The Controversy of Sex Education in the United States

Written by: Teiah Palhetas 

Edited by: Emilia MacDonald

A crucial pillar in education, sex education (including topics related to sex, sexual health, and sexuality) requires high-quality teaching and open minds. Curriculum regarding sexual education provides young people with the knowledge and skills necessary to navigate complex social dynamics, make informed decisions about their bodies, and cultivate respectful relationships. From discussions surrounding consent and contraception to lessons on self-esteem and diversity, sex education serves as a cornerstone in empowering students to lead healthy and fulfilling lives. However, despite its undeniable importance and overwhelming support from the majority of parents, sex education in schools is facing relentless opposition from fringe groups with narrow ideological agendas. 

Significant disparities and inconsistencies across states characterize the landscape of sex education policies in the United States. Shockingly, only 28 states and Washington D.C. mandate sex education, and even fewer require that the information provided be medically accurate. Moreover, the prevalence of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs in 19 states restricts students’ access to comprehensive sexual health education, often omitting crucial information about contraception and sexually transmitted infections. These disparities underscore the urgent need for standardized, evidence-based sex education curriculum nationwide. 

The influence of extreme political groups on sex education policies cannot be understated. State and local politicians, including school board members, play a pivotal role in shaping the content and delivery of sex education in schools. Recently, groups with radical agendas have intensified their efforts to influence school boards, such as “Moms for Liberty,” the Eagle Forum and Focus on the Family, using fear-mongering tactics to promote restrictive and ideologically driven curriculum. In 2022, 31 states introduced bills aimed at restricting sex education, including measures to censor discussions on racism, sexism, and LGBTQ+ issues, as well as limit the information and resources provided by organizations like Planned Parenthood.

Despite the concerted efforts of political and social extremists, the overwhelming majority of parents support sex education in schools. Surveys indicate that 96% of parents support sex education in high school, while 84% support it in middle school. Parents recognize the importance of equipping their children with comprehensive knowledge about healthy relationships, self-esteem, and consent from an early age. This widespread support highlights the disconnect between the desires of parents and the actions of fringe political groups, who are seeking to impose their ideologies on the educational system. 

 By staying informed about local school board decisions and advocating for policies that protect and expand sex education is crucial, communities can fight attacks on sex education. In addition, attending school board meetings, writing letters to elected officials, and mobilizing community support demonstrate methods through which individuals can make their voices heard and push for an evidence-based curriculum that prioritizes the health and well-being of young people. Additionally, reaching out to local, state, and federal representatives and urging them to support pro-sex education bills and oppose anti-sex education legislation can help shape policies that align with the needs and desires of parents and students alike. 

The battle regarding sex education in the United States underscores the importance of advocating for an evidence-based and inclusive curriculum that empowers young people with the knowledge and skills they need to make informed decisions about their sexual health and relationships. By standing up against extremist political and social groups and actively supporting comprehensive sex education, individuals can play a crucial role in shaping a future where all students have access to the information and resources they need to thrive.

Works Cited 

“Goals of Sex Education for Teenagers | Youth Health Services.” Www.plannedparenthood.org, 2023, 

www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/for-educators/what-are-goals-sex-education-youth#:~: text=Sex%20education%20gives%20young%20people. 

Guttmacher Institute. “Sex and HIV Education.” Guttmacher Institute, 2019, www.guttmacher.org/state-policy/explore/sex-and-hiv-education. 

Heubeck, Elizabeth. “‘Don’t Say Period’ Bill Is Latest Example of States’ Efforts to Limit Sex Education.” Education Week, 5 Apr. 2023, 

www.edweek.org/teaching-learning/dont-say-period-bill-is-latest-example-of-states-effort s-to-limit-sex-education/2023/04. 

Little, Olivia. “Unmasking Moms for Liberty.” Media Matters for America, 12 Nov. 2021, www.mediamatters.org/critical-race-theory/unmasking-moms-liberty. 

Planned Parenthood. “What’s the State of Sex Education in the U.S.?” Plannedparenthood.org, 2019, www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/for-educators/whats-state-sex-education-us. “These 5 Powerful Groups Are Trying to End Sex Ed in Schools, and They’re Winning.” Reckon, 23 Aug. 2023, 

www.reckon.news/news/2023/08/these-5-powerful-groups-are-trying-to-end-sex-ed-in-sc hools-and-theyre-winning.html. 

Image Citation: 

Speak!, The People. “Better Sex Education in Schools.” Flickr, 31 May 2017, www.flickr.com/photos/saulalbert/34220886813. Accessed 7 Feb. 2024.