New Sex Ed Guidelines

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For some parents, talking to their children about sex can be awkward and uncomfortable. There are now new suggested guidelines for talking to children as young as five about the birds and the bees.

Sex education can sometimes be a touchy subject. A group called "The Future of Sex Education Initiative" has released new guidelines for public school educators on how to teach it from kindergarten to high school.

"I think people freak out a little bit when they hear the phrase 'sex ed' and they hear kindergartners, but the fact is there are age-appropriate ways developmentally to have conversations with your children that don't have to be graphic," said Alex Leslie, director of prevention programs with the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center.

He supports the new guidelines, which include talking to children at an earlier age. They also include teaching children about healthy versus unhealthy relationships, sexual violence and bullying, and for older students, sexual orientation and gender identity.

"By second grade, this organization suggests that children are able to identify the body parts of a male and female. By the end of fifth grade, students should be able to describe healthy relationships, define teasing, harassment, bullying and sexual abuse," Leslie said.

"This is 21st century education, we have to be talking about these things," said Maryann Marek, a guidance counselor at St. Joseph Academy, an all girls Catholic school on Cleveland's west side.

She said the girls learn about making good choices and how to recognize abusive or inappropriate behavior.

"Our kids are talking to each other through texting, through emails, through Facebook… and so I think it's really important for them to have the information and the knowledge of what a healthy relationship is," Marek said.

Tammy Olle said she's always had an open dialogue with her daughter, a high school senior at St. Joe's.

"It's a lot easier to be proactive and take those first couple of steps and open that dialogue and talk with her about a difficult subject, rather than having her have questions and try to fill in the blanks for herself," Olle said.

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