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California just changed sex ed in 3 bold ways. Will your state follow?

It's the magical unicorn of sex ed policies, and it's time for other states to do it too.

California just changed sex ed in 3 bold ways. Will your state follow?

"Don't have sex or you will get pregnant and die."

GIF from "Mean Girls."

It's not just a "Mean Girls" quote. Unfortunately, for many middle school and high school students in the United States, that's a pretty accurate summary of their sexual health education.


But there's hope on the horizon, in the form of an actually sensible sex ed law passed in California this month.

While most states don't even require sex education (and only 19 require that the education be medically accurate and factual), California schools are now required to promote sex ed curricula based on sound science and inclusivity rather than shame and stigma.

That's right: A state actually passed the magical unicorn of sex ed policies. Victory is ours!

1. The California Healthy Youth Act requires that sex ed programs include information on sexual orientation and LGBTQ sexual health.

LGBTQ sexual health is usually left out of sex ed curricula altogether in most states. And for cisgender students, remaining uninformed about the reality of their LGBTQ peers can only reaffirm harmful myths about non-hetero relationships. Fear thrives when people don't have the facts.

That's why this isn't just an important step forward for lawmakers. For some students, it could be life-changing — even life-saving.

"This bold and substantive legislation will transform the lives of thousands of LGBTQ teens who will finally have their identities validated, and their personal and sexual health needs addressed," said Ellen Kahn, the HRC's Youth and Families Program Director.

2. The law also requires teaching accurate info on STI and HIV prevention and treatment, birth control, and consent.

Comprehensive, inclusive sex ed makes a lot of sense from a public health perspective too. Research has shown that teens who get the right information tend to have lower STI and teen pregnancy rates.

3. Plus, the new law requires teaching about affirmative consent and how to have healthy relationships.

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler get it. GIF from 2013 "Golden Globe Awards."

"I firmly believe that by instilling in young minds the importance of affirmative consent and relationships built on love and respect, that we can reduce the sexual violence inflicted on young woman," said Sen. Kevin De León, one of the bill's authors.

Affirmative consent is the idea that healthy, consensual sexual relationships require an enthusiastic "Yes!" from all parties involved, free of coercion. It's a model of consent that empowers people to make informed sexual decisions for themselves and encourages partners to communicate with one another too.

Honestly, there's still a long road ahead for making sure that all people — and especially LGBTQ folks — have access to the education, social services and health care they need to make informed decisions about their bodies and lives.

But with trailblazers like California leading the way, there's so much reason to believe in a better future.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

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"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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