The Reflection

Gull Lake High School's Online News Source

Students evaluate health curriculum content

Health class is one of the essenual classes required–a core course in high school. In Health students learn what to expect in adolescence, skills necessary for life-long healthy habits, along the dangers of drugs and peer pressure. Over the years, the curriculum has changed, turning more to teaching students how to advocate for themselves. The school’s Health curriculumn follows the Michigan Model for Health, but students have expressed that they need more information.

Recently 10 students were interviewed regarding the strengths and weaknesses of the material taught in the Health high school classroom. Junior Sophi Carahaly was one of them.

“I wish [health class] wasn’t just a required freshman class because it was [about] the basics and preached abstinence.  There could be a junior-senior supplemental class that went more in-depth on safe sex for both straight and queer relationships,” Carahaly said. 

Students in health class watch an anti-vaping video. Image by Lily Page.

Female Health

The majority of the students interviewed were concerned about a more thorough coverage of menstrual cycles and feminine hygiene. Students said there should be more information on where to get menstrual products and what types are available. 

Although these pieces of information were covered and can be shared by female relatives in the home, students pointed out that there many are the only girl in a household full of men, who are either too uncomfortable or lack the information to cover the topic.  

“I have a friend who lives with two dads and a bunch of brothers, so she can’t get the information about periods like others,” sophomore Emma Dillard said.  

As an advocate for free menstrual products, Dillard was vocal about people feeling good about their bodies, but also how the public treats a woman’s monthly cycle.  Whether or not a health class teaches the cycle process, the options for menstrual products, and the symptoms that accompany periods, she said that despite fact that it’s taught at what happens naturally, there are still a handful of people who walk away from the class thinking it’s a private and grotesque bodily function that no one should talk about.  

“Women should not feel ashamed for something they cannot control,” Dillard said.  

So why are students still treating a perfectly normal process as something awkward in an informed society? Are the female students of the school just too embarrassed to ask for a tampon or pad?  Dillard suggested students, especially the boys, should be taught not to treat periods as something embarrassing anymore, hoping this would bring girls to inform each other about the functions they share.

“I wish we could learn more about the opposite sex to normalize stuff like periods.” – Sophomore Maggie Dziedzic

LGBTQ+ Information

One of the main concerns expressed by many students interviewed is how well the health curriculum teaches about gender and sexuality.  Although the school has its own Gender and Sexuality Club, it’s merely an advocacy group for representation in the school.  While questions are welcome, there are only so many LGBTQ+ students attending these meetings every Thursday, so the idea of a health class bringing information to a general classroom setting helps every kind of student.

 “People are more open-minded now, so LGBTQ+ students shouldn’t have to learn safe sex on their own,”  senior Madi Quinn said.

Students who were interviewed and members of the GSA collectively agree there is a lack of safe sex for queer relationships being reviewed in the health curriculum. 

“There was just AIDS,” junior Miracle Stillwell said.  

A pride rally celebrates the month of June, pride month. Image courtesy of Australian Institute of International Affairs.

The health curriculum did teach students about HIV and AIDS, which was the only time the LGBTQ+ community was mentioned in the material.  Although mentioning LGBTQ+ relationships, there is a handful of transgender and nonbinary youth in this school who may not know where to get helpful resources.  Many students interviewed said they’d like to see a discussion on the different hormones in the body, how they work, and the deficiencies many people can be born with.

So why don’t we have much LGBTQ+ material in the health curriculum, although students are begging for it?   

“The community still believes that if you teach students about LGBTQ+ topics, it will automatically make them turn gay, trans, etc.,” said Heath Education teacher Mark Blaesser.  

As a health teacher for many years, Blaesser said he has seen changes to the curriculum over the years as culture changed.  Just 15 years ago, contraception was added to the curriculum after years of the school board’s fears of the unit automatically leading to sex.  

Health class students continue learning about the dangers of vaping. Image by Lily Page.

“They used to think, ‘well if we teach about contraception, then students will automatically have sex’,” Blaesser said.  

With society becoming more and more open-minded, students interviewed said that it’s time for the school board to give the students the representation they need.

Mental Health

The majority of students interviewed believe that the week focused on depression is not enough.  This happens when a representative from a mental health group comes in and talks about depression. 

“It’s more important to not desensitize mental health,” Violet Stewart said.

Many of the students interviewed hoped for mental health to be taken seriously but also wished there was more comfort to those struggling.  Students suggested that it would be better to find ways to prevent depression through self-care in the week-long unit in health class.  

Summary

With the fight over the health curriculum in the state’s capital and the argument that there’s too much idealogy when it comes to emphasizing abstinence and safe sex along with LGBTQ+ topics that are too personal.  

“There are already so many barriers to having sex education in the schools,”

Taryn Gal, executive director of the East Lansing-based MOASH

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