Sexual Education In The Usa

Many states have sponsored some type of sexuality education, either by legislation, regulations, or guidelines. State laws and regulations that require schools to emphasize abstinence in their sexuality education curriculums have been widespread in recent years.

At present, 19 states require schools to teach sexuality education, while 34 states require education on STDs and/or HIV/AIDS. While 37 states have laws that mandate that abstinence is included in sex education, only 18 states require educators to share birth control information as well. Currently, 29 states and D.C. require sex education, five states have laws requiring comprehensive sex education, and of these, three require that it be taught in all schools, and two require the curriculum be comprehensive if taught in schools.

Thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia require that students be taught HIV. As of October 2020*, only 30 states and DC required that public schools teach sexuality education, with 28 requiring both sexuality and HIV education. Currently, only 29 states in the United States and Washington, DC, require schools to teach sex education, while only 11 states and DC mandate LGBTQ-inclusive sex education. While only about half the states nationwide mandate sex education, fewer states have laws that mandate health literacy, inclusive language, and information about contraception.

While nearly all states provide some guidelines about how and when to teach sex education, decisions are generally left to individual school districts, creating a patchwork of inconsistent policies and practices across states. Because laws and regulations about sex education can differ so widely, the state of sexual education in the United States is volatile, and information shared is often inauthentic, at odds with the educational materials shared by sexual health organizations such as Planned Parenthood*. According to the Sexuality and Information Council of America, only 38% of high schools and 14% of middle schools nationwide teach all 19 topics identified as crucial to sexual education by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The vast majority of parents support middle school and high school sex education, which covers a broad array of topics including sexuality, puberty, healthy relationships, birth control, and sexual orientation.

National health goals for adolescents recommend providing comprehensive sex education, covering a broad range of topics, and calling for increasing the proportion of adolescents receiving formal education on abstinence, methods of birth control, and prevention of HIV/AIDS and STIs. In brief, comprehensive sex ed programs incorporate developmentalally and culturally appropriate, science-based, and medically accurate information on a wide range of topics related to sexuality, including human development, relationships, personal skills, sexual health, and society and culture, according to the U.S. Council for Sexuality Information and Education (PDF, 7.1MB). Twenty-two states require that, when provided, sexuality education and/or HIV-related education be medically, factually, or technologically accurate. Statistics released by CDC regarding policies and requirements for public and private secondary schools in the U.S. regarding sex education in 2014 showed 30% of U.S. public and private secondary schools included information on pregnancy prevention, 50% taught abstinence as the most effective method for avoiding pregnancy, HIV, and other STDs.

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