Sex education in schools

All states are somehow involved in sex education for public schoolchildren.
As of July 1, 2014:

  • 22 states and the District of Columbia require public schools teach sex education (20 of which mandate sex education and HIV education).
  • 33 states and the District of Columbia require students receive instruction about HIV/AIDS.
  • 19 states require that if provided, sex education must be medically, factually or technically accurate. State definitions of “medically accurate vary, from requiring that the department of health review curriculum for accuracy, to mandating that curriculum be based on information from “published authorities upon which medical professionals rely.”

Many states define parents’ rights concerning sexual education:

  • 37 states and the District of Columbia require school districts to allow parental involvement in sexual education programs.
  • Three states require parental consent before a child can receive instruction.
  • 35 states and the District of Columbia allow parents to opt-out on behalf of their children.

Why is sexual education taught in schools?

A 2011 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) survey indicates that more than 47 percent of all high school students say they have had sex; and 15 percent of high school students have had sex with four or more partners during their lifetime. Among students who had sex in the three months prior to the survey, 60 percent reported condom use and 23 percent reported birth control pill use during their last sexual encounter.

Sexual activity has consequences. Though the teen birth rate has declined to its lowest levels since data collection began, the United States still has the highest teen birth rate in the industrialized world. Three in 10 girls in will be pregnant at least once before their 20th birthday. Teenage mothers are less likely to finish high school and are more likely than their peers to live in poverty, depend on public assistance, and be in poor health. Their children are more likely to suffer health and cognitive disadvantages, come in contact with the child welfare and correctional systems, live in poverty, drop out of high school and become teen parents themselves. These costs add up, according to The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, which estimates that teen childbearing costs taxpayers at least $9.4 billion annually.

Adolescents are disproportionately affected by sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Young people ages 15 to 24 represent 25 percent of the sexually active population, but acquire half of all new STIs, which amounts to 9.8 million new cases a year. About 3.2 million adolescent females are infected with at least one of the most common STIs. Human papillomavirus is the most common STI among teens; some estimates find that up to 35 percent of teens ages 14 to 19 have HPV. Girls age 15 to 19 have the highest rates of Gonorrhea and the second highest rate of Chlamydia of any age group. Young males also get STIs, but their infections often are undiagnosed and unreported because they are less likely to have symptoms or seek medical care. The most recent data available, in 2000, indicates the estimated direct medical costs for treating young people with sexually transmitted infections was $6.5 billion annually, excluding costs associated with HIV/AIDS. In 2011, approximately 24 percent of new HIV diagnoses were young people age 13 to 24.

2014 Sex Education Legislation

(Updated status as of Nov. 21, 2014)

Bill          Summary and Status
  • HB 366 / SB 202 Requires health education be age-appropriate and medically accurate. Requires parental or legal guardian be notified of human sexual education instruction. Allows parents or legal guardian to opt-out.  From Joint Committee on Education: Accompanied Study Order H4414.
  • HB 388 Requires health education be age be age-appropriate, medically accurate and evidence-based; requires health curriculum to focus on violence prevention. Requires the commissioner of the department of education to submit a report on the provision of health education by school districts to the legislature. From Joint Committee on Education: Accompanied Study Order H4414.
  • HB 421 Establishes a comprehensive health education curriculum in public schools. Requires health education be age-appropriate, medically accurate and evidence-based. Minimum instruction standards include HIV/AIDS, reproduction and sexual health education, among others. Requires the commissioner of the department of education to submit a report on the provision of health education by school districts to the legislature. From Joint Committee on Education: Accompanied Study Order H4414.
  • HB 3793 Requires a school district or public school that offers sexual health education to provide medically accurate, age-appropriate information. Requires the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to develop a list of sexual health education curricula that are consistent with comprehensive health curriculum framework. Requires the department to establish a procedure to enable any parent or guardian to flag curricula not in keeping with these requirements. Allows parents and legal guardians to opt-out.  Requires each school district and charter school to file an annual report regarding sexual health education with the department. From Joint Committee on Education: Accompanied Study Order H4414.
New York
  • AB 2694 / SB 957 Establishes an age-appropriate sex education grant program through the department of health to provide grants to eligible applicants that provide comprehensive, age-appropriate and medically accurate sex education programs. Assembly Version: To Assembly Committee on Health; Senate Version: To Senate Committee on Health.
  • AB 6705 / SB 129 Requires the commissioners of education, health and mental health to establish a comprehensive, medically accurate and age appropriate sex education curriculum to be taught in grades one through twelve in all public and charter schools. Requires the curriculum be taught within one year of the effective date of this legislature. Assembly Version: To Assembly Committee on Education; Senate Version: Amended in the Senate Committee on Education. 
  • SB 5897 Establishes the age-appropriate sex education grant program within the department of health to provide grants to public school districts, boards of cooperative educational services, school-based health centers and community organizations to support age-appropriate sex education programs. To be eligible for funding, program instruction must be age appropriate and medically accurate, among other requirements. To Senate Committee on Health.  


