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Here's why some school districts are starting sex ed younger

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The Los Angeles Unified School District will be trying out sex ed in fourth grade this school year, but it's not the only school district starting sex education younger.

Young people are entering puberty sooner than ever before.
Wendy Sellers, author of "Puberty: The Wonder Years"

There's a reason behind that, according to Wendy Sellers, a health professional and creator of the curriculum a lot of these schools are using.

"I'm a big proponent of starting formal sex ed in fourth grade because our young people are entering puberty sooner than ever before," Sellers told Circa.

Americans are now starting puberty younger, according to multiple studies. One study published in Pediatrics in 2012 found that kids are starting puberty at 7 years old, compared to their parents, who started 8 or 9.

Sellers' program for fourth-graders, "Puberty: The Wonder Years," focuses on changes in the body and appropriate names for sexual reproductive organs.

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Wendy Sellers holds a copy of "Puberty: The Wonder Years."

"We also talk a lot about hygiene because once children start to develop during puberty, they do tend to have to take care of their skin differently than they did before," says Sellers. "And that includes washing skin and using deodorant."

The curriculum goes on to fifth and sixth grade and is also inclusive of all genders and sexual orientations.

"Two children in the role play scenario could be of different sexes or they could be of the same gender," Sellers said. "So it allows every student in the class to identify with those role-play scenarios."

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Schools and agencies in 27 states use the program, according to Sellers.

LAUSD is using a $24,000 federal grant to buy the program after a 2015 survey by the school district found that 10 percent of eighth-graders had had intercourse. The program is expected to be rolled out to 10 to 15 schools. LAUSD says the information being taught will be "very basic" and focus on hygiene -- something LAUSD says school nurses don't have the bandwidth to cover.

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Currently, most school districts that offer sex ed do so in fifth or sixth grade. Critics of Sellers' curriculum say most kids in elementary school are not having sex, so sex ed is unnecessary. Others say that fourth grade is too early to talk to kids about sex, but Sellers says not talking about the topic is worse.

"What we need to worry about is not talking enough and not repeating those talks over and over so that children are ready when they’re developmentally ready to hear the information and apply it to their own lives," Sellers said.

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