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Demand for sex education for tweens on the rise, expert says

Students at Caddo Middle Magnet return to class Monday morning, the first day of the school...
Students at Caddo Middle Magnet return to class Monday morning, the first day of the school district's 'modified' traditional learning model.(Christian Piekos)
Updated: May. 6, 2021 at 3:25 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - A teen pregnancy prevention non-profit is seeing an increase in the demand for sex education among middle school students in the Magnolia State.

The organization, Growing up Knowing, has candid conversations with students and parents about sexual health - to keep kids safe from potential abusers and bullies.

“They are engaged, curious, and hungry for the right information,” Executive Director Tammy Golden said.

But in light of changes to students’ schedules with school, after school, or daycare, Golden says educators and parents have concerns about risky behavior.

“We’ve known for a long time that school is the safe place for many Mississippi students,” Golden said. “And we knew when those adult eyes were no longer on those students, that there were going to be some issues. What we’ve heard from some of our professionals is that students have had the opportunity for increased activity with risky behavior, particularly our middle school and older students. There has been the potential for an uptick in abuse and some bullying.”

Originally founded as The Mississippi Campaign for Teen Pregnancy Prevention, the non-profit engages students, parents, caregivers, and grandparents to have real conversations.

“They ask questions like ‘what is a wet dream, do boys only have them or can girls have them too?’” she added. “We do a condom demonstration and show them the importance of how to put it on, how to take it off, and how to dispose of it properly. It’s a little awkward at first, but they’re curious, and evidence suggests they will make good decisions having the facts.”

Human anatomy is the most popular conversation among students because parents have given many students nicknames for their private body parts, the non-profit says.

“We teach the actual name so that if they have an issue, they can report it, and a doctor or trusted teacher could understand,” she said.

The organization says the isolation and internet access by e-learning during the pandemic has increased the access students have to learn or share information about sex. But Growing Up Knowing is determined to clear up the myths and set the facts straight, so all kids know how to set boundaries with their bodies.

“Many families tell us that what we’re able to do for them is to stop cycles of teen pregnancy, stop cycles of abuse and stop cycles of risky behavior.”

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