The Key to Healthy Relationships: Comprehensive Sex Ed

Banner for Comprehensive Sexuality Education Conference

The Maine Family Planning team is gearing up for our 13th annual Comprehensive Sexuality Education Conference, taking place on Friday, April 6.  With a timely keynote from renowned expert Dr. Elizabeth Schroeder; inspiring workshops covering a broad range of topics; and ample opportunities for networking and learning from peers, the sex ed conference really is a comprehensive experience for health educators, school nurses, classroom teachers, and anyone else tasked with helping Maine youth navigate sexuality, gender, and relationships in the #MeToo era.

Workshops reflect the diversity of challenges that sexuality educators face—from gender bias and working with LGBTQ+ youth, to sex ed in immigrant communities, to “consent in the classroom.” Our presenters represent a host of allied Maine organizations and are experts in their respective fields. And our “chat rooms” offer participants a chance to process what they learn and explore other relevant topics.

We spoke with conference coordinator Lynne Kaplowitz, who shared a little bit about the history of the conference, what to expect this year, and what she’s most looking forward to next Friday.

How has the Comprehensive Sexuality Education Conference grown and evolved over 13 years? What was the impetus for launching the conference and what makes it unique in Maine (and beyond)?

Maine Family Planning had 17 family life educators and outreach staff statewide when the conference first started.  Our education and outreach staff heard that teachers needed resources and help teaching sexuality education.  We felt that a yearly conference would provide these opportunities.  We have been told that a conference for school staff and other health educators that focuses on sexuality education is a unique opportunity to bring these educators together in a learning environment.

The theme of this year’s conference is “Helping Youth Navigate the World of Relationships Through Comprehensive Sexuality Education.” How did this theme come to be, and why is it important for sexuality educators in 2018?

After several years of themes that strayed from a focus on sexuality education, the conference planning committee felt that it was imperative to come back to our roots and the foundational knowledge that educators need in order to teach sexuality education.  We feel that the key to healthy relationships is a good foundation in sexuality education.

What can attendees expect from this year’s conference? What’s new and different?

Dr. Elizabeth Schroeder, one of our most popular keynote speakers from a past conference, will return to Maine with a timely keynote and workshop.  We will also offer a response and proactive information in the wake of the Me Too movement.  Our chat rooms will focus on Maine organizations that provide resources to schools and organizations.

This year’s workshops explore cutting-edge topics ranging from sex ed in immigrant communities to porn consumption among young people to digital outreach with a queer and trans focus. How are workshops selected and how do you feel they reflect the concerns of today’s youth?

Our conference committee reviews proposals from Maine organizations and educators to find the most current and timely proposals that address our theme.  Many of the workshop proposals that weren’t selected have become chat rooms so that participants can learn about these great organizations.  We feel that our committee chose the workshops that would help educators work with youth.

How did you become involved in the conference and what is your current role? What is most rewarding about this aspect of your work?

My role at Maine Family Planning has evolved over the 20 years that I’ve worked here.  I am the conference coordinator and training coordinator for the organization.  It is very rewarding to interact with educators and to see how the content of the conference helps them in their daily work.

What are you personally most looking forward to on April 6?

Hearing from teachers and school nurses about current issues with students. Learning about the training needs of educators. Listening to Elizabeth Schroeder’s perspective on sexuality education.

There’s still time to register for this exciting day of learning. Click here to sign up. 

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