Rationale for Teaching Sexuality Education in Schools

  • The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment defines "sexual health" as the integration of the physical, emotional, intellectual and social aspects of sexual well-being in ways that are positively enriching and that enhance personality, communication and love. Includes not only the physical aspects of sexual development and reproductive health, but also valuing one’s own body, developing interpersonal skills to achieve meaningful relationships, interacting with others in a manner that reflects respect and equality and expressing love and intimacy, free of coercion, discrimination and violence.

    Colorado has implemented policies relating to comprehensive sexuality education, including Colorado House Bills 07-1292 and 13-1081. Colorado HB 13-1081 defines “comprehensive human sexuality education” as a program that is evidence based, culturally sensitive, includes positive youth development principles, comprehensive, and is medically accurate. In 2010 the Colorado Department of Education developed Academic Standards for Comprehensive Health. These standards include grade-level specific knowledge expectations around health issues, including sexual and reproductive health and violence-free relationships.

    Today, a large body of research shows that comprehensive sexuality education programs are effective because they delay initiation of first sex, improve contraceptive use, or reduce the incidence of teen pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections.[1] 

    Schools can help students reduce sexual risk taking and therefore help reduce unintended pregnancy and STDs by implementing comprehensive sexuality education curricula.
    Teens today live in a complex world, and school-based sexuality education should address the many factors that contribute to sexual health and wellness across the lifespan, including unintended teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS, healthy relationships and decision making, and gender-based violence.

    Pregnancy and birth are significant contributors to high school dropout rates among girls. Only about 50% of teen mothers receive a high school diploma by 22 years of age, versus approximately 90% of women who had not given birth during adolescence.[2] In the United States, approximately 50% of pregnancies (women ages 15-44) are unintended, meaning they are nwanted or mistimed, and 85% of pregnancies to teens are unintended.[3] By age 45, more than ½ of all American women will have experienced an unintended pregnancy and 3 in 10 will have had an abortion.[4]

    With regard to sexually transmitted infections, although adolescents and young adults comprise only one-quarter of the population who have experienced sex, they acquire nearly half of all new sexually transmitted infections in the U.S. The need to educate teens about these issues using evidence-based, medically accurate, age-appropriate and culturally sensitive approaches is critical.

     

    [1] Santelli J, Ott M. (2006). Abstinence and abstinence-only education: A review of U.S. policies and

    programs. Journal of Adolescent Health, 38, 72-81.

    [2] Perper K, Peterson K, Manlove J. Diploma Attainment Among Teen Mothers. Child Trends, Fact Sheet Publication #2010-01: Washington, DC: Child Trends; 2010.

    [3] Johnson, K., et al. (2006). Recommendations to Improve Preconception Health and Health Care‐United States. A Report of the CDC/ATSDR Preconception Care Work Group and the Select Panel on Preconception Care. MMWR Reports and Recommendations, April 21, 2006.

    [4] Guttmacher Institute. (2012). In Brief: Facts on Unintended Pregnancy in the U.S. www.guttmacher.org/pubs/FB-Unintended-Pregnancy-US.html