The first-ever national standards for sexuality education in K-12 schools, part of the ongoing “Future of Sex Education” project, was released this week.
Advocates for Youth, along with staff from Answer and the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS), launched the “The Future of Sex Education” project and drafted “a strategic framework” to develop the sexuality education standards in public schools. The three groups advocate for sexual health services and comprehensive sexual education specifically for youth, but also for teachers and parents.
A press release issued by the three organizations states: “The standards are the result of a cooperative effort by the American Association for Health Education, the American School Health Association, the National Education Association Health Information Network, and the Society of State Leaders of Health and Physical Education, in coordination with the Future of Sex Education (FoSE) Initiative.”
The Future of Sex Education project includes “Envisioning the Future of Sex Education” (.pdf), a “tool kit” “limited to Pre-K through Grade 12 public school students and all of the adults involved in providing sexuality education in this setting: school administrators, teachers, educators, parents, and others.”
The Sexuality Education Standards (.pdf) “were developed to address the inconsistent implementation of sexuality education nationwide and the limited time allocated to teaching the topic.”
The “National Sexuality Education Standards” report (.pdf) presents “what students should know and be able to do by the end of grades 2, 5, 8, and 12 – based on the eight National Health Education Standards.”
The standards are divided into seven specific sexuality education topics:
- Anatomy and physiology
- Puberty and adolescent development
- Pregnancy and reproduction
- Sexually transmitted diseases and HIV
- Healthy relationships
- Personal safety
According to Education Week, when the Future of Sex Education Initiative “was conceived, the hope was that federal spending on abstinence-only sexual education would eventually be extinguished (which isn’t yet the case ) and something would be needed to teach sexuality, comprehensively.”
This is the case in Florida, where, as Ashely Lopez of The Florida Independent reported, the state’s Department of Health shelled out almost $2 million in grants in August to organizations that teach abstinence-only education programs that place little emphasis on health-related information. The aim of the program is to address the high rates of STDs and pregnancy among teenagers in Florida.
In November, a report (.pdf), part of “a year-long process to identify strategies and community partners to address the high rate of teenage pregnancy, birth and repeat teen pregnancies in the region,” found that “sex education in school mostly focuses on abstinence, does not provide much information on birth control or STIs and doesn’t address the emotional aspect.”
Education Weeks adds that “a 2007 congressionally mandated study found no statistically significant beneficial effect on the sexual behavior of young people participating in abstinence-based programs.”