Teen launches petition for sex education in schools

| 13/08/2013

(CNS): Seventeen-year-old Madeleine Rowell has launched a petition to introduce sex education in schools in the Cayman Islands. Addressed to Health Minister Osbourne Bodden and Education Minister Tara Rivers, the petition asks them to adopt a national sexual education curriculum and to improve access for young people to information, testing, and contraception aimed at reducing the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancy. Rowell told local TV station, Cayman27, “I think it’s important for all Caymanian youth to have access to this kind of information in particular and to have a cohesive education about sex education in general.”

The introduction to the petition states, "Youth in the Cayman Islands, like their counterparts in the rest of the Caribbean region, are vulnerable to contracting a sexually transmitted infection (including HIV), experiencing an unwanted pregnancy, and in most (albeit not all) cases having that pregnancy result in teen parenting.

"Currently, no school in the Cayman Islands delivers a consistent, age appropriate comprehensive sexual education curriculum which is aimed at empowering youth with knowledge, skills and information equipping them to make responsible choices throughout their lives.

"Over the past ten years the Cayman Islands Red Cross has been working to offer such information to youth via it’s comprehensive Peer Education Programme, yet even this- which started off as a part of the Year 11 life skills curriculum at the public high school- has been reduced to a couple of activities throughout the school year.

"Outside of the classroom access to this information, skills, testing, and contraception aimed at reducing the risks of contracting a STI or becoming pregnant is also extremely limited, and that which is available is most likely restricted to those students in the public high schools.

"As individuals, each young person will make an individual choice based on his/her own values and the morals with which he/she was raised. However, like basic literacy and numeracy skills it has become imperative that all youth in the Cayman Islands are privy to the same high quality, age appropriate, standardised, comprehensive sexual education curriculum and have the same access to these potentially life saving information, skills and tools inside and outside of school."

See the petition here

Go to the Cayman 27 report

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  1. Lover Boy says:

    When I was a kid they told us that babies came from a pond! Guess it was kinda like the Moses story and I believed it, until I had my first encounter and  was told later  that I was the father.

    Talk about a shocking surprise!! So if any teacher tells you that babies come from a pond,


  2. Anonymous says:

    Congratulations to this young lady who is truly an inspiration. I wish you the best of luck Madeline and hope to hear of good progress made. God bless.

  3. Anonymous says:

    You go girl! Here is a story that illustrates the result of the lack of education.

    Back in the 80s, I was teaching Science in CBHS (now LESSHS) . Sutdents came into my class and refused to sit down. I asked why and was told that it because a girl in school had VD ( as STDs were called then). I asked what VD stood for and was told that it meant  various diseases. Seeing a need for eductation, I reported the incident to the principal and sought permission to teach  some form of sex education to the students. I was told that I needed the approval of the Education Department. I called the Chief Education Officer and was told that all I was allowed to do was to answer the students questions. The students were too shy to ask questions so I put  a box in the classroom where they could leave questions for me to answer. I got everything from abortion to zoophilia! However, as a result of my desire to educate, the poor girl was identified and hauled off to the hospital and tested. The results were negative. It was all a vicious rumour. Imagine how embarassing this was for the poor child!

    Thankfully, we now have some form of sex education in our public schools although it might be called  Life Skills. Call it what you want, if it helps keep our children alive and healthy, it cannot be bad.

    Former Educator  

  4. Anon says:

    Gabriele Kuby: In the wake of the dictatorships of the 20th century, and after a few centuries of the philosophical glorification of the individual, the highest value in our time is “freedom.” The deregulation of sexual norms has been “sold” to people as part of this freedom.

    But what happens if you do not control and master the sexual drive? You become a slave of that powerful drive—a sex addict who is constantly on the prowl for sexual satisfaction. And as Plato already showed2,400 years ago, this leads to tyranny.

    Of course, this is all a rather complex process. But a simple thought can make it readily apparent: If people live in a culture where they lose sight of self-giving love—and, instead, use each other for sexual satisfaction—they will use others for anything that satisfies their needs. The only limits will be determined by how much power an individual has. And the ensuing social chaos produced by such sexual deregulation eventually calls for ever more control by the state.

    • Seriously? says:

      Would love to hear what exactly you identify as "sexual norms" as your clear lack of knowledge of how addiction- sex or otherwise- works I'm sure your forthcoming posts will continue to amuse and horrify simultaneously.

    • Just Commentin' says:

      Isn't Kuby one of those loonies who rant and write books against Harry Potter? Harry Potter no less!  'Nuff said. Kook!

