There is broad public support for sex ed, but many young people are still not receiving the sex education they need.
Who Supports Sex Education?
Sex Education is widely supported by the vast majority of people in the United States. In Planned Parenthood’s most recent poll on sex education, 93 percent of parents supported having sex education taught in middle school, and 96 percent of parents supported having sex education taught in high school. The vast majority of parents support sex education in middle school and high school that covers a wide range of topics, including STDs, puberty, healthy relationships, contraception, and sexual orientation. Other national, state and local polls on sex education have shown similarly high levels of support.
Sex education is supported by numerous prestigious health and medical organizations including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine. Over 150 organizations are members of the National Coalition to Support Comprehensive Sexuality Education.
Federal & State Policy Related to Sex Education
Sex Education programming varies widely across the United States. Currently, 24 states and the District of Columbia mandate sex education and 34 states mandate HIV education. Although almost every state has some guidance on how and when sex education should be taught, decisions are often left up to individual school districts.
Planned Parenthood plays an important role in advocating for federal funding for evidence-based programming such as the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program (TPP) and the Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP).
What Sex Education Do Teens Get in the US?
The gap between the sex education students should receive and what they actually receive is wide. According to the 2014 CDC School Health Profiles, fewer than half of high schools and only a fifth of middle schools teach all 16 topics recommended by the CDC as essential components of sex education. These topics range from basic information on how HIV and other STDs are transmitted - and how to prevent infection - to critical communication and decision-making skills.
In fact, today fewer young people report receiving any formal sex education at all. A recent study published by the Guttmacher Institute found that fewer teens now than in the past are being exposed to important and timely information about a range of sex education topics. Overall, in 2011–2013, 43% of adolescent females and 57% of adolescent males did not receive information about birth control before they had sex for the first time. Despite these declines in formal education, there was no increase in the proportion of teens who discussed these same sex education topics with their parents.