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NCHS: Sex on the Mind

New Canaan High School journalists explore attitudes on sex among their peers.

 

The staff at 's student newspaper, the Courant, has launched a series of articles devoted to the discussion of sex and it's raising some eyebrows.

The articles bear no resemblance to the casual, often salacious columns of TV's Carrie Bradshaw from "Sex and the City"—far from it. The Courant's series on students' attitudes toward sex is an opportunity for opinions on the topic to be integrated into an open forum of discussion and reflection, according to Courant student editor Danielle Sorcher. 

"The motivation behind this particular issue of the Courant was to broach a topic that hasn’t really been talked about," Sorcher said. "We put together a survey that was available to the whole school, which informed the statistics in our articles, and my fellow reporters and I put together this special issue in order to provide a balanced report that covered the range of topics regarding teenage sexual attitudes and activities." 

"I believe that my team members and I handled this issue very maturely, and all of the parents and teachers with whom I have talked agree that we accomplished our goal of creating a comprehensive report," she added.

Courant moderator Mike McAteer, who oversees all of the student journalist activities and newspaper content, said there is a perception that "teens think one way about sex."

"One thing our journalists are aware of is that there are a lot of students here who, not to criticize students who are sexually active, but students whose morals guide their behavior, and there’s a silence about that," McAteer said. "It's not cool to talk about your morals and the role that they play in the way that they live their lives."

“I thought it was a very good balance of people saying, 'No, I'm a teenager and I don't think this stuff is cool to do' with those voices talking about themselves and other activities in very adult ways," he added.

While McAteer said that the response from faculty has been generally positive, the administration did express concern about the manner in which the topic would be handled. With that in mind, McAteer said that the student journalists were all the more diligent about being as professional as possible while raising valid points worth discussing.

"The most important part, in terms of journalistic responsibility, was to have a group interview with the school psychologist after they'd done all their interviews and research and have what young people said contextualized by a health care professional," said McAteer, who has blogged on Patch, "and have the psychologist talk about what represents a healthy and an unhealthy attitude toward sex and what risks they might not know about."

One article in the series discusses the physical and emotional impact of losing one’s virginity.

Sorcher interviews several individuals (names have been changed to protect privacy) who relay their thoughts and feelings about their first experience with sexual intercourse.

One student, identified as a senior named Grant, stated, “I always told myself that whenever I had my first time that it would be with someone I cared about, that was important to me, and that we weren’t under the influence of anything.”

School Psychologist Dr. Rossella Fanelli was consulted on the issue of what it means to be ready to lose one’s virginity. She said in the article, “It’s to understand the ramifications of it, to be willing and able to discuss it with your partner, and to accept the responsibility of it. It’s to make a conscious, not impulsive, decision by both people.”

Another student, identified as a Junior named Alice, discussed having sex for the first time with an individual who was not her boyfriend.

Alice states, “We had been together for a while and it seemed right—it seemed like the next step. I’ve known him for so long; you have to have that level of comfort, I guess.”

Fanelli weighed in on the issue of “friends with benefits” as well stating, “There could be shame, embarrassment, low self worth, and health issues,” she said. “It could be a disaster. From my point of view, the first sexual experience should be safe, comforting and loving rather than that.”

Other topics include students who choose to retain their virginity, LGBT community views on sex, sexual education course content, contraceptives, gender disparity in the judgement of sexual encounters by society, and sex in the media.

The idea of high school students creating a public, ongoing dialog about sexuality is not pleasing to everyone in town, however. An email writer identifying herself as the concerned mother of a middle school student sent a note to Patch editors expressing her concern.

Saying the articles claim high percentages of high schoolers have engaged in sex, the writer said she the articles don't mesh with her idea of a proper learning environment.

"Anyway, parents are upset, but no one wants to speak publicly (i.e. a letter to the editor) because their kids might get laughed at," she wrote.

While Sorcher said that she has not received any negative feedback, she had a few words for skeptics.

"I would hope that they would go to our website," said Sorcher, "and read the articles to see for themselves that we are in no way promoting or condemning teenage sex; rather, we are simply reporting on a topic that is relevant to high school students. I hope that by reading our articles, they can see that we worked very hard to be mature, well-educated, and balanced in our reporting, and that our final product reflects that."

Principal Bryan Luizzi gave his thoughts on the articles as well, stating, “From time to time, students will tackle what can be difficult issues. We mentor them as they do their work and the advisors work with them. I think the Courant is an excellent paper. The students work hard to create, develop and produce a paper that they’re proud of.”

To read the series of articles, visit the Courant's official website

Glen K Dunbar April 27, 2012 at 07:45 PM
Very politely speaking which is how I and I only are required to write. I feel our Kids today especially here in New Canaan are mature, well informed Young adults and are capable of making their own decisions.. I actually think this is kind of a good idea too. Generally speaking of course.
NC_Mom April 28, 2012 at 03:06 PM
Having moved to this town recently, I'm a little stunned to find that the district has a policy against teaching sex education. Teaching abstinence in school and saying that this article should not be written is implying that school is the only place for students to gain information about sex. Of course, this is not the world we live in, not only are kids going to be talking about sex but they are surrounded by information about sex in the media. any child can search google and find out whatever they need or want to know and they probably already have. Wouldn't you prefer that kids get education from health professionals, teachers, school psychologists? I know I would. Parents will always have an influence but to shield students from basic information with a policy of not teaching sex education seems a throwback to another era. I have to wonder what power broker or outside interest would influence our educators to choose not to educate students in health class. Frankly, I would have assumed that sex education had been part of the curriculum in 7th or 8th grade. I'm proud of our high school courant staff, advisor and administration to be brave enough to allow our children to discuss this issue.
Suzzana April 28, 2012 at 11:08 PM
Agreed
NC April 29, 2012 at 05:35 PM
Assault on family, religion and morality? Last time I checked, I saw that New Canaan High School was...a....public high school? I actually heard that they were looking for a religion teacher to cram religious preferences on kids, so you seem perfect for the job.
mary parker May 02, 2012 at 07:06 AM
I was tought sex education at Saxe back in 1978, 8th grade. I think this article was the right thing to do as even though we as parents try to explain it to our kids, most parents don't take the time to keep up a good communication line with their kids or closely monitor their kids dating relationships or just aren't around to care enough. Why is the sex topic so wrong yet drinking and drug topics are ok? I think there should be a required sex ed class in the highschool that has those realistic babies that you have to take care of. I bet it would change a lot of minds when it comes to sex. My oldest daughter took sex ed and thank god she did. She didn't fall into the "my boyfriend will stay with me if I have sex with him trap" or all of the other traps that are out there for boys and girls. At least New Canaan kids, don't have the teenage pregnancy rate like other cities do. Let you kids know that you are there for them in situations like this and don't screem at them when they need to talk to you.

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