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State Policies on Sex Education in Schools

State Policies on Sex Education in Schools

1/27/2014

All states are somehow involved in sex education for public schoolchildren.
As of January 1, 2015:
  • 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?

ClassroomA 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. Roughly one in four girls will become pregnant at least once by 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.

2015 Sex Education Legislation

(Updated status as of Jan. 26, 2015)

State

Bill/ Summary/ Status

Arizona

HB 2476 Amends existing law to allow school districts to provide sex education unless a parent provides written permission for a student to opt out of instruction. Requires that school districts provide sex education that is medically accurate and age- and developmentally appropriate in grades kindergarten through 12. Creates additional requirements for sex education, including teaching the benefits of delaying sexual activity and the importance of using effective contraceptives to prevent unintended pregnancy, HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. Education requirements also include information to support students in developing healthy relationships and skills such as communication, critical thinking and decision making. Requires the Department of Education, among other things, to develop list of appropriate curricula and create rules for instructor qualifications. Introduced.

 

Hawaii

 

HB 459 / SB 395 Amends existing sexuality health education law to specify additional requirements for information that helps students form healthy relationships and communication skills, as well as critical thinking, decision making and stress management skills, and encourages students to communicate with adults. Requires all public schools to implement sex education consistent with these requirements beginning in 2016-2017. Allows written permission by a parent or legal guardian to opt out of sexuality education. Allows the Department of Education to make modifications to ensure age-appropriate curricula in elementary school. Requires the Department to maintain a public list of curricula that meets requirements of law and to create standards for instructor qualifications. House version: Referred to Committee on Health; Senate version: Referred to Senate Committe on Education.

 

HB 595 Amends existing sexuality health education law to specify additional requirements for information that helps students form healthy relationships and communication skills, as well as critical thinking, decision making and stress management skills, and encourages students to communicate with adults. Allows written permission by a parent or legal guardian to opt out of sexuality education. Allows the Department of Education to make modifications to ensure age-appropriate curricula in elementary school. Requires the Board of Education to collaborate with the Department to maintain a public list of curricula that meets requirements of law. Requires the Department to create standards for instructor qualifications. Introduced.

 

Indiana

 

SB 497 Requires the state Department of Health and the Department of Education to cooperatively identify and report to the General Assembly appropriate academic standards and curricula concerning health education and sex education. The standards and curricula must be evidence based, age appropriate and must use established medical principles. Referred to Committee on Education and Career Development.

 

Mississippi

HB 318 Creates the Mississippi Comprehensive Communities of Color Teen Pregnancy Prevention Act, which requires the Department of Human Services and the Department of Health to develop certain programs and strategies promoting pregnancy prevention and providing information on the consequences of unprotected, uninformed and underage sexual activity. Programs and strategies include counseling and education about postponing sexual activity, information about consequences of pregnancy and parenthood, and medically accurate information about contraceptive options. Referred to House Committee on Public Health and Human Services; Additionally referred to House Committee on Appropriations.

 

Missouri

HB 353 Amends laws related to sex education in schools. In addition to existing criteria of medically and factually accurate, requires that curricula must also be age appropriate and based on peer review. Adds stipulations to cover certain topics, including helping students develop critical thinking, decision making, and stress management skills in order to support healthy relationships. Specifies that curricula promote communication with parents. Also adds to curricula information on sexual predators, internet safety and consequences of inappropriate text messaging. Introduced.

 

SB 61 Creates the Teen Dating Violence Prevention Education Act to provide students with the knowledge, skills and information to prevent and respond to teen dating violence. Authorizes school districts and charter schools to provide teen dating violence education as part of the sexual health and health education program in grades seven through 12 and to establish related curriculum or materials. Also allows age-appropriate instruction on domestic violence. Referred to Senate Committee on Education.

 

New Jersey

AB 2379 Requires school districts to include information on reproductive coercion as part of the existing dating violence education program in grades seven through 12. Referred to Assembly Committee on Education.