  5. M T R says:

    Way to go Madeleine!! it was about time that somebody started asking for comprehensive Sex Ed!!!

    I too think you'll find serious resistance on your way, but it is crucial to start putting the issue on the table and make some noise about it.

    In the meanwhile, given I have question about sex myself and I am not willing to wait for polititians to agree on sex ed I have decided to take the matter in my own hands.

    I just found out about this mobile app: http://mysexdoctor.org and I think it's really great. I am sure this is not the only one of this kind!!

    This is a good places to find straight answer, while waiting that society realizes we are not kids anymore..

    Good luck! 

  6. Just Commentin' says:

    Well done Magdalene! Thanks for thinking outside the box. Sadly you may run into some resistance, but I am sure you have anticipated this from the start and that you are prepared for morons to spew their foolishness against you and your plan.

    Yeah I gotta agree with 11:25: I am pretty sure the Cayman Ministers Association and their moral Taliban minions will consider this brave young lady's suggestion to be unacceptable. I  understand that their stance on the issue is that sex education does not belong in the schools. Being the staunch defenders of traditional Caymanian morality they believe that a young persons introduction to sexual matters must be obtained as their membership has traditionally learned about sex. In other words, sweaty trysts on a dark beach or in the back seat of a car on a lonely dirt road, and of late by way of cheap porn.

    The Catholic church will certainly get their holier-than-thou knickers in a knot about the idea of making birth control more readily available. You see, the Catholics believe that pregnancy and children are a blessing from God. So the more knocked up teen girls we have, the more blessed are these islands!

    Teaching sexually active teens to avoid contracting STD's may well go against the Fundamentalists. Fundies belive that sexually transmitted diseases are God's judgement for making whoopie outside of their prescribed rules. I mean, who among us dares trump God giving someone the clap or herpes because they got too frisky?

    But don't let 'em get ya down, Magdalene! Stick to your beliefs and shrug off the nawsayers.

  7. Anonymous says:

    God Bless this young lady for caring enough to initiate a much needed, proactive campaign for  age appropriate sex education of our youth.  I will sign the online petition and encourage all to support it. It's about time Cayman took its head out of the sand on this "taboo "subject and instead empower our youth with the facts! Ironic that a youth had to get the ball rolling…



  8. Whodatis says:

    First of all, much support and praise for what this young lady is trying to achieve.

    However, I am also shocked to learn that, if the reports are accurate, we no longer have a sex education program in our schools.

    I say that because I surely received information on sex and sexually transmitted diseases back in middle school – if memory serves. I wonder why it was stopped?

    Good luck Ms. Rowell – you are one bright, brave cookie!


    • Anonymous says:

      Not that there is none, but theyr'e asking for better – integrated, age apropriate, more, etc.

  9. Anonymous says:

    The extent of sexual issues – even in Primary Schools – is shocking – but instead of educating kids & parents, our local educators just keep sweeping the many blatant issues under the carpet, that is now the size of Mt Trashmore!

  10. Anonymous says:

    And so it takes a child to know – and do – what all these 'Senior Government Educators" should have done from the 1960s the genetic 'Cayman Disease' was diagnosed!

    Never mind the still-rampant sex abuses in our communities!

    We should take away their salaries and give the money to educate young people such as this young lady!

    Of course, they will want to bash in her new limelight, but dont fall for it Madeline!

    Make them look like the donkeys they obviously are!

  11. Anonymous says:

    Got to applaud this young lady for her positive attitude but will it do any good? Remember what happened back in 2007 when someone (wasn't it the Priest?) suggested introducing students at St Ignatius to the realities of life? He didn't last long after that.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Not playing the devil's advocate here, because I do agree that sex education is important HOWEVER, equally (or even more pertinent), is the fact that the teachers who are chosen to conduct such classes/lessons are trained and educated themselves on the proper way to do so.

    When my daugher attended government primary school, they introduced sex education.  I enquired with the school counselor to what extent were they teaching the kids and she informed me that they would seperate boys from girls and they would be taught about puberty and the various changes their bodies would soon be going through (VERY APPROPRIATE).

    When she hit middle school (and was under the consensual age), she was given a text book that included sketched diagrams of a naked couple in the missionary position which clearly depicted the male organ within the female's (NOT APPROPRIATE!!).  For homework, she had to list reasons why she should and should not have sex at 16.  We sat down together and discussed the cons of having sex at 16 and she listed nothing as a practical reason to be having intercourse at that age.  Her teacher returned it unmarked stating she HAD to list reasons why she should have sex at 16 and said one primary purpose was the fact that the Cayman Islands law allows it!! Again – NOT APPROPRIATE!!!!

