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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

NCDad April 26, 2012 at 01:59 PM
Welcome to reality. Where have you been?
J Bauer April 26, 2012 at 03:05 PM
High school kids will always discuss sex... it is no different now than it was when we were that age. However, publishing such material in the school newspaper presents three major problems: 1. It gives the impression of adults & teachers condoning such actions. 2. This removes the authority for this discussion from the parents of these children to school administrators / psychologists / newspaper editors/advisors. These conversations should be had at home with Mom and Dad serving as the leading authority on the topic. Even if parents do a poor job at it, these are their children and they should have the ability to set tone and content of the adult voice on the topic. 3. Not all kids are ready for this conversation at 14. Yes, maybe most are, but once again the pace of these types of discussions should be left to parents, not the school newspaper.
NCMom April 26, 2012 at 05:12 PM
Why doesn't New Canaan have Sex Education (as a part of the required health classes)? Of course abstinence would be discussed as would birth control, STDs, emotions,etc. I cannot beleive NCPS puts is head in the sand and does not deal with sexual reality. My kid has learned everything he will ever need to knwo abotu drugs drugs drugs in Health class, but now about sex?
marilyn April 26, 2012 at 06:50 PM
Agree with J Bauer....looks like the NCHS administration /faculty condones the actions and approves of the articles (don't they have to have faculty advisors on the paper?). These kids are so misguided, so full of themselves, so falsely confident at an early age. I worry for them and their future.
Four Jacks April 26, 2012 at 08:02 PM
They teach it in health, forgot what grade, maybe 10 or 11.
Mike McAteer April 26, 2012 at 08:19 PM
"These kids are so misguided, so full of themselves, so falsely confident..." Really? Here are some of the quotes from their misguided, narcissistic reporting: Maturity, that is, emotional control when it comes to sex, is something Juliet feels is out of reach for most high school students. “Also, for high school students I think sex usually changes the dynamic of a relationship. There are people who go on one night stand sprees, but then there’s often an underlying internal conflict, and even if it’s not apparent, it still means something, though what that something is is often unclear. I feel like it’s different once you get older, and are able to compartmentalize your feelings so you know when to turn them off and on.” *** Abstinence is the idea that one should wait to have sex after they are married. “Sex is a beautiful and natural expression of love to be shared between husband and wife,” senior Tina said. “I believe that it should be reserved for marriage.” Though for some it may not appear to be, to have sex can be a big decision and should not be taken lightly. “At this point in our lives, people tend to be extremely immature about sex and might not always care about their partner,” Tina said. “They are driven by their sexual needs, and don’t realize that love and a lasting emotional connection is necessary in sex. Sex should be more than just physical fun.” If you're going to criticize the kids, at least read what they wrote.
Mike McAteer April 26, 2012 at 08:21 PM
PS, I'm the adviser. So if you want to criticize someone, criticize me, not kids that you don't know anything about.
Aver April 27, 2012 at 12:28 AM
1) They talked about STDs in 11th grade for like, five seconds. 2) This is not the first time the Courant has reported on sexual behaviors of NCHSers - it's just the first time Patch has commented on it. 3) You're all supposed to be adults. Read the article.
NewCanaanVoter April 27, 2012 at 01:17 AM
As an aside, using the name Juliet as a fake name in an article about teenagers and sex is kind of amateurish and hacky. They might as well use 'lolita' or 'ron burgundy'. This is what it makes me thing of: http://www.theonion.com/video/many-doctors-say-its-high-time-to-legalize-marijua,21308/
Kendall L Owott April 27, 2012 at 01:23 AM
Maybe with these articles as a basis for parents and children to discuss the issues, good things can happen. The opinions of the school psychologist may be interpreted by students as possessing more authority than they deserve, though. It may not sit well with parents to hear their child say, rightly or not, “Dr. Fanelli says it’s O.K. to have sex if we approach it calmly.” That may not have been what Dr. Fanelli said at all, but that may be the starting point of the discussion. As far as having issues, many readers will have issues with you, Mr. Mc Ateer. First, the word narcissistic was introduced in the comments by YOU, not Marilyn. She sounds a little worried. She seems to be characterizing teen years from her own experience and she seems sincere. That doesn’t mean she is criticizing any individual student, because neither she nor we actually know who the students are. So your point that nobody should criticize anonymous students “that you don’t know anything about” is puzzling, actually. How will any parent counter an argument from a student who says, “You don’t know anything about Charlotte, so how can you criticize her?” Parenting is tough enough without trying to unravel this logic loop, Mr. McAteer. Maybe your loyalty to the students was so strong, you were compelled to answer impulsively. Calm down.
the sex guru April 27, 2012 at 03:04 AM
not surprising, courant means slut in four different languages
jasonk April 27, 2012 at 03:39 AM
I think this is an excellent topic to have students report on. I applaud Mr. McAteer's support of this subject despite the misconstrued criticism regarding this story. While I AGREE it is the responsibility of the parent to discuss sexual health with their children, the fact remains teens feel more inclined and more comfortable to discuss sex with their cronies. Many parents balk at this notion because they do not see any reason or scenario where their precious child would feel uncomfortable approaching them on a personal matter. However, I can tell you from past experiences as a teen, if I had a question on the hows, whats, and whys of sex, I would first seek the advice of my friends. And this feeling was mutual with the majority of my class. This was not meant to discredit the knowledge of my parents or undermine my trust/relationship with them, it just boiled down to the fact that I assumed my friends would provide me with a straight and concise answer, devoid of a lecture on safe sex, the awkwardness of the situation, ect. and it always did turn out that way. Ms. Owott, while your digression was fun to read, your comment "As far as having issues, many readers will have issues with you, Mr. Mc Ateer." is completely baseless and erroneous. I would love to elaborate on this more, but it would be a complete waste of my time.
