Teen Talk stimulates open conversation about sex

Mars Svec-Burdick and Carmen Vescia

Back in his day, Human Biology teacher and Science Department Chair Mitch Weathers received 50 minutes of sex education in Driver’s Ed.

“There were two main topics I recall [the instructor] teaching. The boys were generally asking: what’s it like to wear a tampon? The girls were generally asking: what’s it like to having an erection? She obviously could [only] answer one of those, and that was it, that was the entirety of our sex ed unit,” Weathers said. “We moved on, and there was no other discussion, which does absolutely nothing to help young people learn about safe sex.”

Now, Sequoia students get a more complete education. Over the course of this year, 38 classes at will have a sex ed unit, including English language learners and students in special education. For freshmen, an introduction to sexual health is mandatory, and some upperclassmen also take a refresher course.

Juniors and seniors in Human Biology recently completed a two-week version of the refresher program. Junior Kacie Beth, recalled one particularly memorable lesson.

“We were each given styrofoam penises and we had a race, girls vs. guys, to see who could put on a condom the fastest,” Beth said. “The girls won.”

Health Connected, also known as Teen Talk, brings Peer Supporters to teach the class an extensive range of topics, from STIs and birth control to sexuality and consent.

A typical lesson for Weathers’ class starts with answering questions from the anonymous question box.

“Even if it’s like a super awkward question, the instructors don’t get awkward about it. They say everything very matter-of-factly, and they always have an answer, no matter what we ask,” Beth said.

According to Weathers, few juniors and seniors are shy about the birds and the bees and most are engaged. He’s never had a student opt out of the unit.

“I didn’t realize how many people have STI’s until we learned about the percentages and how common they are,” Beth said. “I didn’t realize how easy it is to catch something, or how important it is to have safe sex.”

When Weather first started teaching at Sequoia, it had one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the county. During his time here, he’s been an advocate for revisiting sex ed multiple times in high school.

“These conversations are so important, and I think so few people have them with young people. For some people, it seems that it’s kind of taboo to talk that way,” Weathers said. “I want people to walk out of this reproductive systems unit feeling empowered around their own body, and making better decisions because of that.”