    There is a thin line between educating a child about sex and encouraging them to do so.  Teachers themselves first have to be educated to know the difference, how to deliver that information and only then perhaps, society will be more openminded to the idea.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Sex eduction may not stop our young people from having sex just like being raised in the church does not stop them. But what it will do is educate our young people on safe sex and and hopefully reduce unwanted and unplanned pregnancies and STD's. Great job Madeleine.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Contrary to this report, there is and has been sex education in some of the private schools for many years.  We are thankful as parents that our kids have received their birds and bees training since primary school.  Still, this hasn't stopped the occasional zealot nutcase from complaining to the school or PTA about the idea of virgin girls using tampons.  That said, it's great to hear that a 17 year old is now spearheading liberal social change for planned parenthood in the public school system.  It's about time.  Three cheers for you, Madeleine!

    • Anonymous says:

      didn't you know that tampons make you lose your virginity?  lol

      • Anonymous says:

        21.23 -Really?? I thought they were large inedible fish native to our waters????

    • Not exactly says:

      As a fairly recent graduate from one private school on island, I have to say that this is not exactly accurate.  From discussions that I have had with friends from other schools our experience echos Madeleine: the sad truth is MOST private schools, specially at the high school level, do not in fact do any of the things that Madeleine is asking for in her petition: "comprehensive, age appropriate, best practices based".

      It such a scandal when anyone, *anyone*, comes into the schools and actually answers questions about condoms, and the pill, and abortion… or talks about our responsibilities as MALES if a girl gets pregnant- because let's face it, it's HER problem right! as she's the one who gets to carry the baby (you don't think that's the way we see it when SHE gets expelled but WE don't? come on, your actions teach us more than your words!).

      EVERY school on island can benefit from what Madeleine is asking, so let us not turn this into a  "private schools are superior" argument, because whether  those schools like to admit it or not some of their students are having sex on campus or during school hours just the same way some public school kids are- we just make sure it doesn't leak out to the media to spoil our "prestigious" reputation and throw us from our high horse.

  15. Anonymous says:

    I know that some times this seems like the easiest way to help the problem.  Really this is a last resort to help youngsters whose parents are not doing the right job at home.

    At the same time, you don't want to make it easier for kids to access contraceptives as they promote promiscuity without consequences.  Kids need to be educated not only on how to avoid STDs and Pregnancy, they need education on self control and respecting themselves.  Hopefulyl this doesn't end up in free condoms being handed out at Batabano, because this seems like  the driection that todays young people are heading. 

    Hopefully some Christian groups can be involved to help these kids understand the magnitude that their decisions really are. 

    • Anonymous says:

      In response to "You don't want to make it easier for kids to access contraceptives as they promote promiscuity without consequences" 

      Hmmm….where are the statistics to back up that bold statement?

      Making it easier? Access to contraceptives currently could not be any more difficult. Youth seeking out to protect themselves is a responsible decision made before the "act". They should not have to be embarassed or jump through hoops. If they are going to have sex, better to promote safety without judgement. I could be wrong but the statement implies that the "promiscuous" should instead suffer consequences. Unfortunately, teenage pregnancy results in an innocent infant suffering the consequences.

      In response to "last resort" for "parents not doing the right job at home" As a parent, I found the subject difficult to discuss directly with my children as they were equally embarassed. I think many parents  would agree. Self respect , self care, and self esteem we can model as parents but the bare boned sex acts are better left to trained professionals, in my opinion.




    • Anonymous says:

      Self control and respecting themselves does not protect them from pregnancy and STD's. It is too late after the horse is out the pen. Teach them yes, guide them yes PROTECT themselves yes.

      • Anonymous says:

        Huh? Obviously if you don't have sex you won't get pregnant. What a stupid post.

  16. Knot S Smart says:

    Please remember that we live in a society where if you get caught with a Playboy Magazine you can be charged and turned into a criminal…

    But  I admit that I was not aware that they were not teaching sex education in schools – and my question is – how will they learn if we dont teach them in school?

     This is a brave young lady I must agree…

  17. Anonymous says:

    You go girl, dragging Cayman into the first half of the twentieth century.

