Through collaborative efforts led by School Health Connection (SHC), a comprehensive sex education policy has been approved and recently implemented at Warren Easton Charter High School.
SHC staff met with representatives from the Louisiana Department of Education (DOE) in the spring of 2011 to understand state laws regarding sexual health education in schools. Kendra LeSar, SHC School Wellness Program Coordinator, worked closely with DOE to draft a policy for Warren Easton while staying within the laws outlined. During this process SHC engaged the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB), charter board, and Warren Easton administration, faculty and parents for their input. In the fall of 2011, the policy was approved by the OPSB, the charter board, school administration, and the parent, teacher, student organization at Warren Easton.
“The need for effective sex education for our youth continues to be a critical factor within our schools, particularly in Orleans Parish where research shows that our youth are twice as likely as the national average to have sex before the age of 13,” said Alexina Medley, Principal of Warren Easton. “By providing the students with the tools they need to make responsible decisions, their chances of being successful in school and beyond increase dramatically.”
The first step in executing the policy at Warren Easton was the implementation of the Becoming a Responsible Teen (BART) curriculum in March 2012. BART is a group-level, education and skills training intervention designed to reduce risky sexual behaviors and improve safer sex skills among African American adolescents. The eight intervention sessions, delivered to groups of five to 15 youth, provide information on HIV/STDs and related risk behaviors and the importance of abstinence and risk reduction. The sessions were designed to help participants clarify their own values and teach technical, social, and cognitive skills. Through discussions, games, videos, presentations, demonstrations, role play and practice, adolescents learn problem solving, decision-making, communication, condom negotiation, and behavioral self-management and condom use skills. In addition, the intervention encourages participants to share the information they learn with their friends and family and to provide support for their peers in an effort to reduce risky behaviors.
SHC has partnered with Communities in Schools, who is facilitating the BART intervention at Warren Easton Charter High School as an afterschool program which began March 22, and will be running through the remainder of the school year. Two gender-separated classes will be taught, with a goal of reaching 30 students.
The positive response to the newly developed policy and classes has been encouraging and has become a testament of further need in the community. The Health Educator with Communities in Schools has reported receiving “countless” calls from parents wanting to enroll their children in the program. As a result, additional classes are being considered.