- More than two thirds of all public school districts have a policy to teach sex education. The other 33% of districts leave policy decisions up to individual schools or teachers.
- Of all public school districts, 86% require that abstinence be promoted in their sex ed programs.
- Only 14% of public school districts with a policy to teach sexual education address abstinence as one option in a broader educational program to prepare adolescents to become sexually healthy adults.
- Over half of the districts in the South with a sex education policy have an abstinence-only policy, compared with 20% of such districts in the Northeast.
- More than 90% of teachers believe that students should be taught about contraception, but 25% are prohibited from doing so.
- The majority of Americans (including three quarters of parents) favor more comprehensive sexuality education over abstinence-only education.
- There are currently three federal programs dedicated to funding restrictive abstinence-only education, requiring programs to teach that sexual activity outside of marriage is wrong and harmful for people of any age, prohibits them from discussing contraceptive use except to emphasize their failure rates. These programs had a total annual funding of $102 million in 2002.
- About 35% require abstinence be taught as the only option for unmarried people and either prohibit the discussion of contraception altogether or limit discussion to its ineffectiveness. 15% of Americans would prefer an abstinence-only education.
- There is currently no federal law program dedicated to supporting comprehensive sexuality education that teaches young people about both abstinence and contraception.
- About 51% have a policy to teach abstinence as the preferred option for teens and permit discussion of contraception as an effective means of preventing pregnancy and STDs.
- Recent research shows that abstinence-only strategies may deter contraceptive use among sexually active teenagers, increasing their risk of unintended pregnancy and STDs.
Sources: Guttmacher Institute, Advocates for Youth, NPR, Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States
Each one of these eleven facts serves to further reinforce the growing need and relevance of comprehensive sexuality education in public schools. I think that the eleventh fact has very interesting implications: by telling our youth not to engage in sex, we are creating a barrier of distrust. We are not validating their desires or even communicating that they are worthy of escaping the ignorances of previous generations. Our youth have more sexual health risks to deal with than ever before, and continuing to emphasize the failure rates of contraception is only making it less effective by eliminating the need for it. We need to create an environment for safe, informed decisions if these are the kinds of decisions that we want to prevail, or we will continue to live in denial and suffering.