A group of Palmerston North teens are advocating for sexual health and abuse awareness education to be made mandatory throughout secondary school.
Palmerston North Girls' High School year 13 students Julia Wilson-Orr, Rebekah Lowe, Grace Adeyinka and Aradhna Mandri, all 17, say the subject should go beyond just learning about the body's biological developments and the physical aspects of sex.
Classes should explore what is a healthy versus violent relationship, sexual abuse awareness, emotional challenges and consent.
"Sexuality education" is compulsory in New Zealand schools up until the end of year 10, but the Girls' High group said it should be required through to year 13.
"We want to create mandatory sexual education programmes in New Zealand secondary schools," Wilson-Orr said.
"It's about informing people, mainly school students, what's right and what's wrong and where to get help. It'd focus on sexual education and sexual abuse, especially for girls, because girls have a hard time saying no and knowing where the line might be drawn."
The project started as part of a year 13 social studies achievement standard, where students consider how their social actions can influence policy changes and the subsequent effects they have on society.
The group had wanted to create a database for victims of violent relationships but realised there would be difficulties so instead turned their focus to targeted education.
They researched what other schools offered and have put together a petition, with the aim of collecting 1000 signatures, to present to the school board, a parliamentary select committee and the Palmerston North City Council.
Last year, Parliament's health select committee found sexuality education programmes across the country were "fragmented and uneven" and recommended a new, consistent and evidence-based programme.
Schools' boards of trustees are required to consult with the community every two years about their sexuality education policy, and the content of the school's programmes.
The Girls' High teacher in charge of social studies, Jo Wilson, said the project got students considering how they could shape social change.
"I'm constantly impressed by how creative and passionate the girls are about the causes they adopt," she said.
"But what I really like about their work is it empowers them to see that they can activate social changes themselves."
The achievement standard had students researching and campaigning for improved signage regarding smoking in the city centre, tackling cosmetic testing on animals, and considering restrictions for foreign drivers.
- Manawatu Standard
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