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Education Reporter

Peer Tutoring in Sex Education
8th grade girls are 'sexperts' in special project

KIRKWOOD, MO - In an age of teacher-facilitators, peer tutors, peer mediators, and peer graders, three 14-year-old girls at Nipher Middle School have assumed the role of peer sex educators. Their three-week pilot program, which covers birth control, sexually transmitted diseases, and teen pregnancy, began as a research project promp-ted by a classmate who'd had a baby.

According to a story in the March 15 issue of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the girls conducted research, then asked for permission to teach a class in lieu of writing a paper. Nipher teachers approved, and 40 of the school's 200 8th graders signed up for the instruction.

The Post described the class as "more explicit than the Kirkwood School District's abstinence-based health curriculum for middle schools, where the discussion of birth control and sexually transmitted diseases has been reduced to a small part of the curriculum." The pilot class covers AIDS and identifies a variety of other STDs. Though the girls mention abstinence as the only sure way to prevent pregnancy, methods of birth control are explored.

Parents can opt their children out of the school's regular sex ed program as well as the special peer-taught class.

The project surfaces at a time when many school districts are placing greater emphasis on abstinence-based education. Recent studies show that more than half of teens are avoiding sex, and high-profile teen role models, including professional athletes, are publicly championing abstinence as the first, best choice. Though some students say that having classmates as teachers is "cool," the whole concept of peer intervention has come under fire from many parents and some educators.

Last fall, parents in Tulsa, OK, filed a class action lawsuit against the Owasso School District for violation of their children's "privacy and civil rights" when teachers allowed other students to grade their work and call out the scores. The parents allege that some students alter the papers they are grading based on personal animosities, but the school district stated it would not do away with a procedure it described as "a very effective classroom tool."

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