A Private-School Sex Educator Defends Her Methods

“The teacher said periods,” Ms. Fonte said. Her mother was a doctor who took her to the Philippines annually on medical missions. In hig...


“The teacher said periods,” Ms. Fonte said.

Her mother was a doctor who took her to the Philippines annually on medical missions. In high school, Ms. Fonte worked as a peer sex educator and interned at a drug rehabilitation program for teenagers. In her school planner, she used shorthand to identify where she had to be and when. “‘Drugs and sex, 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.,’” she said.

Was she always comfortable speaking about things that made others squirm and blush? “I think I was probably above average at conversational skills to begin with,” Ms. Fonte said. “I was that kid that ran for class president every year. I was always giving speeches.”

She went on to get two master’s degrees. The first was in education, from the University of Hawaii, and the second was in public health, from Columbia University in New York City, where she plans to remain, despite the recent contretemps.

Ms. Fonte is not an urban outlier. Across the country, priorities around sex education have expanded beyond the prevention of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections to include unhealthy relationships, body positivity, sexual orientation, reproductive justice and gender identity.

National sex education standards issued since 2012 by professionals in the field have called for sex education to be L.G.B.T.Q. inclusive, to be offered from kindergarten through 12th grade, and to be “trauma-informed, culturally inclusive, sex positive, and grounded in social justice and equity.”

Teaching consent from an early age is crucial, today’s sex education experts argue. And in the wake of the #MeToo movement, more and more people agree, said Nora Gelperin, the director of sexuality education and training at Advocates for Youth, one of the organizations responsible for drafting the national sex education standards.

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