After two years of development and coordination among researchers, national organizations on health education, doctors, public health professionals, teachers, young people and representatives of social justice and reproductive health organizations, National Sexuality Education Standards: Core Content and Skills, K-12, the first report to compile standards for sexuality education, has been released. In response to the inconsistent and uncoordinated teaching of sexuality education across different states and school districts within the U.S., this publication provides a minimum base level of age-appropriate sexuality education for students in K-12. Major authors of the project are American Association for Health Education, the American School Health Association, the National Education Association Health Information Network, the Society of State Leaders for Health and Physical Education, and the Future of Sex Education Initiative (with the involvement of Overbrook grantee Advocates for Youth).
These guidelines are meant to assist teachers in translating "an emerging body of research related to school-based sexuality education so that it can be put into practice in the classroom.” The report presents a rationale for sexuality education in schools citing parental desire for this curriculum and statistical information on improved graduation rates and school performance, an opportunity to minimize bullying in schools, increased empowerment for students and adolescents, and a link to decreased rates of sexually transmitted infections and unintended teenage pregnancy. However, the majority of the report outlines basic lessons, goals and content to be covered in each grade. The seven topics in these standards include anatomy and physiology, puberty and adolescent development, identity, pregnancy and reproduction, sexually transmitted diseases and HIV, healthy relationships and personal safety. Despite maintaining a health focus, these standards contain extensive requirements for teaching about gender identity, sexual orientation, bullying, sexual assault, different family structures, proper anatomy and respect.
Many of the Overbrook Foundation’s Reproductive Justice grantees, including Advocates for Youth, stress the importance of comprehensive, quality and age-appropriate sexuality education for their constituents in all schools regardless of resource allocation, the community served or the geographic location. So, we are pleased to hear about grantee progress in this area. While the impact of these recommendations is yet to be seen, these standards are an important step towards making quality sexuality education more widely available to American children and adolescents. Access to this information will help individuals to make informed choices about their own sexuality and their relationships with others.
Please click here if you are interested in an article describing the response and a more complete summary of the new standards. It includes comments from Advocates for Youth President, Debra Hauser. If you are interested in the details of the standards, please download the full version of this publication.