Sex Education in Schools
Sex education is taught mainly in public schools on topics ranging from abstinence and reproduction to sexually orientation and sexually transmitted diseases. Sex education is primarily introduced in grades seven through 12 -- although some schools have addressed sexuality topics as early as the fourth grade.
State Sex Education Laws
Sex education laws vary greatly among the states. Most states have laws that address some form of sexual education in schools, differing between what may or may not be taught and whether a parent may prevent a child from receiving sexual education.
The majority of states allow parents to remove their child or "opt out" of sexually-related instruction, while other states require parental consent for a child to take sexual education classes or participate in any school-based health clinic services.
Of the states that do not currently have sexual education laws on the books, sexual education policies can typical be found in district codes or other education department manuals. Still other states allow local authorities to decide whether parents may opt-out or provide consent for a child's participation in sex education classes.
Of the states addressing sex education in schools, topics may include:
- HIV/AIDS STD-related information
- Reproduction, including description of the male and female genitalia
- Contraception, including the instruction on the proper use of a condom and diaphragm
- Pregnancy and the financial responsibilities of raising a child
- Sexual orientation
Because the laws vary, it's important to check the sex education laws of your particular state and/or school district.
Purpose of Sex Education Laws
Sex education in schools was meant to curb unwanted pregnancies and address public health concerns, such as teen pregnancy and STDs. Even so, the idea of teaching young people about sex in schools caused a backlash among those who believed it was best left to the parents.
State laws tried to address these concerns by allowing parents to exempt their children from sex education courses or by including abstinence methods within its curriculum.
Still, some critics argue that state laws don't always solve the tension between the state's interest and a parent's perspective to sex education. Some have even argued that teaching about the use of contraceptives (including instruction on the proper use of a condom) may contribute to a minor's delinquency.
Pros and Cons of Teaching Sex Education in the Schools
There are several arguments for and against the teaching of sex education in schools. Supporters claim that exposure to such information, including STDs and the proper use of contraceptives, lowers teen pregnancy and STD infection rates. In addition, they argue that most teenagers are either already sexually active or are curious and that many of them are not receiving such information from their parents, claiming public schools are a proper venue for sex education. As such, these supporters typically favor a more comprehensive approach that includes detailed description of a female and mail genitals, for example.
Opponents of sex education in schools, on the other hand, claim that the state has no business teaching their children about sex, either because they prefer to teach their children according to their own values or because they object to certain controversial subjects, such as sexual orientation. However, opponents of sex education in schools typically favor an abstinence-only approach (for example, the idea that you should wait until marriage before having sex) if there is to be any sex education taught at all.
Much of the debate today is centered on whether schools should teach abstinence-only or comprehensive sex education. Those favoring an abstinence-only approach correctly point out that abstinence is the only way to prevent pregnancy and STDs with 100 percent certainty. They also point out the emotional complexities that often accompany an active sex life.
Recent polls by various media, health, and social organizations have concluded that most families support the idea of teaching sex education in schools to some extent. Although there are still pockets of parents who adamantly reject the idea that schools teach their children anything about sex, there is generally little debate that some form of sex education should be taught -- even if abstinence-only.
Have Questions About Sex Education in Schools? Talk to an Attorney
As you can see, sex education in schools can be controversial, with concerns that certain curricula could contribute to the delinquency of a minor. This can also come up in the context of a custody dispute, as it may be one reason why parents disagree on where the child should go to school. You can learn more about the law and your rights by contacting an experienced family law attorney in your area.
This is the con argument for whether students should be taught safe sex in schools. To read the pro argument, click here.
“Don’t have sex, because you will get pregnant. And die.”
Most people remember this hilarious quote from gym and sex education teacher Coach Carr during the movie Mean Girls. I’m not going to say if you have sex you will die, but I don’t believe that schools should teach teens about sex education.
By teaching sex education in schools, the schools are encouraging teens to have sex. The classes teach students the nuts and bolts of having sex and are basically saying “If you want to have sex, this is how to do it.”
From 1993 to 2003, the Kaiser Family Foundation did research studies on teenage sexual activity in the United States. The study showed that in 1993, 56 percent of male and 50 percent of female high school students have had sex. From 1994 to 2003, the numbers remained about the same, with 48 percent of high school males and 45 percent of high school females having had sex in 2003.
The same study showed that 98 percent of the teens who reported having sex had used some form of contraceptive. Ninety-four percent of teens used condoms and 61 percent used birth control pills.
Teens already know from the Internet, their parents, or peers that if they don’t want to get pregnant, they should use a contraceptive.
According to a data brief by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in 2010, two out of three male teenagers and four out of five female teenagers reported having talked about sex education topics with a parent.
So if the teens already know how to protect themselves from other sources, why waste the time teaching it in school?
Sex education doesn’t stop the majority of teens from having sex. According to researcher Douglas Kirby for the National Campaign to End Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, 60 percent of teens continued to have sex or started having sex even after receiving formal sex education. This shows that sex education, for the majority, doesn’t help prevent teens from having sex.
In addition, sex education shouldn’t be encouraged at Catholic high schools. The Catholic Church is against sex before marriage, so if parents are sending their children to a Catholic school, they obviously believe the Church’s teachings and want them to be followed. Parents who send their children to Catholic schools should take on the responsibility of educating their own children about sex. It shouldn’t be encouraged and it definitely shouldn’t be a requirement.
So remember, if you have sex, you will die. No, I’m totally kidding, but sex education isn’t going to stop teens from having sex anymore than the fruitless threats of death from Coach Carr.
Emily Clarke is a Managing Editor for The Patriot and jcpatriot.com.