 

New York

 

A 1037 Amends existing law to add prevention of sexual abuse and assault to health education in all public schools. Requires instruction to be based on current practice and standards and to include recognizing, avoiding, refusing and reporting sexual abuse and assault. Establishes teacher training and standards for instructors in elementary and secondary school. Referred to Assembly Committee on Education.

 

A 1616 / S 700 Establishes an age-appropriate sex education grant program through the Department of Health. Requires that applicants teach information that is medically accurate and age appropriate and does not teach religion. Makes provisions for other components, which are not required but may not be contradicted by programs, including instruction that: teaches and stresses abstinence as well as provides information about contraceptives, teaches skills that support development of health life skills and decision making skills, and encourages communication with parents, among other things. Authorizes the commissioner to determine certain topics of instruction to be optional for age-appropriate reasons. Assembly Version: To Assembly Committee on Health; Senate Version: To Senate Committee on Health.

 

S 1889 Establishes an age-appropriate sex education grant program through the Department of Health. Requires that applicants teach information that is medically accurate and age appropriate and does not teach religion. Makes provisions for other components, which are not required but may not be contradicted by programs, including instruction that: teaches and stresses abstinence as well as provides information about contraceptives, teaches skills that support development of health life skills and decision making skills, and encourages communication with parents, among other things. Authorizes the commissioner to determine certain topics of instruction to be optional for age-appropriate reasons. Referred to Senate Committee on Health.

 

S 905 Mandates comprehensive, medically accurate and age-appropriate sex education be taught in grades one through 12 in all public schools. Provides that the Commissioner of Education will create and establish a curriculum to accomplish such goal within one year of the effective date of this legislation. Allows boards of education to adopt their own curricula with approval of Commissioner of Education. Referred to Senate Committee on Education.

 

Texas

HB 78 Amends education law related to human sexuality education in public schools. Mandates the State Board of Education to adopt the essential knowledge and skills for medically accurate, age-appropriate curriculum to be used by school districts in providing human sexuality education. Requires curricula to cover such topics as: emphasizing abstinence, providing information on contraceptives, promoting relationship, communication and decision making skills, and encouraging communication with adults. Requires school districts to make curricula reasonably publicly available and to provide written notice to parents about providing sexuality education. Students can be excused from sexuality education with written request of a parent or legal guardian. Introduced.

 

HB 467 Amends law related to education regarding AIDS and HIV infection to emphasize abstinence as only way to avoid pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. Introduced.

 

SB 88 Amends and adds to existing sexuality education requirements that instruction must be age-appropriate, medically accurate and include information on contraceptives in addition to promoting abstinence. Also mandates that instruction cover, among other things, healthy life and decision making skills, and communication with family members. Referred to Senate Committee on Education.

 

SB 297 Requires health education in public schools to be evidence based. Introduced.

 

SB 300 Adds requirements to existing law related to written notice to parents of a school district’s human sexuality instruction. Requires that school districts include in the notification information about the curricula’s required emphasis on abstinence and whether a school district is providing abstinence-only or comprehensive sexuality instruction. Introduced.

 

Washington

SB 5506 Adds information on sexual assault and violence prevention and understanding consent to existing health education requirement. Referred to Senate Committee on Early Learning and K-12 Education.

 

 

State Laws on Medical Accuracy in Sex Education

          Statutes                 

Summary

Arizona
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.

California
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.

Colorado
Colo. Rev. Stat. § 22-1-110.5

 

Colo. 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
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.

Illinois

105 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
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.

Maine
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.

Michigan
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.

Minnesota
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.

Missouri
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 Carolina

N.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. 

Oklahoma
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.

Oregon
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.

Tennessee
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.

Texas
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.

Washington
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.

Wisconsin

Wis. 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, 2015; Guttmacher Institute, 2015; Powered by StateNet 

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