About 24 people representing Yellow Medicine East staff, the YME School Board, Countryside Public Health, parents and local clergy attended an informational meeting Monday night in the YME choir room to discuss teen sexual activity and reproductive health at the school.
A 2010 state-wide student survey sparked the conversation this past summer. That survey, which is conducted every three years by the state, according to YME Superintendent Al Stoeckman, showed that YME students have had more sexual intercourse than the state average and receive less information about sex from their parents and their school than the state average.
Most shocking, for those who have viewed the survey, is the statistic that, in 2010, 73 percent of grade-12 females at YME had sexual intercourse by that time. Meanwhile, the state average was 43 percent. In 2007, the same survey revealed that 75 percent of male grade-12 students had sex. In 2010, the state average for grade-12 males who have had sex is 51 percent.
"Looking at this survey I'm seeing that our students are similar to the rest of the state in that they receive most of their information about sex from friends and media like T.V., movies, magazines and books. Our students differ from the state in they receive less information on sex than the rest of the state from parents and their school," said Stoeckman addressing the group. "On the next part of the survey, it's obvious that more students have had intercourse at YME then the state average."
The survey information was first presented by Linda Norland, Deputy Administrator of Countryside Public Health to YME PTO members, members of the local clergy and members of the school board at a December PTO meeting.
At that meeting, Norland offered to work with YME, area churches and community organizations. "I'll go anywhere, anytime," she offered. "I wanted to let you know there is an issue. You tell me what you want to do about it."
On Monday, Norland was frank at the informal information meeting about teen views on sex; detailing the number of pregnancy and sexually-transmitted-disease tests Countryside has performed in recent years on students as young as seventh grade.
"Their views have changed," said Norland. "Nowadays if you ask your kids about oral sex, they'll tell you they don't even consider it 'sex'."
The sex and reproductive curriculum at YME begins now in the fourth grade with classes on puberty and understanding the biological difference between boys and girls and continues as a requirement up through grade 10—where pregnancy, child care and STDs are covered. Further classes that deal with child care and reproduction are offered as electives from grades 10-12.
Norland has offered a curriculum, designed for sixth, seventh and eighth-graders called "Draw the Line – Respect the Line" and a companion curriculum for adults called "It's that Easy." The course is an evidence-based curriculum found through a state organization called Teen Wise, that Norland presented as an important resource for sex and drug education.
Page 2 of 2 - Discussion among parents and the Granite Falls Ministerium (a collection of local Christian clergy) centered on how liberal, or conservative education on these topics should be. Expectedly, local clergy favor abstinence as a centerpiece to any education, while others question how realistic and effective education like that has been, or will be.
School board member Tim Opdahl clarified that this is not just a school issue, but community wide saying, "The assumption shouldn't be made that this is just a school issue... How do we lace all this up among all the different parties and create a consistent repetitive message? That should be our question."
For now, dialog will continue through the YME school board, with Norland promising to gather more information on possible effective curriculums and contact experts in the field.
School board member Grant Velde ended the meeting surveying the crowd that numbered just over 20 and saying, "We're glad you're all here, but there should be a lot more parents here for what is a very important issue."