State Laws on Medical Accuracy in Sex Education

          Statutes                  Summary
Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 15.716
Each school district may provide instruction on HIV/AIDS. It should be medically accurate and the Department of Health Services or the Department of Education can be consulted to review curriculum for medical accuracy and teacher training.
Cal. Educ. Code § 51930-51939
School districts may provide comprehensive, age-appropriate sex education from kindergarten through grade 12. The information must be medically accurate, factual, and objective. In grade seven, information must be provided on the value of abstinence while also providing medically accurate information on other methods of preventing pregnancy and STIs. A school district that elects to offer comprehensive sex education earlier than grade seven may provide age-appropriate and medically accurate information.
Colo. Rev. Stat. § 22-1-110.5Colo. Rev. Stat. § 22-1-128; 25-44-101-104; 22-25-110; 25.5-5-603
A school district that offers a human sexuality curriculum shall maintain content standards for the curriculum that are based on scientific research. Curriculum content standards shall also be age-appropriate, culturally sensitive, and medically accurate according to published authorities upon which medical professionals generally rely. 

Creates the comprehensive human sexuality education grant program in the department of public health and environment. The purpose of the program is to provide funding to public schools and school districts to create and implement evidence based, medically accurate, culturally sensitive and age appropriate comprehensive human sexuality education programs. Creates the interagency “youth sexual health team,” to function as the oversight entity of the grant program.

Hawaii Rev. Stat. § 321-11.1
Sex education programs funded by the state shall provide medically accurate and factual information that is age appropriate and includes education on abstinence, contraception, and methods of disease prevention to prevent unintended pregnancy and STIs, including HIV.Medically accurate is defined as verified or supported by research conducted in compliance with accepted scientific methods and recognized as accurate and objective by professional organizations and agencies with expertise in the relevant field, such as the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Public Health Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Illinois105 ILCS 5/27-9.1

