Only 24 states and D.C. require that public schools teach any sex education and only 20 states require that “if provided, sex and/or HIV education must be medically, factually or technically accurate.”
However, while sex education is only required for less than half of the states, and studies show that fewer U.S. teens are receiving formal sex education than in the past, 37 states require that information on abstinence be provided to students; an “education” that was recently proven, yet again, to be completely ineffective. In fact, a study published in September 2017 by the Journal of Adolescent Health referred to abstinence-only programs as “scientifically and ethically problematic” pointed out that they have been widely rejected by medical and public health professionals. Yet despite the evidence that these programs don’t work, the U.S. federal government has spent approximately $2 billion on these programs in the last 20 years, and the current administration’s recent budget proposal includes millions more to expanding abstinence-only education.
In an era where a woman’s right to have an abortion is constantly being challenged, the education system isn’t even sufficiently providing teens of any gender with information about, or access to, contraceptives—despite clear evidence that information and access to free birth control lead to exponentially lower abortion rates. In 2011-2013, only 50-60% of 15 to 19-year-old students received any formal instruction on how to use a condom or about methods of birth control and only 31% of males and 46% of females received information about where to get birth control.
The LGBTQ community is even more underserved in the U.S. education system; in 2013 than 5% of LGBTQ students between ages 13-21 reporting that their health classes included any positive representations of LGBTQ-related topics.
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My favorite sex education resources for teenagers:
• Teen Vogue (they’ve published some great content lately— like this guide to anal sex, this guide about consent, and an article debunking all the myths you were taught in “sex ed” in school)