Future of Sex Education Initiative issues updated standards

Dive Brief:

  • The Future of Sex Education Initiative recently released its second edition of “The National Sex Education Standards: Core Content and Skills, K-12” in an effort to support teachers seeking a medically accurate, trauma-informed and inclusive sex education. The resource was produced by Advocates for Youth, Answer and the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States.
  • The updated standards include advancements in research regarding sexual orientation; gender identity; social, racial and reproductive justice; and the long-term consequences of stigma and discrimination. It also includes information on new developments in medical technology and the impact of social and sexually explicit media on relationships.
  • Discussing contraceptive options and STD transmission, acknowledging young people who identify as LGBTQ, and teaching about consent will result in positive outcomes for young people, Dan Rice, interim executive director of Answer, said in a press release.

Dive Insight:

Sex education is an often controversial topic.

In Washington state, lawmakers recently passed a comprehensive bill requiring sexual health education to be taught in grades K-12. Lawmakers supporting the bill, including Democratic state Sen. Manka Dhingra, say the curriculum is “age appropriate” and will teach about informed and voluntary agreement. State Sen. Steve O’Ban, a Republican, claims the content is too explicit. No Republicans voted in favor of the bill.

There has been no shortage of dissension over the bill, which has yet to be signed by Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee. Even amid concerns around the spread of coronavirus, hundreds of angry parents stood outside the state capitol protesting the bill.

In Texas’ Austin Independent School District, administrators asked parents, students and community members for input into its curriculum. The responses ranged from the impact of social media on body image to teaching students the concept of consent. Particularly in the wake of movements like #MeToo, awareness has increased around the need for students to know how to say “no” and to also accept when someone else says “no” to them.

Boston Public Schools, meanwhile, has comprehensive sex education starting in elementary school, based on the National Sexual Education Standards. Topics covered early on include hygiene, puberty and positive friendships. In later years, the curriculum discusses reproductive health, contraception and sexual decision-making. It also covers dating violence, consent, gender identity and sexual preference.

When to start teaching sex education and answering the inevitable questions that come with it is among the most frequently controversial aspects of the subject. One way this has been navigated with younger students is age-appropriate introductory videos like those from Amaze Jr., which is largely dependent upon parents introducing their children to the topic themselves. Raising parents’ awareness of these tools is equally important when educators begin fielding questions from young students about where babies come from or other topics about their own origins.

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