J Bauer April 27, 2012 at 12:42 PM
Mr. McAteer - I did read the articles and I will say, unlike some other commenters here, I see that the students are intelligent, thoughtful kids (and good writers to boot) but that was not the point. I also have no illusion that most high school kids feel comfortable discussing sex with their parents, once again that was not the point. Lets be honest though, on a content basis, what is reported in these articles is no more information than the students would receive if they discussed the topic amongst themselves, which they of course do. Putting this in print in a school newspaper though really just accomplishes one thing through that implicit endorsement. Specifically, what you and the administration have done is to replace the primary authority on this topic - from parents to school administrators, teachers and psychologists. It's a simple usurpation of parental authority.
Michael DeMattia April 27, 2012 at 12:56 PM
As a student at NCHS, I feel that reporting on the topic of sex (from multiple viewpoints and beliefs) was truly done in a tasteful manner and I echo jasonk for his comments on why students discussing this topic with peers is still so important. The fact is students are going to discuss sex with or without parent approval. It's really as simple as that. Plenty of students would agree that we found out more than maybe we needed to or wanted to when the time came, however that part of school is never going to change, and I have to imagine that there are adults who can recount similar experiences. This wasn't pornography - this was reporting on current student views. The fact that this paper covered the topic CAUTIOUSLY and with the utmost respect is being overlooked by overly concerned parents and alienated community members alike. Reporting on this issue in print removes the taboo surrounding sex and ALLOWS students to have honest discussions as they learn that there are plenty of people out there who agree and disagree with their viewpoints. As for making teachers and faculty the "authority" on the issue, I'd struggle to find a difference between what this coverage does and what health classes on abstinence and sex ed do in terms of shifting authority. High school students aren't stupid - at the end of the day we still know that we answer to the people who put food on the table and provide us beds, it just means we may not go to them for all the answers on sex!
NCParent April 27, 2012 at 02:02 PM
If only everyone could see this for what it is: this is the progressive movement (in the form of teachers/the NEA) continuing their assault on family, religion, and morality. Nothing more, nothing less. Mr. McAteer is not your childrearing ally. Wake up, parents, wake up.
RoccoGeno April 27, 2012 at 02:18 PM
Today's kids are bombarded by the media with sexual stuff as soon as they can start watching tv. Just look at the ads on television, radio and print. I won't even mention the millions of "adult" oriented stuff readily available on the internet. It's nuts. I'm glad I grew up when this stuff did not even exist. I would have gone crazy.
NCNative April 27, 2012 at 03:02 PM
If one article in a student newspaper can be a “usurpation of parental authority” then there are most definitely bigger issues at play. As parents we have many important roles: love our children, protect our children, teach them to think for themselves and become responsible, productive adults. Most of our children are already on the road to independence when they reach high school. We cannot hide behind our “authority” and pretend our kids are not talking, thinking or yes-- even participating in sexual activities. We need to guide and inform them to make safe and healthy choices. This series of articles allowed me to do that with my children. We talked about more than I thought possible. It was a wonderful starting point to many difficult and thought provoking discussions.
NewCanaanVoter April 27, 2012 at 03:48 PM
"Specifically, what you and the administration have done is to replace the primary authority on this topic - from parents to school administrators, teachers and psychologists." Your argument though seems to be the heart of modern christian isolationism. It's all well and good to say that anything the school system does implicitly endorses certain assumptions and worldviews, but I'm not really convinced that this sentiment forms a coherent worldview. This idea that there are certain institutions (parents, the church, etc.) that should be primary sources of authority doesn't really make sense to me. (As opposed to the more transmodernist worldview that there is no primary authority, just different people with different backgrounds, areas of expertise, and opinions, all of which need to be pieced together intelligently in order to make informed decisions.) And if you actually look at the statistics on various social issues in the southern states, this theory doesn't seem to be working out too well for them in practice either.
J Bauer April 27, 2012 at 04:11 PM
Glad to hear. So can I extrapolate that you hold HS keg parties at your house and hand out trojans from the Costco 144 value pack?
Evil Squirrel April 27, 2012 at 05:32 PM
In the immortal words of that wise patriarch, Clark W. Griswold, "I think you're all f---ed in the head."
k.o April 27, 2012 at 05:49 PM
Four Jacks, they do not teach it in health. as a nchs student, i can assure you that teachers are legally not allowed to teach anything but abstinence in health class.
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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