School: We’re right to ask 8th-graders about herpes, drunken 1-night stands
Administrators of a south Jersey school Monday stood by a language arts assignment that asked an eighth-grade students for their response to a hypothetical: contracting herpes after a one-night stand.
The assignment caught media attention late last week, while most New Jersey schools were closed for conventions.
In a press release posted to the Myron L. Powell school's website Monday, the Cedarville elementary school said the assignment is in line with New Jersey Comprehensive Health and Physical Education Standards that "relate the use of alcohol and other drugs to decision-making and risk for sexual assault, pregnancy, and STIs" and that "relate behaviors to placing one at greater risk for HIV/AIDS, STIs and unintended pregnancy."
Those standards are to be taught to students by the end of eighth grade under New Jersey standards, and the assignment has been given to student in the past, the school said.
Carolee Adams, president of the NJ Eagle Forum and parental rights advocate, told New Jersey 101.5's Bill Spadea Monday morning she believes asking the question in a language arts context robbed parents of the ability to clearly understand the cirriculum and opt-ed out of a sex education assignment they might consider inappropriate.
"The assignment has offended a group of parents. However, we have also received overwhelming support from families in our community," the school said in its press release. "Many believe that open and honest dialogue about real-world events will benefit their teenagers when they are forced to make independent decisions."
It also said there's a particular need for the lesson: "Cumberland County has one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates and one of the highest percentage of people with STIs in New Jersey."
"We are putting forth an effort to prevent our students from becoming a part of these statistics," the school wrote. "Our goal is to continue to have open and honest dialogue with the families in our community. We strive to work together as teachers, parents, Board members and administrators to provide our children with the decision-making skills needed to be safe and successful in today’s society.
The assignment asks a student to give a "reactive response" to a scenario in which he or she goes to a party and has sex with someone he or she meets for the first time after drinking too much.
"A week later you find out that you contracted herpes from your one-night stand and that this is a disease you will have all your life and never know when an outbreak will occur," concludes the assignment, as described in an NBC 10 report.
Parent Amy Loper told NBC 10 she she was "shocked" at the assignment being given outside of a health class. Loper said she was told by the chief school administrator it was part of the school's core curriculum and goes along with a book given to students called “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens."
The book, by Sean Covey, is a "step-by-step guide to help teens improve self-image, build friendships, resist peer pressure, achieve their goals, get along with their parents, and much more," according to a description of the book on Amazon. "In addition, this book is stuffed with cartoons, clever ideas, great quotes, and incredible stories about real teens from all over the world. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens will engage teenagers unlike any other book."
The question does not appear directly in the book.
A message to the school's administration Monday has not yet been returned.
TEXT OF ASSIGNMENT:
“You had a really rotten day, but lucky for you your best friend is having an awesome party later. You go to the party and start drinking. You have a little too much to drink and start talking to this girl/guy you’ve never seen before. You head upstairs to get better acquainted despite several friends telling you that you don’t even know this person. You end up having sex with this person. The next day you really can’t remember everything that happened and rely on your best friend to fill you in. A week later you find out that you contracted herpes from your one night stand and that this is a disease you will have all your life and never know when an outbreak will occur.”