A Rationale and Recommendations for Sexuality Education in Schools for Students Who Are Deaf

By Getch, Yvette Q.; Branca, Dorry L. et al. | American Annals of the Deaf, December 2001 | Go to article overview

A Rationale and Recommendations for Sexuality Education in Schools for Students Who Are Deaf


Getch, Yvette Q., Branca, Dorry L., Fitz-Gerald, Della, Fitz-Gerald, Max, American Annals of the Deaf


The authors evaluate and advocate the need for comprehensive sexuality education that meets the unique needs of youth who are deaf or hard of hearing, while calling for the expansion of teacher preparation in this critical area. Effective comprehensive sexuality education is designed to prepare young people to become more comfortable with, and informed about, their sexuality. Teachers and parents are key adults in this process. However, the responsibility for preparing teachers to handle sexuality education Res with both the postsecondary teacher preparation program and the administrative team at the individual school; their willingness to provide comprehensive training, current resources, and continued support are crucial to the success of any comprehensive sexuality program. In the individual school, effective guidance of youth who are deaf or hard of hearing in making appropriate decisions about their sexuality is built upon a team that includes not only school staff, but also parents and deaf adults in the community.

Comprehensive sexuality education provides more than just a basic understanding of body parts, sexual functioning, or biological sex characteristics; further, it is more complex than physical descriptions related to gender because it explains the science of behavior in terms of sexuality and identity. D. Fitz-Gerald and M. Fitz-Gerald (1985a) affirm that "human sexuality is reflected in the way people dress, talk, walk, and conduct themselves as male and female. It is expressed in the feelings, attitudes, beliefs, and values people adopt towards themselves and others" (p. 1). Moreover, adhering to roles or attributes one considers appropriate to one's gender is key to understanding one's sexual identity; therefore, sexuality education must be reality oriented (Schiller, 1977). Factual sexuality education has the potential to result in an individual being knowledgeable enough to make informed, wise decisions that promote his or her sexual identity, safety, and satisfaction (D. Fitz-Gerald, M. Fitz-Gerald, & Williams, 1978).

In today's society, human sexuality is articulated indirectly through nonverbal messages and directly through personal encounters and observations (D. FitzGerald et al., 1978). In a classroom setting, direct communication is the most important means of disseminating facts and eradicating myths regarding sexuality. In addition, by honestly communicating with students, teachers create a comfortable environment for consideration of a sensitive topic in a way that allows for exploration of a variety of sexuality issues (Flinn, 1982). Most important, accurate and effective communication decreases the possibility of perpetuating myths and stereotypes.

The State of Teacher Preparation In Sexuality Education

Unfortunately, educators are not being trained for the important role they play in communicating sexuality issues (D. Fitz-Gerald et al., 1978; Getch & Gabriel, 1998; Rodriquez, Young, Renfro, Asencio, & Haffner, 1996). Rodriquez et al. found that only 8% of colleges offering general teacher-education training required at least one sexuality education methods course for any certification program. As a result, many teachers are not prepared or qualified to approach issues of sexuality. Unfortunately, some teachers feel uncomfortable in the role of sexuality educator (Getch & Gabriel, 1998), and often discover that teacher preparation programs do not equip them with the tools they need to effectively convey sexuality information to students who are deaf. Furthermore, it is not uncommon for teachers to fear that they will not receive administrative support should any negative public reaction ensue.

<*A survey of 169 colleges and universities providing undergraduate teacher education showed that most educators who teach sexuality curriculum in grades K-12 have not been formally trained to do so. In U.S. public schools, physical education teachers are most likely to provide sexuality education in middle and high schools, followed by health educators, biology teachers, home economics teachers, and school nurses. …

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