WEST DES MOINES, Iowa (WHO) — One organization works with school districts to provide sex education, but a change in state policy is causing some concern for them.

Eyes Open Iowa worked with school districts for over 25 years, providing resources for teaching sex education. They help school districts in two ways; by working with administrations on curriculum and policy, and by helping to train teachers on the sensitive topic.

“[Sex education] is uncomfortable, we all would love to avoid it,” said Kristin Fairholm, the Executive Director of Eyes Open Iowa, “We try to provide as many resources as we can to try to make that an easier thing.”

Fairholm said that their efforts helped result in a 23% decrease in teen birth rates from 2016 to 2020.

However, during the last legislative session, Senate File 496 lifted the mandate for schools to teach about HPV and its vaccine, and AIDS.

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Fairholm said that lifting the mandate is particularly concerning for our state because Iowa has the second-highest incidence rate for cancer in the nation, and it’s the only state that saw a significant increase in cancer rates between 2015 and 2019, especially in HPV-related cancers.

“It’s really concerning that we would do something that’s detrimental to the health of our young people,” said Fairholm.

While the mandate was lifted, schools still can teach about HPV, the HPV vaccine, and AIDS. Eyes Open Iowa and other organizations, like the American Cancer Society, Iowa Immunizes, Iowa Public Health Association, and others, wrote a letter to school districts last July explaining the law and the importance of keeping the topics in health curriculums.

Fairholm said that school districts typically focus on their health education during the second half of the school year, which schools are currently entering. She said a change in health topics has yet to be seen, but a lack of education in this area may lead to increased rates of teen pregnancy and STDs.


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