"I hope that the results of the survey will be published. It is important that students be given the opportunity to discuss things openly."
This was written by a student in a space reserved for comments on a sexual information poll distributed to approximately 10% of the Foothill High School student body on May 6. It was typical of student responses, which showed support for the survey and a desire for more open discussion on the subject of sex.
Results of the poll:
Is the Health and Safety class adequate in its coverage of sex education?
On a scale of 1 to 10, students rated the school's class a 5.16, barely above average.
Where did you learn the majority of your AIDS information?
Television was the top response, with newspapers a distant second. Almost no students identified school as their primary information source. Several students expressed the need for discussion about AIDS in class.
What (other than abstinence) is the only form of protection from AIDS?
Seventy-six percent of students responded that the use of condoms reduces the chance of transmission. Surprisingly, many students decided not to answer this question.
Is AIDS easily transmitted?
Twenty-nine percent said AIDS is easily transmitted, 46.4% said it is not, and 24.6% were not sure. Though it is generally held by medical professionals that AIDS cannot be transmitted by casual contact, the spectrum of responses reflect the wide variety of popularly held opinions.
Is abstaining from sex until marriage permissible in today's society?
Seventy percent of the respondents felt that abstaining from sex until marriage is acceptable.
What, in your opinion, is the percentage of students at Foothill who are sexually active?
Students felt that sexual activity is common among other students. Nearly 30% of those polled felt that 61% to 80% of the student body is sexually active. Only 2.6% of the respondents believed 10% or less of the student population is sexually active. Fourteen percent said that nearly all (80%-100%) of the students are sexually active.
Are you sexually active?
Thirty-nine percent of those polled labeled themselves sexually active. In contrast to this is a December, 1986, New York Times poll that said 57% of 17-year-olds admitted to engaging in sex.
Some of those who acknowledged that they are sexually active added further comments: "What's the big deal? Sex is natural and fun." "Have sex but take responsibility for it."
As might be expected, members of the senior class claimed to be the most sexually active, with 50% labeling themselves in that category. Surprisingly, 38% of the freshmen responding to the survey claimed to engage in sex.
Are contraceptives readily available to you?
The vast majority of the students (77%) replied that contraceptives were available to them with some effort and/or considerable embarrassment. Almost all of those who responded that they were sexually active stated that contraceptives are available.
Said one student: "The school should put condom machines in the bathrooms. What high school student will walk into a drugstore and buy a condom? It's too embarrasssing. So this means they have to use other methods to avoid getting the girl pregnant and getting AIDS."
What are your reasons for abstaining from sex?
The most common reason turned out to be personal ethics. Only 5.4% replied that religion is a factor in maintaining abstinence.
Many students made additional comments in response to the survey.
"Teachers need more freedom to be able to teach us about AIDS and the different types of protection," wrote one. "We should bring the facts to the surface. We need to know what's going on. We need to be informed or we will die. Not giving us the facts is contributing to the spread of AIDS."
Wrote another: "I'm very appreciative of your fight to have the poll. This is beneficial and a great idea. People are too uneducated on this subject."