The YEAH! Network uses research, advocacy, and community education and collaboration to influence policy and practice in adolescent sexual health. By articulating a common agenda among diverse local, state, and national stakeholders, we are working to create an informed, empowered, and engaged response to teen pregnancy and sexual health disparities in Hampden County.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Advocacy Alert: Holyoke Teens Gain Access to Sex Education!

On the same day the Republican Newspaper published an article about the rising teen birth rates in Holyoke, the school committee voted 7-3 in support of a comprehensive sex education curriculum in the Holyoke Public Schools. The Curriculum Subcommittee intensely debated the topic for over one hour before voting unanimously to approve the recommended science based comprehensive sex education curriculums (Quidate and FLASH). These curriculums were selected through a grant received last year from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Immediately following this vote, the full school committee convened. There was a speak out prior to the vote for the public to voice their opinions regarding implementation of the curriculum. One school committee member noted that there was an unprecedented number of the public attending the meeting, something that has not been seen before at any school committee meeting. 

The YEAH Network would like to thank all community members and leaders who have supported the advocacy efforts - including collecting over 400 letters of support - that has led to this unprecedented vote for comprehensive sex education in Holyoke Public Schools. This was truly a community effort that has involved community based organizations, policy makers, health professionals, the public health leaders, education advocates and most importantly parents and teens who believe youth should have the education they need to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. 

Although this has been a vital first step in the battle to reduce adverse reproductive health outcomes of youth, the YEAH Network will continue to work on behalf of teens in Holyoke to ensure responsible implementation of the curriculum and to include an evaluation component to this new policy. Following the vote on the curriculums, the school committee voted to hold a forum before the end of this school year to explain the new curriculums to parents. While the forum has not yet been scheduled, this will be another time that we will ask for your support . It will be vital for those who believe in the importance of comprehensive sex education in the schools to come, speak out and help shape how implementation of the curriculum will occur. We will be sure to be in touch regarding that event. 

Thank you again for all that you do! 

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