Do sex education policies vary by state?

This whole discussion of NYC mandatory sex education got me thinking. What are the state policies on sex education in all states? As it turns out, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures website, all states are “somehow involved in sex education for public schoolchildren” (“State Policies“).

As of February 2011, NCSL states:

  • 21 states and the District of Columbia require public schools to teach sex education (including HIV education);
  • 35 states and the District of Columbia require students receive instruction about STIs and HIV/AIDS;
  • 17 states require sex education curricula to be medically accurate and/or age appropriate. State policies vary in their determination of “medically accurate;” some require that state health departments review curricula, while others require that the facts taught come from “published authorities upon which medical professionals rely.”
Also, “many of these states define parents’ rights concerning sexual education” (“State Policies”):
  • 37 states 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.
These are fascinating statistics. I am glad to read that all states require sex education because that proves that parents and educational professionals value the sexual health of their children. Also, with the growing HIV/AIDS epidemic, it is imperative that means of contraception is incorporated into this sex ed as well. Most importantly, however, we must be wary of how we define “age-appropriate” sex education because there is a lot of controversy over what students should be taught at what point in their lives. This is important to keep in mind as I explore the debate the correlation between age and knowledge of sexuality. Lastly, I find it fascinating that some parents (35%) choose to opt out of their child’s sex education, as they are depriving their child of critical knowledge to make safe, responsible decisions in their future. From this, I hope to learn what educational professionals strive to change to accommodate for this large lack of participation in sex education at their schools. This goes back to the question of what kind of sex education is appropriate. What would you suggest? How can they lower that 35% and keep those children in class?



Works Cited:

“State Policies on Sex Education in Schools.” NCSL Home. Dec. 2011. Web. 24 Mar. 2012.


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