And she, like several other parents recently interviewed, agree that schools should teach students about contraceptives as well as abstinence.

"I think they should focus on contraceptives just because kids aren't waiting. I think it's important to know what's out there, what's available to them," Hoffman said.

Washington County Public Schools promotes abstinence, said Ed Masood, WCPS supervisor of arts, health, physical education and athletics. But with parental permission, students have an opportunity to learn about contraceptives.


Starting in grade seven, students can learn about contraceptives and their effectiveness. That information is also included in lessons in grades eight and 10, Masood said.

They can look at a kit of contraceptives with a condom, a packet of pills that look like birth control pills and a diaphragm. Students can see the kit, Masood said, but cannot touch the contraceptives. School system officials don't want a student to walk out with one. That might lead to the school being accused of distributing birth control, he said.

Sex ed: How early?

On a recent weekday, patrons at a Hagerstown shopping center talked about their views on sex education.

Teaching sex education and birth control in school is important because some parents might be too shy to talk about it with their kids, said Carl Cromartie, 56, of Hagerstown.

Cromartie said he started talking to his son about sex when his son was 11 or 12 years old because that's when he seemed to have a lot of interest in girls.

As soon as Rebecca Reiff, 26, of Big Pool, notices her son is acting differently around girls or she has another reason to be concerned, she said it will be time for the sex talk. That's a ways off. He's 3.

Hilary Burns, 34, of Hagerstown, said she'll probably talk to her son about sex when he's "13, 14 years old or 10, 11, 12. As early as possible." He's 4 now.

"I think sometimes parents think that's going to happen at the school ... I guess that gives parents a way out and that's not right," Burns said.

Hoffman thinks sex ed should be a team effort between parents and schools, because, she said, when students are in school, "they're not with us and that's where they're going to meet people. That's where all their friends are. That's where they're going to be influenced to do things like that."

In addition to talking to him about preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, Hoffman said she talks to her son about how hard it was for her to be a teen mom.

"It makes it a lot tougher because your options are lessened because you have someone else to take care of," Hoffman said. A pregnant Hoffman dropped out of ninth grade; moved in with her older sister, who also was a single mom; and spent three months looking for a job. She would later attend business college and become a phlebotomist and then a postmaster. She's married with three children.

She also talks to her son about making sure it's the right person.

"I think we're in the '60s again. I think kids have sex just to have sex. It's not meaningful," Hoffman said.

Who should teach about sex?

Some people interviewed also were concerned that it seemed children were having sex at a younger age.

Mike Hammond, 28, doesn't have kids yet, but his girlfriend has a 4-year-old. The sex talk isn't an issue yet, but maybe when the kid is 10, he said.


It's surprising, said Hammond, but he's heard stories of people losing their virginity at age 10.

Kids can start puberty around age 10 and in some cases younger, said William Christoffel, county health officer.

Jackie Hatcher, 60, of Hagerstown, said she thinks schools should promote abstinence and not talk at all about contraceptives.

"The more they know, the more they're going to try things," said the mother of two grown daughters and grandmother of four boys.

Parents should be the ones to talk to their kids about birth control, she said. They also should know where their kids are all the time and with whom they spend their time.

Tom Alexander thinks schools and parents should teach sex education, with the majority of responsibility falling with the parents.

And yes, he said, schools should teach about abstinence and contraceptives.

Alexander, 49, of Hagers-town, said he sat down with his now 17-year-old son when he was 13 to talk to him.

He stated his preference for his son to wait until he was married to have sex. But, he also advised him to use the proper protection to prevent disease and pregnancy if he didn't wait.

Hoffman said she's considered offering to tell her story to students in schools, but she doesn't want them to think that because she was able to be a teen parent, they can do it too.

"I don't want to send a mixed message because it was very hard," she said.

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