I remember sitting in ninth-grade health class listening to giggles and comments from peers as the teacher inserted a VHS tape, “The Reproduction System and Human Development.” Within 20 minutes, the video covered exactly that, and the rest of the semester included nothing but food pyramid and exercise charts.

One of our society’s greatest current movements is prioritizing mental health and overall emotional well-being. As society evolves, we must evolve too. Therefore, I believe public schools should have the requirement of improved health curriculum focused on sex, relationships and mental health.

In September, the United Kingdom Department of Education implemented a statutory guidance: "Relationships and Sex Education." The guidance acknowledges the importance of educating pupils on all things associated with relationships.

The United States is capable of following England’s footsteps by enforcing similar guidance. With updating the sex-education material used in public schools, it is possible to prevent and reduce sexual assault cases in the U.S.

Something such as “excited consent” vs. “pressured consent” explained in a serious classroom setting takes preventative steps by distinguishing gray areas. Also providing topics like how to recognize the difference of rape, assault and harassment, along with their clear definitions, can help victims of assault assess and respond properly. Young adults can only benefit from learning morality and laws regarding sexual consent.

A chapter in health class such as “healthy interpersonal relationships” would have altered many of my past decisions with intimate, friend and family relationships. What we call “toxic relationships” usually end in emotional distress or sometimes trauma. With a learning objective of establishing stable relationships, adolescents could prevent emotional instability due to unstable relationships throughout adulthood.

Understanding there are sometimes opposing parents because of faith-based reasons or others, the alternative for these required courses is simple. Instead of the sex and relationships, have a parent sign consent to an additional course such as art or debate class. While strongly suggesting the sex and relationships course, there could be simple substitutes that still prepare the child for adulthood.

With the United States behind on the education standards of health, we can hope to follow the United Kingdom’s examples. America needs to step up and educate the generations to come on the importance of health as something more than diet and exercise. We need to educate on emotional well-being and mental stability every human deserves.

MARY-DOUGLAS WATERS

nursing student

Baton Rouge