Once a month superintendents in New Jersey get together for a round-table discussion. In addition to an array of issues covered, we also try to have representatives from an outside group/agency attend and present information that is relevant to education. Our last meeting featured the county health services office, and a conversation followed about services offered from the county, including teaching about sexually transmitted infections (STI’s). One superintendent jumped in and spoke about how he had sent health teachers to a workshop and one of the presenters (in her mid-20’s) stated that she has HPV and that “it’s not a big deal because 6 out of 10 women get it.”
Wait…what? Not a big deal?!
The attendees looked up at the superintendent in silence. Are folks really believing this? Are students just shrugging off the importance of knowing what an STI can do to their bodies? Are current health teachers just shrugging it off, too?
I immediately began researching the requirements for teaching STI’s in New Jersey. Besides the state’s offering a plethora of services related to STI’s (you can find free clinics and additional information by clicking here), the New Jersey Department of Education offers a myriad of programming, curriculum, and services (you can access them by clicking here). Additionally, the 2014 NJ State Board of Education Standards clearly state (in 2.1.8.C.1 and 2.1.8.C.2 state) that students need to be taught that “the prevention and control of diseases and health conditions are affected by many factors” including to
- Evaluate emerging methods to diagnose and treat diseases and health conditions that are common in young adults in the United States and other countries, including hepatitis, sexually transmitted infections, HIV/AIDS, breast cancer, HPV, and testicular cancer.
- Analyze local, state, national, and international public health efforts to prevent and control diseases and health conditions.
Is this not being done? Is this not being addressed with the seriousness that it should be? I would hope that all students (and adults for that matter) not only get the proper education on such a serious issue, but also that educators treat it like one. Any infection or disease that affects how we live is a big deal.