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Expansion of Sex Education in U.S Is Not Making Much Progress

April 12, 2012

U.S. schools are not making much progress teaching their students about safer sex and preventing pregnancy and STDs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Researchers compared 2008 and 2010 surveys from 45 states that asked school principals and health teachers how often they taught students a range of topics pertaining to sex ed and prevention. In these required classes, the CDC recommended that they touch upon 11 topics ranging from compassion for people living with HIV/AIDS and health consequences of HIV/AIDS, STDs and pregnancy to importance of condom use and the benefits of abstinence.

According to the study, 11 states had fewer middle schools teaching all 11 topics in 2010 than they did in 2008, and none had more. And there was a significant gap between the states whose schools were more likely to teach more topics and those states whose schools taught fewer topics.

  • The percentage of schools teaching all 11 suggested prevention topics in grades 6, 7 or 8 ranged from 12.6 percent in Arizona to 66.3 percent in New York.
  • School participation in teaching eight of the suggested topics in grades 9 to 12 ranged from 45.3 percent in Alaska to 96.4 percent in New Jersey.
  • Importance of using condoms consistently and correctly was taught in 26.8 percent of public high schools in Utah and 96.6 percent of high schools in Delaware in 2010.

Study author Laura Kann, Ph.D., told WebMD:

"Little progress has been made in the proportion of middle and high schools that offer education on the prevention of HIV, many STDs, and pregnancy. We are heading in the wrong direction."

While the data confirmed what is happening in these schools, it doesn't explain why. Yet given that these decisions are made on a local level, experts have their own theories as to why schools are stagnant. Reuters reported:

The push for higher test scores in recent years could mean that schools are less likely to expand health education, Monica Rodriguez, president and chief executive of the nonprofit group, the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, told Reuters.

Also, the question of how best to teach students about preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases remains a divisive issue in many areas, Rodriguez said.

"For many teachers, it's often about fear, fear of controversy," she said.

In other sex ed-related news, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed a new bill that would require all public schools that teach sex ed to promote abstinence and marriage as the only reliable way to prevent pregnancy, HIV and STDs. The Journal Sentinel also reported that this bill allows for schools to teach abstinence-only education, omitting any conversations about safer sex and condom use. This move undermines the 2010 Democrat-backed law that banned schools from teaching abstinence-only sex ed.

Kellee Terrell is the former news editor for and

Follow Kellee on Twitter: @kelleent.

Copyright © 2012 Remedy Health Media, LLC. All rights reserved.

This article was provided by TheBody.
See Also
Quiz: Are You at Risk for HIV?
10 Common Fears About HIV Transmission
More News About Sexual Education


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