150 ILCS 110/3

If a school district chooses to provide sex education courses, curricula is required to be developmentally and age appropriate, medically accurate, evidence-based and complete. Requires comprehensive sex education offered in grades six through 12 to include instruction on both abstinence and contraception for the prevention of pregnancy and STDs. Requires course material and instruction replicate evidence-based programs or substantially incorporate elements of evidence-based programs. Requires the State Board of Education to make available sex education resource materials. Allows parents to opt out.
Iowa Code § 279.50
Each school board shall provide age-appropriate and research-based instruction in human growth and development including instruction regarding human sexuality, self-esteem, stress management, interpersonal relationships, domestic abuse, HPV and the availability of a vaccine to prevent HPV, and acquired immune deficiency syndrome in grades one through 12. Research-based includes information recognized as medically accurate and objective by leading professional organizations and agencies with relevant expertise in the field.
Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 22 § 1902
Defines comprehensive family life education as education from kindergarten to grade 12 regarding human development and sexuality, including education on family planning and sexually transmitted diseases, that is medically accurate and age appropriate.
Mich. Comp. Laws § 380.1169
The superintendent of a school district shall cooperate with the Department of Public Health to provide teacher training and provide medically accurate materials for instruction of children about HIV/AIDS.
Minn. Stat. § 121A.23
The commissioner of education and the commissioner of health shall assist school districts to develop a plan to prevent or reduce the risk of sexually transmitted diseases. Districts must have a program that has technically accurate information and curriculum.
Mo. Rev. Stat. § 170.015
Mo. Rev. Stat. § 191.668
Any course materials and instructions related to human sexuality and STIs shall be medically and factually accurate. The department of health and senior services shall prepare public education and awareness plans and programs for the general public, and the department of elementary and secondary education shall prepare educational programs for public schools, regarding means of transmission and prevention and treatment of the HIV virus.  Beginning with students in the sixth grade, materials and instructions shall also stress that STIs are serious, possible health hazards of sexual activity. The educational programs shall stress moral responsibility in and restraint from sexual activity and avoidance of controlled substance use whereby HIV can be transmitted. Students shall be presented with the latest medically factual and age-specific information regarding both the possible side effects and health benefits of all forms of contraception.
New Jersey* Family life education curriculum must be aligned with the most recent version of the New Jersey Core curriculum Content Standards which requires that instructional material be current, medically accurate and supported by extensive research.
North CarolinaN.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C-81 Reproductive health and safety education must provide factually accurate biological or pathological information that is related to the human reproductive system. Materials used must be age appropriate, objective and based upon scientific research that is peer reviewed and accepted by professional and credentialed experts in the field of sexual health education.
Okl. Stat. Ann. tit. 70 § 11-103.3
The State Department of Education shall develop curriculum and materials for AIDS prevention education in conjunction with the State Department of Health. A school district may also develop its own AIDS prevention education curriculum and materials. Any curriculum and materials developed for use in the public schools shall be approved for medical accuracy by the State Department of Health.The State Department of Health and the State Department of Education shall update AIDS education curriculum material as newly discovered medical facts make it necessary.
Or. Rev. Stat. § 336.455
Each school district shall provide age-appropriate human sexuality education courses in all public elementary and secondary schools as an integral part of the health education curriculum. Curriculum must also be medically accurate, comprehensive, and include information about responsible sexual behaviors and hygienic practices that eliminate or reduce the risks of pregnancy and the risks of exposure to HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C and other STIs. Information about those risks shall be presented in a manner designed to allay fears concerning risks that are scientifically groundless.
Rhode Island
R.I. Gen. Laws § 16-22-17
The department of elementary and secondary education shall, pursuant to rules promulgated by the commissioner of elementary and secondary education and the director of the department of health, establish comprehensive AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) instruction, which shall provide students with accurate information and instruction on AIDS transmission and prevention, and which course shall also address abstinence from sexual activity as the preferred means of prevention, as a basic education program requirement.
Tenn. Code Ann.
§ 49-6-1301 et seq.
Requires local education agencies to develop and implement a family life education program if the teen pregnancy rate in any county exceeds 19.5 pregnancies per 1,000 females aged 11 through 18. Requires curriculum be age-appropriate and provide factually and medically accurate information. Prohibits instruction and distribution of materials that promote “gateway sexual activity.” Requires that parents or guardians be notified in advance of a family life program, allowed to examine instruction materials, and provide written consent for a student to participate in or opt-out of family life education.
Tex. Health and Safety Code § 85.004
The department shall develop model education programs to be available to educate the public about AIDS and HIV infection. The programs must be scientifically accurate and factually correct.
Utah** The State Office of Education must approve all sexuality education programs through the State Instructional Material Commission.  Programs must be medically accurate.
Wash. Rev. Code § 28A.230.070
Wash. Rev. Code § 28A.300.475
Schools shall adopt an AIDS prevention education program using model curriculum or district-designed curriculum approved for medical accuracy by the office on AIDS within the department of social and health services. The curriculum shall be updated as necessary to incorporate newly discovered medical facts.By September 1, 2008, every public school that offers sexual health education must assure that sexual health education is medically and scientifically accurate, age-appropriate, appropriate for students regardless of gender, race, disability status, or sexual orientation, and includes information about abstinence and other methods of preventing unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. All sexual health information, instruction, and materials must be medically and scientifically accurate. Abstinence may not be taught to the exclusion of other materials and instruction on contraceptives and disease prevention.
WisconsinWis. Stat. § 118.019 A school board may provide an instructional program in human growth and development in grades kindergarten through 12. Program shall be medically accurate and age-appropriate. Abstinence will be presented as the sure way to prevent pregnancy and STIs.  Instruction must identify the skills necessary to remain abstinent.


*Medical accuracy is not specifically outlined in state statue, rather it is required by the New Jersey Department of Education, Comprehensive Health and Physical Education Core Curriculum Content Standards.

** Medical accuracy requirement is pursuant to rule R277-474 of the Utah Administrative Code.

Source:  NCSL, 2014; Guttmacher Institute, 2014; Powered by StateNet

This article was written by Victor

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