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And as the sources of sex education become even more diverse and are presented in ways that may be inconsistent, confusing, or misleading, educators must leverage these sources and align messaging to help young people determine how best to engage in positive, healthy relationships.
State sex education standards in public schools vary widely.
The California Healthy Youth Act, for example, was enacted in 2016.
It requires instruction on adolescent growth and development, body image, gender, sexual orientation, relationships, marriage, and family, as well as how to “have healthy, positive, and safe relationships and behaviors.” Additional state standards mandate education about sexual assault prevention and dating violence.
According to a study from the National Institutes of Health, only about half of adolescents receive school instruction about contraception before they first have sex.
State and local policymakers should modernize and rethink sex education programs in public schools to help better prepare students for the complex world in which they live.
In 2016, Oregon updated its standards to include specific mention of consent and establishing personal boundaries, beginning in kindergarten.
they also go beyond the technical components of sex education to encourage students to have more open conversations about sexuality.
Through new legislation and updated state standards, policymakers should encourage sex education requirements that include instruction on healthy relationships, communication, intimacy, consent, and sexual assault prevention.
Without formal and comprehensive sex education that includes this information, states are missing a prime opportunity to arm young people with quality information that would help them make safe, healthy choices.