While a gap in sex education in the United States can leave students in the dark, other countries have programs that have a positive impact on student health and knowledge.

Students across the country have a very different experience of learning about a somewhat taboo but very important health topic: sexual health education, or sex education.

As of July 2022, 29 states and DC have mandated sex education, according to Sex Ed for Social Change (SIECUS). But 17 of those states require abstinence to be emphasized, and she’s only 11 that require the curriculum to be medically accurate. Some states have chosen to omit discussions of healthy relationships, birth control, and sexual orientation from the conversation altogether.

“Because of the lack of guidance and policy implementation at the federal level, there is a patchwork of different laws in the United States that determine whether or not sex education is taught,” said Michelle Slaebaugh, Society Director of Strategic Influence and Strategic Communications SIECUS. “Education, policy and decisions have been largely under local control. It’s very local.”

Currently at the federal level, SIECUS is one of the groups working to pass the Access to True Education and Healthy Youth Act. The law promotes comprehensive sex education, which means giving young people the knowledge and skills they need to make healthy choices about their sex life, and the act ensures that access to this education is protected. will do so.

In March, Congress passed the 2022 Consolidated Budget Act, which does not include funding for comprehensive sex education programs.

At the state level, the number of bills introduced this year aimed at limiting sex education was about the same as the number of bills introduced to promote sex education, according to the SIECUS interim report. However, states in this legislative session passed more retrogressive legislation than progressive legislation.

“I think there’s a big myth that if you teach young people about sex, they’re going to have sex,” said Slave. “The evidence doesn’t show that. Plus, I think it’s very important to understand that age-appropriate or developmentally-appropriate sex education is key.”

Studies from Georgetown University have shown that sex education can help prevent unplanned pregnancies, maternal deaths, unsafe abortions, and sexually transmitted diseases. But nearly a quarter of her millennials didn’t get sex education in middle or high school, according to a Public Religion Institute study.

Sex education that talks about inclusive and LGBTQ+ identity is also a big gap. Fewer than 10% of her LGBTQ+ students say their school’s sex education is inclusive. Curriculum can be “medically inaccurate” when talking about gender identity and sexual orientation.

“Medically accurate sex education is essential to promote long-term health consequences, and part of it, I think, is where we really have a problem, gender norms. , gender stereotypes, and orientation,” said Thrabo.

Florida in particular has become something of a hotspot when it comes to sex education and what is and should be taught. New laws, such as what critics have called the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, limit discussion of sexuality and gender identity among some elementary school students.

Katie Laglone, correspondent for Newzee’s sister station in Tampa, Florida, describes a confusing mix of criteria as to whether new laws are changing old policies on sex education.

“Florida has laws mandating teen dating and health education, including disease control, but we’ve found that there really isn’t a statewide curriculum for sex education,” Lagrone said. increase. “What and how students are taught about sexual and reproductive health is left to individual school boards to approve policies, to principals to interpret them, and ultimately to instructors who drill them down for students. Additionally, we found about a third of the 67 schools in Florida where school districts only teach abstinence to students, even high school students.”

Studies show that abstinence-only instruction does not prevent teens from having sex. In fact, her 2019 survey by the CDC found that more than half of her Florida teens surveyed by grade 12 had already had intercourse, and her STD rate among her Florida teens was That’s four times her national average.

In some counties in Florida that have adopted this abstinence-only method of education, teenage birth rates are actually higher. A spokesperson for one district told Newsy that these restrictions were “to respect the rights of parents.”

Elsewhere in the world, especially in Europe, there are countries where comprehensive sex education programs are recognized to help address these issues.

In the Netherlands, it is legally compulsory for all primary school children to receive sex education. They start as early as age 4, but they’re not talking perfect birds or bees at that age. They just cover the basics of a healthy relationship.

Some argue that we are too young to teach sex education in the United States, but 30 years of research show that sex education can help prevent child abuse.

On average, teens in the Netherlands wait longer to have sex than in Europe and the United States before having sex for the first time.

The Netherlands has one of the lowest teenage pregnancy rates in the world. Her teen in the Netherlands is one of the most likely to use oral contraceptives, and part of the reason may be the easy availability of contraception.

Holland is also committed to educating parents on how to talk to their children about sex so that everyone is on the same page.

For a long time in Denmark, their sex education programs focused on preventing unplanned pregnancies and promoting safe sex. and Danish authorities actually went so far as to encourage people to have babies at younger ages. That percentage was six times higher than she was in the United States.

In recent years, the birth rate has started to rise again. Neither Denmark nor any country has a perfect system, but they have experienced some results that they can learn from elsewhere.

While this highlights a good model of comprehensive sex education, it is not widely taught in some countries, such as the United States, or is inconsistent or not available at all. It emphasizes the importance of ensuring that people have access to the information they need to live a fulfilling life.

“Promoting age-appropriate, medically accurate and positive content taught by trained educators so as to provide the most comprehensive and age-appropriate education on sexuality possible. You have to,” said Thrabo.

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