I believe the brunt of sex education is the responsibility of parents. By and large, most issues involving children and teens are, and should be, the parents responsibility. Too often today, we read conflicting articles in the news about who should be responsible for teaching our kids about sex. The Church? Hell no, definitely not. No way, no how. They poison the minds of kids and adults alike, riddling them with guilt for no good reason. Heck, they can't even get behind contraception in the Catholic church, which makes hypocrites out of most of them. Yes, I said it. I was raised Catholic. I drank from the Chalice a few times, because I was forced to go to church most of my young adult life, but never took the Kool-aid. They might be as corrupt and misguided as any of the major religious cabals.
Should the public schools take responsibility? Well, it's not exactly their responsibility either, but I can attest to my upbringing and schooling that I learned quite a bit about sex from grade school on up through high school and damn glad I did. It was mostly the plumbing, chemistry and contraception aspects primarily, as I recall. All of which were very helpful. I still remember dimming the lights and watching reel to reel movies about the differences between boys and girls and how they change as they grow up. As I got older, I learned about STDs and how to avoid those and unwanted pregnancies in health class. I don't think they were giving out condoms back then, but it sure would have been a good idea in high school. No harm was done to myself or my classmates in learning about these things. It wasn't promoting sex, just laying out the facts, the fears and precautions.
I'm sure our curriculum included some other areas of sex, like masturbation, rape, petting and what not, and I doubt one single student regretted being presented the information. It even gave the usual giggles and laughs.
I know at least in 5th grade we started learning about puberty and girls vs. boys type stuff and the basic bodily functions. Not so much about the act of sex itself or complications involved. It wasn't until high school and maybe some 8th grade health class that we touched on STDs. We also learned about alcohol, drugs, peer pressure and other important choices teenagers might face. I felt very well informed about all these things by the time I was old enough to have sex. I might not have learned all the proper techniques of fingering a girls clit, G-spot or breasts, but I knew enough to avoid pregnancy and STDs. I was always an avid reader about sex. From a pretty young age, I read anything I could get my hands on about sex in general. From the "Joy of Sex" type instructional books, to erotica of Penthouse Forums and everything in between. I was well schooled in spotting what type of panties a girl was wearing through her pants and if she was wearing a maxi-pad or not even, I was so observant and sponge-like in my thirst to know all things sexual.
I think people get things misconstrued when they hear they are "teaching our kids about sex in schools." They, in their helicopter parent mode, jump to the quick conclusion that their Johnny and Mary might be watching porn and learning the A-Z of sex positions in class. I don't have kids, but I highly doubt that is what is going on today. I don't think parents should be upset about schools teaching sex and I also think parents need to accept that it is their role and responsibility to teach their kids about sex. I can imagine it is a sensitive topic and parents don't want to spoil their kid's seemingly innocent personalities, but we all grow up. That's a fact. I had friends, whose parents gave them books on sex to read about at their own pace. I was envious. I had to rely on sneaking into a library and reading about sex when I had the opportunity or read at Walden books while at the mall with my mom, as time allowed, hoping she didn't stumble upon me looking at illustrations of couples in various states of arousal and sex. I had to even go as far as shoplifting books, so I could read in completion and privacy, as I had no money at the time and frankly, I was probably too embarrassed to pay for it at the counter for fear of judgement.
I vaguely remember my parents asking if I had any questions about sex or bringing up certain topics with me, but I don't think it ever went too far in depth. I guess they really trusted me as a bright young kid, because I was allowed to have girls in my room, behind closed doors. I don't remember anyone ever offering me condoms or anything though. My dad, I think, was more or less in denial about it all or never thought about it. He probably thought we were "just kissing" and "pillow talking" in bed. I think he was a bit naive. My mom I think figured it out by the time I was off to college. I do think I remember her telling me to "be safe" and general motherly warnings like that, but never any real details about sex. Luckily, I had the impetus to learn most of what I know now about sex on my own, but if I ever were to be a parent, I would try to teach my kids all I could or give them the tools to explore and learn about it independently, like I did.
In summary, I think there is a place for both the parents and schools to play a role in sex education. I don't think the burden should be left to the schools, but I think it is important for them to offer students some basic health-related sex education in regards to physiology, puberty, contraception and pregnancy, at a minimum. Ultimately though, it is up to the parents to see their children get a proper education, in all respects, and that should be no different when it comes to sex.