  18. Anonymous says:

    As a Health teacher and an at risk counselor, sex education needs to be taught in grade 9 (students age 13-14)  and as soon in the semester as possible. This is the age where if you do not teach them "the facts" and prevention, pregnancy and STI's rise. The school I teach at used to teach to older students and later in the school year and have seen a major reduction in numbers when taught to this earlier age group and in late September/early October right after the school year has begun.

    Hope this information is helpful.




    • Anonymous says:

      They need to be taught long before year 9 (13-14 yrs old). At that age many of them are already sexually active and have not been taught a thing, so do not know how or care how to protect themselves. Like I said before we have far too many children (15 yr olds) having children. Educate them and give them contraceptives easily. Prevention is better than cure

      • Anonymous says:

        I have been at this job for over 23 years teaching in the inner city and while yes, some may be having sex at a younger age than 13 (we may have one girl come to high school already pregnant), but, we can stop more and teach more prevention at this age group. Just an FYI, there is a life cycle program with just basic facts taught at the middle school, but the 3 month curriculum is aimed at this age group and this is where we have seen the most success.

        Also, just to note, alot of 13 year olds are talkiing and thinking about it, but not "doing it" .If we can give them the facts and tips on how to prevent pregnancy and stds- when they decide to "try it" they will at least know how to protect themselves.



  19. Anonymous says:

    I commend this young lady for what she is trying to do. Right now sex education consists of whatever kids find out about it on the internet and TV, neither of which is where you want your youth to be getting their education on a subject that has the potential to be as profoundly life altering as this one.

    • Get Real says:

      Get real, right now they teaching eachother!


    • Anonymous says:

      The cave dwelling thums downers are out…well, at least one of them…the Trollogodytes will shortly be on here too (after Church of course, or evening prayers.)

    • Anonymous says:

      What's this? Young Caymanian with a brain seeks to improve her society. Cannot be tolerated!


      Cue the Cayman Ministers Association.


      Paging Rev. Sykes.


      All hands on deck!


      Man your battle stations! Hurry and produce the standard sanctimonious rubutals and hypocritical condemnations! She must be met with the full force of backward thinking in order to maintain order and decency in the Cayman Islands.


      Who does she think she is, anyway? If God had intended us to think he would have given us brains.  Oh wait . . . ooops.

  20. Anonymous says:
    Well done for taking some action on this. It is about time the younger generations were armed with the facts, helping them to make the right choices about their future. it is not a time for authorities, parents or those organizations who influence the local community to stick their head in the sand. Teen pregnancy and STIs should not be swept under the carpet, it is happening and the best form of defence against this growing problem is education. It;s great to see someone so young making a stand. 

  21. Anonymous says:

    Well done Madeleine. Keep pushing on this one. It is the right thing to do.

  22. Anonymous says:

    This is a very brave, intelligent and inspiring girl to ask for age-appropriate sex education.  It can only benefit society as a whole.  

    …and to pre-empt the inevitable bad argument from some people here who will wrongly claim that access to contraception leads to more promiscuity: you're flat out wrong.  All the research proves it does NOT lead to promiscuous behavior.

    Way to go Madeleine!  Keep up the good work and don't stop fighting, no matter what some misguided "adults" may try to throw in your way.

    • Anonymous says:

      Especially beware of the official government "Educators" who will as usual try to hijack your plan – and then shelve it!

      I say apply to the Governor for FCO funding and launch a programme on your own, with the help of the community!

      Good job Madeline!

      • Anonymous says:

        No worries…anyone who knows Madeleine will know this won't be shelved. Follow up and follow through is the name of her game.

  23. Anonymous says:

    I applaud you young lady. This is long overdue. As far as I see it the only way we are going to stop all these teenage pregnancies is to educate our young people (male and female) through a comprehesive sex education programme in ALL schools for ALL ages. We have had far too many children having children in the past and these young parents did not get this type of education themselves so are unable to pass on good sexual practices to their children – just a vicious circle. Along with this sex education should be FREE contraceptives for all no questions asked.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Smart young lady…practical teaching is needed to avoid the many teen pregancies that inevitably lead to lives being harder than they should be.

    But you just wait, the God Squad will be barking shortly about how inappropriate this is and blasphemous and goodness knows what else. Guess what, that approach has been tested and failed. In the real world, sex education, whilst not preventing all unwanted pregnancies, (and diseases come to that) has got the number down significantly.

    • Anonymous says:

      Thumbs down for being the first to cast stones. A lot of commentators on this site could learn a lesson from the tone of the young lady's submission.