Berkeley school district, UC Berkeley highlight robust sexual education

Photo of sexual health pamphlets
Jonathan Hale/Staff
Administrators at Berkeley Unified School District and UC Berkeley alike are making efforts to educate students on topics regarding sexual education.

Related Posts

Berkeley Unified School District, or BUSD, and UC Berkeley cater to different age groups — but both educational institutions strive to provide their students with comprehensive and unbiased information on sexual education.

Most students start learning about sexual education at BUSD in sixth grade and continue their education on this topic throughout high school, according to Julia Ingoldsby, BUSD nurse and sexual education coordinator.

“Berkeley Unified School District adopted the Healthy Oakland Teens curriculum from Oakland Unified School District,” Ingoldsby said in an email. “Content must be medically accurate, age appropriate, LGBTQ inclusive, and available to English Language Learners and Special Education students.”

According to Berkeley High School teacher Hasmig Minassian, sexual education at Berkeley High starts with a required freshman humanities class called ethnic studies and social living. Social living is one semester of the yearlong course, which includes coursework on biological reproduction as well as healthy sexual decision-making, Minassian said.

“It’s basically a semester-long course on sexual education and health education including gender, sexuality, antonomy, consent,” Minassian said. “So both the biological reproduction part of sexuality, but also healthy sexual decision-making and consent.”

Berkeley High also has a full-service health center funded by the city of Berkeley that provides two to three days of lessons during the year to students and consist of all things sexual health from practicing putting on a condom to an STD and STI “Jeopardy” game, Minassian said.

According to Minassian, sexual health is especially important for today’s youth because they are constantly being exposed to sex and sexuality before a trusted adult is able to speak with them on the subject.

“The more they can talk to one another in a classroom environment, the more likely they are to have a healthy sexual experience with their peers when they’re not in a classroom environment,” Minassian said.

UC Berkeley, on the other hand, is required under Title IX to provide sexual education resources to all of its students, staff and faculty in order to ensure all campus members have a foundational understanding of proper sexual behavior, according to Patrice Douglass, assistant professor of gender and women’s studies.

For all students, the Tang Center provides sexual education workshops, gynecology appointments, a class on the evolution of human sexuality titled Public Health 180 and the Sexual Health Education Program, or SHEP, according to Robin Mills, health educator at the center.

“I learned a lot, and I feel like it’s a really beneficial program because it is so hands-on with the community at school,” said SHEP student intern Riley Collins. “It really opens people’s eyes up to sexual health and safer sex practices within college.”

Other campus organizations, such as the club Greeks Against Sexual Assault, or GASA, focus on sexual education within their smaller communities, according to education director of GASA Sofia Sayyah.

Sayyah added GASA’s motive is to prevent sexual violence and sexual harassment, or SVSH, in Greek life and to educate its members on general sexual wellness and consent.

“Greek life, however, has traditionally featured power dynamics and event settings that can increase SVSH risk,” Sayyah said in an email. “(This) is why there’s so much emphasis on SVSH education within Greek life.”

Modules taught include Power & Privilege; After the Fact/Survivor Support; Alcohol, Drugging, and Consent; Bystander Intervention; Healthy Relationships; and Cyber Sex, according to Sayyah.

While some clubs focus on sexual education, others seek to provide a space for sexual exploration, such as the Kink Club, according to presidents Crystal, Max and Shadow — who requested that their last names be unpublished to keep their professional lives separate from the contents of the club.

They added that the Kink Club has weekly meetings that discuss specific areas of kink, such as introduction to kink and consent negotiation, electroplay, latex, flogging and a plethora of other topics.

“We are a social and educational club whose purpose is to create safe space for discussion, education, and exploration of kink as well as providing resources and support for folks to safely navigate their kinks,” Crystal, Max and Shadow said.

Contact Zoe Kessler at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @ZoeKessler14.