On November 18, members of the National Coalition to Support Sexuality Education (NCSSE) came together for the coalition’s biannual meeting held at the offices of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America in New York City. The day-long meeting brought in preeminent education advocates and professionals from throughout the nation to share information about important developments in comprehensive sexuality education at the international, federal, and state level. NCSSE is convened by the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) and consists of a broad constituency of over 150 national organizations ranging from healthcare professionals to religious leaders dedicated to advancing medically accurate, age-appropriate comprehensive sexuality education for all people.
The meeting started with William Smith, vice president for public policy at SIECUS, giving an update on where we stand in terms of advancing comprehensive sexuality education at the federal level. Smith provided information on the work currently taking place among advocates in the reproductive health and HIV/AIDS community around the coming change of political administration.
Dr. Rafael Mazin, the regional advisor for HIV/AIDS Prevention and Comprehensive Care from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), presented on the first-of-its-kind Ministerial Declaration that has laid the groundwork for comprehensive sex education and HIV prevention in Latin America and the Caribbean. Dr. Mazin was joined by SIECUS’ Ariana Childs Graham, international policy associate, who provided a forecast of the future of international policy, with emphasis on comprehensive HIV/AIDS prevention programs abroad.
Dr. Joe Kosciw, Research Director from the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) presented on the findings of GLSEN’s 2007 School Climate Survey which found that sex education can and does impact LGBT youth . Specifically, the study found that in schools that have educational resources like sexuality education are there is a reduction in homophobic slurs and feelings of victimization among LGBT students as well as an increase in talking to staff about LGBT issues and sense of belonging. In addition, GLSEN’s Communications Director Anthony Ramos discussed the organization’s launch of the first-ever national LGBT-themed public service announcement campaign which it is conducting in partnership with the Ad Council. The goal of the campaign is to raise awareness of anti-LGBT bias and behavior in America’s schools.
State advocates Brigitte Amiri, ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project and Jonathan Stacks, Director of Sex Education Initiatives of the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health, presented case studies on moving from policy to practice on state and local levels. They also discussed the barriers that advocates face when working to implement comprehensive sexuality education.
Finally, Dr. John Santelli from the School of Public Health at Columbia University presented on the evidence behind comprehensive sex education programs. Dr. Santelli was joined by Heather Boonstra, senior public policy associate at the Guttmacher Institute.
This year’s NCSSE meeting also included a member spotlight during which organizations shared exciting developments in their work with the coalition. Representatives from the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing discussed how the organization is spearheading national efforts to garner faith-based support of comprehensive sex education programs in America. A representative from the National Sexuality Resource Center, at San Francisco State University, presented information from the most recent issue of its journal, Sexuality Research and Social Policy, which focused on the failure of abstinence-only programs. Finally, a staff member from the Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project discussed the organization’s new campaign, Fight Homophobia to Fight AIDS.
To learn more about NCSSE, please visit www.ncsse.org. The website’s content is currently being updated but the site contains useful information about the coalition. NCSSE is scheduled to reconvene in the spring of 2009 in Washington, DC.