There is no national standard for sexual health education in the United States. Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention outlines 16 critical sexual education topics which it recommends, it is still up to each state to determine if, and what, is taught in schools.
Out of the 22 states that mandate sex education in schools, only 13 further require that that information be medically accurate. And new legislative efforts currently making their ways through State Houses across the country continue to vary widely in scientific consciousness and inclusion of sexual identities.
The myriad sexual education bills currently being debated can be found on the map below.
In Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Rhode Island, and Virginia, bills have been introduced in the past year that would require that any state-funded curriculum covering human sexuality include the discussion of consent.
Michigan, Missouri, and Virginia do not currently have a sexual health education mandate so that law would only apply to those districts and schools that choose to teach their students sex ed.
With the passage of SB 65, youth in Indiana, however, need their parents’ permission to learn about sexual health. Planned Parenthood Advocates claim policies like these can be dangerous, as they can make it easier for an abusive home environment to thrive where a child has yet to learn lessons on bodily autonomy and consent.
In January, Kentucky lawmakers introduced Senate Bill 71, which would mandate abstinence-only education statewide. While it would not bar instruction on medical-based methods of pregnancy and infection prevention, it would permit schools to choose abstinence-only education with no alternatives.
Bills in Arizona, Idaho, Louisiana, and Nevada do promote medical accuracy and also endorse a healthy approach to human sexual relationships; Louisiana’s new bill requiring medical accuracy and a non-judgmental approach to human sexual behavior would strike existing anti-LGBTQ language from their state sex. ed. curriculum.
Meanwhile, South Dakota’s new bill would ban any instruction in gender identity and gender expression from kindergarten to seventh grade. If it passes, it would be the first state in the nation to block gender expression and identity education.
The CDC’s 16 criteria are embedded below.