It’s Time for a Schoolwide Sex-Ed Curriculum


Sex education classes educate teenagers on how to engage in safe sex habits like how to prevent unwanted pregnancies, STDs, and promote healthier relationships, and Williston doesn’t offer any.

Though Massachusetts does not mandate all high schools offer a sex education class, many schools voluntarily opt-in to teach safe sex habits.

Planned Parenthood reports that 39 states and the District of Columbia do require sex education and/or HIV education. However, according to Sexual Information and Education Counsel of the United States (SIECUS), teaching sex ed in schools is not mandated in Massachusetts.

The National Association of School Nurses performed a study that shows dismantling the barriers and providing students with such stigmatized information can lead to healthier and happier students.

Williston offers over 150 different classes, with English, History, Math, Science, and Art requirements, but also an additional trimester-long history or religion class. However, in the neighboring town of Amherst, according to their program of studies, Amherst Regional High School requires all students to take Health education 9, which students typically take as freshmen. In the course, “students will receive factual information and confront attitudes regarding responsibility to one’s wellness, drug and alcohol use, human sexuality, STIs (sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS), and building healthy relationships.”

Another boarding school in Massachusetts, the Pomfret School, offers a Foundations of Wellbeing semester-long class that covers many topics encouraging a healthy lifestyle.

“Six Dimensions of Health and Growth Mindset, Nutrition and Sleep, Mental Health and Stress Management, Healthy Relationships and Sex Ed, and Substance Use and Dependency,” are the primary focuses, according to Pomfret’s department and course catalogue.

Though Williston religion classes do not directly promote abstinence, some students believe that the requirement to learn about religions that do not condone premarital sexual relations in turn is a reflection that the Williston administration disapproves of and ignores the very real issue of teenage sex life.

Williston even stated in its student handbook that “the school does not endorse or condone sexually intimate activity among students and advocates postponing sexual intimacy until students are past adolescence.”

Furthermore, other than one page in the student handbook, there is no school-led discussion or informational session about the school’s expectations or how students should engage in safe sex.

In the sexual intimacy and consent portion of Williston’s student handbook, it explains that “the school recognizes that sexuality is a normal part of human nature, and its discovery is often a part of adolescence. However, any level of sexual intimacy can bring with it physical, psychological, and emotional challenges that can be overwhelming to students.”

However, this begs the question: if Williston recognizes the inevitability and yet potential harm of diving into intimacy unprepared, why don’t they prepare their students?

Katherine Garrity, the Assistant Dean of Students, says administration is aware of the issue and in the process of dealing with it.

“My concern is that without a formal health class, students are seeking out their own information as needed,” Garrity said. “I’d like to do more than hope that they are finding trusted resources and adults to help.”

“There are several of us working hard to bring more health/sex-education to Williston,” she said. “We’re trying to implement a course to both provide much needed health information as well as offer a safe space for students to ask questions/have communication opportunities.”

Williston’s middle school does offer a health class to eighth graders, taught by Head of Health and Wellness Amber Mish. Garrity adds that “we [Williston administration] are in discussions about implementing something for 11th and 12th grade.”

Furthermore, Garrity explained that some health related concepts such as “gender, sexuality, consent and (un)healthy relationships” are touched on in Williston’s CORE program, but not explicitly sex-ed.

Try as they may, it is hard for administration to deny that teenagers are sexual active, and without the proper information and space for open-dialogue, students will go about being ill-prepared and potentially unsafe.