The topic of sex ed in schools is a subject of great debate in America. While some feel such topics should be kept out of the classroom altogether, others feel schools have an obligation to provide students information about their changing bodies during their formative years. States differ greatly when it comes to teaching about topics like sex, reproductive health, contraception, and more. Which states mandate sex education? In the United States, 24 states require sex ed be taught in public schools.
Teen pregnancy and STD rates are topics of great public concern and everyone has a different opinion on how to prevent these things. Some states that require sex education promote abstinence-only approaches, but some feel this kind of curriculum is ineffective and fuels misconceptions about sex. Other states opt to teach students about safer sexual practices to prevent pregnancy and disease, with opponents arguing this could encourage teens to have sex before they're ready. While the topic is uncomfortable for many, anyone invested in our country's education should be informed about what kids are being taught in school. Browse this list for information about curriculum surrounding sexual education in America.
HIV/AIDS: Schools are required to teach HIV/AIDS education at least once in middle school and once in high school.
Contraception: While sex education about contraceptive devices is not required, if schools opt to provide this information they must follow certain guidelines. Information must be medically accurate and students must be taught about the effectiveness and safety of all FDA-approved contraceptive devices. This includes emergency contraception.
Abstinence: Schools teaching abstinence must provide medically accurate information about additional contraception methods as well.
Opt Out: Parents must have the option to remove their students from any/all sex education curriculum.
Curriculum: Sex education must follow the Delaware Health Education Curriculum.
HIV/AIDS: HIV/AIDS prevention – with a focus on abstinence – must be included in the curriculum.
Minimum Hours: 30 hours of health and family life education must be taught in each grade from Kindergarten to fourth grade. In fifth and sixth grade, 35 hours must be taught. In seventh and eighth grade, 70 hours must be taught. High school students must receive 1/2 credit in health education and each grade also has minimum hour requirements for drug and alcohol education.
Opt Out: Parental permission is not required for students to participate in the sex education curriculum and there is no standard in place for removing students from the program.
HIV/AIDS: Students are required to learn about HIV prevention and STDs.
Contraception: Contraception methods are not required to be taught, but such lessons are allowed.
Abstinence: Instruction on abstinence is required as is instruction on community values including "the handling of peer pressure and the promotion of high self-esteem."
Pregnancy: Information about the legal consequences of parenthood must be included in the curriculum.
Opt Out: Parents must have the option to remove their child from any or all of the sex ed curriculum.
Abstinence: Hawaii instructs teachers to inform students that abstinence is the most effective and responsible way to prevent pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and consequential emotional distress. The program must empower students to remain abstinent or become abstinent.
Contraception: Contraception methods may be discussed, but no forms of contraception may be distributed through a school program or on school grounds.
Opt Out: Parental permission is not required for students to participate in sex ed programs and there is no official opt out program in place for parents.
HIV/AIDS: HIV/AIDS education must be included in the curriculum along with information about other sexually transmitted diseases and HPV.
Curricula Requirement: All lessons must provide up-to-date, science-based, age-appropriate information.
Abstinence: Abstinence may be taught but must include up-to-date, science-based, age-appropriate information.
Opt Out: Parents may remove students from the program if any lessons conflict with religious beliefs.
Curriculum: All Kentucky schools must follow the Department of Education's Program of Studies in regards to teaching sixth through twelfth graders.
Abstinence: Kentucky offers state funds to health departments to help students postpone sexual activity. While abstinence-only sex education is not required, it is strongly encouraged.
Opt Out: Parental permission is not required and there is no official opt out program in place.
Curriculum: Comprehensive family life education is required in Kindergarten through 12th grade. Lessons must be medically accurate, age appropriate, respect community values, and encourage discussion between the parent and child.
Contraception: Information about contraception, abstinence, and healthy relationships must be taught.
Abstinence: Abstinence must be taught alongside basic curriculum regarding contraceptive devices. Maine does receive federal funding for abstinence until marriage programs.
Opt Out: Parents may remove students from any or all of the sex ed programs.
Curriculum: Maryland files sex education under its Goal F initiative that helps students recognize the family as a basic unit of society among other things. Health education must be taught from Kindergarten to 12th grade.
Abstinence: Maryland's current curriculum requires abstinence must be stressed, although information about contraceptive devices can also be provided.
Age requirements: Maryland offers guidance as to when certain topics should be taught. For example, human reproduction is recommended to be taught between the ages of 10 and 12.
Opt Out: Parental permission is required and parents may remove students from any portion of the lesson plan.
HIV/AIDS: School districts must have programs detailing HIV/AIDS prevention as well as instruction on other sexually transmitted diseases.
Curriculum: There is no set curriculum, but school districts must include material that encourages students to wait until marriage to have sex.
Opt Out: Parents must have the option to remove their child from the sex ed program.
Curriculum: Sex education is not required.
Abstinence: If a school district decides to teach sex ed, abstinence until marriage must be stressed. Fidelity in marriage must also be taught.
Contraception: If contraception is taught, the failure risks of each method must be discussed. Teachers cannot instruct students how to actually use any form of contraception.
Same Sex Relationships: Monogamous, heterosexual relationships must be taught as the only appropriate instance of sexual intercourse.
Opt Out: Parents must be notified of sex ed lesson plans and have the option to remove their child from the program.
Curriculum: A health enhancement program is required, but school districts may design their own sex ed lesson plans. Lessons must be age appropriate. However, students are supposed to have a general understanding of their body and how to stay healthy by the end of fourth grade.
Reproductive Health: Students are required to learn about reproductive health and the reproductive system in eighth grade, but there are no specific teaching guidelines.
HIV/AIDS: Students need to be taught about HIV/AIDS by the end of fourth grade.
