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Having ‘the talk’: HCISD program focuses on information, community, wellness

Having worked as Hays CISD’s director of Student Health Services for roughly two years, Macie Walker understands the challenge parents face when it comes to “the talk.”

Through Girl Talk/Boy Talk, Hays CISD aims to empower parents to begin discussions about sex and sexual functions with their children.

Hays CISD held the Girl Talk/Boy Talk program in two separate, gender-specific meetings earlier this month.

Walker said the origins of the program was the district’s 2012 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), which measured six “risky behavior areas” teens face. The survey’s purpose was for Hays CISD to measure challenges faced by district students that involve violence, drugs and alcohol, sex and general health.

According to the 2012 results, roughly 11.2 percent of teens surveyed engaged in sexual intercourse before they turned 13. Hays CISD’s rate was higher than the national average of 6.2 percent.

Walker said those results led the district to begin the program.

GTBT is driven by questions from teenage students and their parents. Walker said the program doesn’t follow a curriculum.

Walker said providing information about sex and sexual function is a challenge as it’s a hot topic for parents. While the district does provide sex education, Walker said many families prefer information to be provided in their own homes and not in school.

To assist with that, Walker said GTBT empowers parents to hold such discussions.

The program allows parents and students to participate in a polling program, where they can text anonymous questions to a panel of experts to discuss.

The panel is composed of an obstetrician, counselor and spiritual leader for the Girl Talk discussion. A pediatrician, counselor and spiritual leader led the Boy Talk discussion.

“We start the conversation with age appropriate and accurate information to parents,” Walker said. “This is a door opener. It’s a challenging conversation to get started. Some of these parents haven’t had this conversation yet.”

While there are no common questions, the panel does take some frequently asked questions regarding the basics of puberty, Walker said.

Other questions from parents extend to ensuring students understand the importance of certain topics. Those can range from sexually transmitted diseases to consent in relationships and the legal ramifications.

But one topic that goes come up regularly is how social media and the Internet are affecting students. 

Walker said social media has changed the way students respond to topics, including sex. She said there is “just more out there.”

Questions on the topic extend to “sexting” and the legal implications.

“There’s more of a temptation to put things on social media and not know what the ramifications could be,” Walker said.

Walker said many parents who participate express relief at the program’s conclusion.

But she said panelists and the district encourage parents to continue the discussion at home. That extends to telling parents they don’t always have to give a “whole answer” when it comes to a student’s question, and shouldn’t give an answer that closes the door on the discussion.

“We do encourage them after the event to keep the discussion going. This is the start of the conversation,” she said.

While Walker said giving the talk hasn’t gotten any easier, giving parents and students vital information helps makes the situation a little less awkward.

“These are awkward conversations to have,” Walker said. “But these are important conversations to have as well.”

Sexual Behavior Study results

Texas 2013 Hays 2012 Hays 2014
Are you sexually active?
No Data 53.9% 19.4%
Have you ever had sexual intercourse?
45.9% 51.2% 43.5%
Did you have sexual intercourse for the first time before 13 years?
5.2% 11.2% 8.6%
Have you had sexual intercourse with four or more persons?
14.9% 15.1% 12.2%
Were you never taught in school about AIDS of HIV infection?
20.6% 13.9% 13.5%

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