Here’s What Sex Education Looks Like Around the Nation

Here’s What Sex Education Looks Like Around the Nation

At the beginning of October, Governor Jerry Brown of California passed a stringent sexual assault education law, mandating that school districts that require health as a high school graduation requirement must teach students about age-appropriate relationships and consent laws. This law was the first in the nation, which should prompt us to ask what the laws are looking like in other states.

Only 19 states require that sexual education must be medically accurate if it is taught in schools. The District of Columbia and 22 states require that public schools teach sex ed, and only 20 of those states (plus D.C.) require that they also teach about HIV/AIDS. D.C. and 35 states allow parents to opt out of sexual education.

In the South, which has gained some notoriety in American culture and discourse for being stubbornly conservative about controversial issues like gay marriage, abortion, and sexual education, it seems as if many states still do not require sex ed in public schools, much less medically accurate education. However, there are a few places trying to push forward with bringing more comprehensive schooling to the area. For example, Georgian Rep. Don Parsons (R.) proposed a bill that would provide age-appropriate sexual abuse and assault awareness and prevention education at all levels of primary schooling.

In the Midwest, some states are going beyond the “medically accurate” education requirement, and targeting issues that may have more weight in different age groups. Missouri’s legislators are hoping to pass some bills that would make students more aware of dating violence and how technology can be used to coerce teenagers into sexual activity. While there’s likely a ways to go before it gets considered, passed, and implemented in public schools, there is an initiative there that will pave the way for similar bills to enhance sex ed in the states should it not be passed.

Aside from California’s more stringent and comprehensive law, lawmakers on the West Coast have also been busy putting together a bill that would redefine consent and edit present sex ed laws to be more inclusive. Washington’s Senate Bill 5506 rewrites a current law to include education on consent and the prevention of sexual violence. The current law also include that parents may opt their kids out of sex ed, but that the education must be medically accurate and compliant with federal information on disease and contraceptives, provided by nationally-recognized gynecologists and obstetricians.

In the Southwest, Texas has quite a few bills on the table for the 2015-2016 government session. For one, Senate Bill 297 requires that public school sex ed be evidence based, meaning that the information provided to students must be published and recognized as medically accurate. Another big bill is House Bill 467, which removes a component that states that educators must teach that sexual activity before marriage is likely to have harmful psychological and physical consequences, but emphasizes that the only 100% proven way to avoid pregnancy and HIV/AIDS is through abstinence.

Finally, in the Northeast, New York also has a number of bills on the table for the year. Comprehensive sex education will be mandatory in public schools for all students from grade one to 12, a product of Senate Bill 905. In Massachusetts, legislators define what should be deemed age-appropriate in its new sex ed bills, and emphasize the importance of using contraceptives, and how to use them effectively, via House Bill 448.

If you’re not satisfied with how sex ed is going on in your state or country, take the matter into your own hands: gather your favorite group of intelligent, like-minded individuals and lobby your local representatives to get what you want to see out there.

Cover image courtesy of Shutterstock.