Organizing Your Community
One thing is certain—you can’t go it alone. In order to effectively advocate for comprehensive sexuality education (CSE), you will need to build a broad network of community support. A diverse group of dedicated people working together can move mountains! The following suggestions can help you in this process.
Do Your Homework
If you are reading this Community Action Kit, chances are you are already doing a great job on your homework. Congratulations!
You also have to know what is going on in your in your state, school district, and local schools and community. Is there a state mandate? Does the state have education standards in place that include sexuality content (typically, but not always, within health education)? Is there a district mandate or policy in place? Does the school provide a course in sexuality education? If so, what is covered? If not, why not? Are there local organizations that provide sexuality education programs in the community or serve as guest speakers in the schools?
Connect with the teachers in your local schools, especially those who are teaching health and/or sexuality education and science courses. Find out exactly what is taught in the schools and encourage teachers who are supportive of comprehensive sexuality education to get involved in speaking out for sexuality education. They often know a great deal about what students need and want from a sexuality education course.
Finding Some Answers
Involve a Diverse Group of Community Members
Contact elected officials. Locate those who are supportive of comprehensive sexuality education and involve them in your organizing efforts. Encourage them to speak out about the issues to their constituents as well as other officials.
Seek out school nurses and community healthcare providers who are actively involved in providing health education and services. Those who are on the front lines of adolescent sexual health have the best understanding of what young people need.
Include students and local youth in your advocacy efforts. Young people can uniquely speak to the reality and needs of their peers. They can tell you which social media channels, such as Facebook and Twitter, are most likely to help you build support. They can also organize support for comprehensive sexuality education in the student government or general student body.
Once you have involved interested individuals, you might want to consider creating a formal group or coalition. Giving your coalition a name and creating a logo can provide legitimacy and help the group increase visibility in your community.
Additional tips on communicating with elected officials are available in the Community Action Kit: Working with Policymakers
Involve Local Organizations
Involve Faith Organizations
Start with the interfaith alliance in your community (if one exists) or the statewide “conference of churches” rather than approaching congregations individually. This will allow you access to many more clergy and congregations in a shorter amount of time. The Religious Institute may be a helpful resource on issues of sexuality education and faith.
Involve National Organizations
Get the Media on Your Side
Designate a media spokesperson to represent your group and direct all inquiries to that person. Choose someone who is articulate and respected in the community. This can help ensure that your key points are communicated.
Find the reporter at the local newspaper, news website, or local events blog who covers health and/or education issues and “pitch” your story to him or her. Try to appeal to the reporter’s head as well as their heart. Putting a personal spin on your story can often make reporters more interested.
Keep your media contacts informed of your progress and the challenges you encounter. Don’t forget to provide them with relevant resources and press statements. Include both local and national statistics so that they can understand how your community compares to your state and the country.
Be sure to coordinate your local media and social media activity! In other words, be sure that the messages you and your allies post through Facebook, Twitter, or other social media sites are consistent with the messages you communicate to local media professionals.
Additional tips on working with traditional and new media are available in the Community Action Kit: Getting Your Message Out section.
A Place to Start