Opt Out: Parental permission is not required and there is no official opt out program in place.
Curriculum: Each school district must offer courses on sexual education and wellness, but cannot require such courses for graduation.
HIV/AIDS: Schools must include information about HIV/AIDS during sex education.
Reproductive System: Schools must teach about the reproductive system and general sexual responsibility. However, there are no specific requirements regarding teaching about STDs or contraceptive devices.
Abstinence: While teaching abstinence is not required, Nevada receives state funding for abstinence until marriage sex ed.
Opt Out: Parents must be notified of sex ed lesson plans and sign a permission slip in order for their child to participate.
Abstinence: New Jersey has a "Stress Abstinence Law." This requires schools stress that abstinence is the one completely reliable method to avoid unwanted pregnancy. This law also requires schools to detail the failure rates of other methods of contraception.
Contraception: New Jersey State Law requires schools to provide instruction on multiple methods of contraception. Abstinence-only sex education would be considered non-compliant with state guidelines.
HIV/AIDS: Along with teaching students that abstinence is the most reliable way to prevent HIV and the effectiveness of using condoms, teachers must also share the importance of not engaging in intravenous drug use to prevent HIV infection.
Marriage: Schools are required to address how relationships contribute to overall wellness. Programs all detail a variety of family structures including "traditional or two-parent families, blended families, single-parent families, multiracial and multigenerational families, and same-sex families."
Same Sex Relationships: The state requires students learn about sexual orientation by the end of 8th grade along with tolerance and sensitivity.
HIV/AIDS: New Mexico does not require sex education, but schools are required to teach students about HIV and related issues.
Opt Out: Each school district must have a policy in place for parents to opt out of health curriculum sessions that address sexuality. Alternative lessons must be developed for exempted students.
Abstinence: North Carolina schools are required to teach abstinence in the Reproductive Health and Safety Education program.
STDs: Students must learn about sexually transmitted disease prevention between the seventh and ninth grade. Information must be medically accurate and age appropriate.
Contraception: Students must learn medically accurate information about various contraceptive methods between seventh and ninth grade.
Opt Out: Parents must be given the right to remove their child from any or all of the Reproductive Health and Safety Education programs. Parents also have the right to review the curriculum and the materials associated with the program.
Abstinence: While abstinence-only programs are not legally required, they are encouraged. North Dakota has received grants to fund abstinence-only programs.
Opt Out: North Dakota does not require parental permission to teach students about sexuality or HIV/AIDS. It varies by school whether or not parents can remove their children from this curriculum.
Curriculum: Sex education is not required, but school districts must establish a health curriculum that includes venereal disease education.
Abstinence: The curriculum must stress the importance of abstinence until marriage, the negative side effects of having sex before marriage, and the consequences of having a child out of wedlock.
Opt Out: Parents may request their child to be excused from taking the course.
Curriculum: School districts are required to present information on HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis B & C, and other sexually transmitted diseases.
Abstinence: If sex ed is taught, abstinence must be included along with other methods of contraception.
Contraception: Contraception methods should be addressed, including failure rates and the latest medical information.
Opt Out: Parents may remove their child from sex ed and STD education classes.
Curriculum: Schools are required to provide “accurate information and instruction” on a range of sexual health issues.
STDs: Schools must teach about STDs, but there are no specific requirements to teach about STD prevention.
Abstinence: Abstinence is required to be stressed in sex ed courses.
HIV/AIDS: Accurate information must be provided about AIDS transmission and prevention with a stress on abstinence.
Opt Out: Parents must be notified when sex ed is being taught and they may request to view the curriculum. Parents may remove their child from the program if they wish.
STDs: Schools must teach students about sexually transmitted diseases, but education specific to HIV/AIDS is not required.
Abstinence: Abstinence-only sex education is not required by law. However, South Carolina law does state abstinence until marriage must be strongly encouraged and the risks of sexual relationships outside of marriage must be emphasized.
Contraception: Contraception must be taught with family planning in mind. Adoption may be discussed, but abortion may not. Schools are not allowed to distribute contraceptive devices.
Opt Out: Parents must be informed in advance about any sex education curriculum and must have the option to remove their child from any portion of the program.
Curriculum: Sex ed classes must be approved by the local school board and state board of education before being implemented.
Pregnancy Rates: Tennessee state code says that if any county has pregnancy rates greater than 19.5 per 1,000 females ages 15 to 17, family guidance courses are required for every school in the county. Abstinence, HIV/AIDS prevention, and STD prevention must be included in the course.
Opt Out: Parents may remove students from any/all sex ed or STD prevention courses.
Abstinence: Abstinence is to be taught as the best way to prevent unwanted pregnancies and STDs.
Adoption: A presentation on adoption should be held every year during grades seven through 12.
Prohibited Instruction: State law prohibits the instruction of a variety of topics including the intricacies of intercourse, the advocacy of homosexuality, the advocacy of contraception methods, and the advocacy of sex out side of marriage.
Opt Out: Parents must give their written consent before students can participate in sex ed courses.
Curriculum: Vermont schools are required to present a 10 part health program, four of which are dedicated to sex education.
Anatomy: Human development, reproduction, and body structure are required topics in the Vermont health program.
HIV/AIDS: Prevention of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases must be taught.
Communication: Information about family health, personal behavior, and abstinence must be included in the discussion which also encourages communication between parents and children.
Contraception: Contraception methods, adolescent pregnancy, adoption, and abortion are all to be included in the discussion about human growth and development.
Opt Out: Parents can remove their child from sex ed courses if the teachings conflict with religious beliefs.
HIV/AIDS: West Virgina requires education about HIV/AIDS prevention from sixth to 12th grade. Educators must be qualified professionals.
Opt Out: Parents must be given the opportunity to remove their children from the curriculum.