Sex Education Is Essential

Together, by advocating in our communities, we can ensure Sex Ed for All.

Logo for Healthy Teen Network, featuring 3 interlocked orange circle outlines, and inside, outline drawings of a hand, a sunburst, and three people; below the circle, in teal, is the name, "Healthy Teen Network"

April 27, 2022

As April winds down, and as we look ahead to the start of May next week, we wanted to take a moment to share with you the history behind May as Sex Ed for All Month. We also wanted to share–for you to also use and adapt–some of the main reasons why sex education is essential and we should join together to advocate for Sex Ed for All.

Background

Since 2019, May has been recognized as Sex Ed for All Month. Healthy Teen Network is proud to have been one of the original partners to plan this new initiative and move away from the stigmatizing and non-inclusive observance of Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month.

Sex Ed For All Month is an opportunity to raise awareness and call for real investment in sex education in schools and communities across the country. 

Sex Ed For All Month is coordinated by the Sex Education Collaborative, in collaboration with a national coalition of sexual and reproductive health, rights, and justice organizations committed to ensuring equitable and accessible sex education for ALL young people nationwide.

Too many young people fail to receive the sexual health information, education, and access to the care they need to live healthy lives—oftentimes based on who they are and where they live. Each May, we invite you to join us as we collectively (and loudly!) voice our commitment to work toward a world where all young people—no matter where they live or how they identify—get equitable access to the education and care they deserve.

Sex education gives young people age-appropriate, medically accurate information and answers to their questions about sex and relationships, without being shamed or judged. It has been proven to positively impact young people’s lives.

While May was formerly known as Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, the shift to Sex Ed for All Month marked a dramatic turn away from what was previously often stigmatizing and problematic messaging. Instead, we want to stand with young people, so they have the power and the right to access the sex education and health care they need to achieve the best positive outcomes for themselves.

Photo of Janet Max

Sex education is about so much more than risk reduction and disease prevention. Shifting to Sex Ed for All Month provides an opportunity to adjust the lens through which our field has historically viewed adolescent sexual and reproductive health, and address more holistically the sex education young people deserve so they can have healthy relationships, make healthy decisions, and have positive health outcomes.

Main Message

Sex education gives young people age-appropriate, medically accurate information and answers to their questions about sex and relationships, without being shamed or judged. It has been proven to positively impact young people’s lives. But too many young people don’t have access to sex education, or the programs in their school are shaming or inaccurate. Together, by advocating in our communities, we can ensure Sex Ed for All.

Talking Points

We all want the best education for our kids, including sex education.
Sex education helps young people learn how to have healthy relationships, make informed decisions, think critically about the world, be a good ally to those who are marginalized, and love themselves for who they are.
  • Sex education is more than just putting condoms on bananas. And it’s even more than STI prevention and avoiding unintended pregnancy. Sex education teaches young people the importance of treating everyone with dignity and respect, with racial justice, fairness, and compassion for others as core values.
  • Sex education in elementary school covers foundational building blocks around things like consent and boundary setting with friends, understanding our bodies, and the beautiful diversity in the ways people form and have families.
  • Sex education in middle school addresses relevant issues such as puberty, healthy peer relationships and anti-bullying, and media literacy skills to support kids in developing a healthy body image.
  • Sex education in high school covers everything from birth control and safer sex, to sexual decision-making and communication skills, to understanding how society and culture shape our ideas about sex, gender, and race, and how we can work towards more equitable communities.
Sex education works.
Sex ed gives young people the knowledge and skills they need for a lifetime of good health and happiness, and it sets them up for success in a diverse society.
  • Research shows that sex education that is culturally responsive and inclusive helps young people develop the social and emotional skills they need to become caring and empathetic human beings. This type of sex education early and often leads to prevention of child sex abuse, development of healthy relationships, appreciation of sexual diversity, dating and intimate partner violence prevention, improved social/emotional learning, and increased media literacy.
  • Research also shows that sex education helps students become healthier and more successful adults. It leads to lower STI rates, fewer unintended pregnancies, better self-esteem, healthier relationships, and many more benefits.
  • From the American Medical Association to the American Academy of Pediatrics, experts agree that sex education that is comprehensive, inclusive, and medically accurate is critical for young people.
  • Sex education teaches young people the importance of treating everyone with dignity and respect, including themselves. All of these lessons are important to help young people develop into healthy adults. Sex education that teaches diversity, equity, and inclusivity can also help build school connectedness, which in turn supports student achievement.
Sex education is not a controversial issue.
The overwhelming majority of Americans want young people to get sex education—including parents and young people themselves. 
  • The vast majority of Republicans and Democrats agree that sex education covering a wide range of topics is important to teach in middle and high school.
  • Parents/caregivers want their kids to have honest information and feel safe, welcome, and acknowledged at school. Inclusive lessons create a positive effect on all students and have been shown to reduce bullying, discrimination, and harassment.
  • Sex education at school lays the groundwork for honest conversations at home. When families have the facts, it’s easier to talk honestly about safety, consent, and contraception so young people are equipped with the knowledge and skills they need inside and outside of the classroom. 
Sex education is at risk.
Sex education has never been universally accessible, but now it’s even more at risk due to funding of anti-sex education movements by powerful groups.
  • Where you live shouldn’t determine the quality of the education you receive. But without a national sex education program or full funding at the federal level, the quality of programs varies across the country, if they exist at all. Young people deserve answers to their questions about sex and relationships, free of shame and stigma no matter who they are, where they live, or what their income is. 
  • Opposition to honest education is nothing new. There has always been a vocal minority intent on stopping honest, equity-centered education that could lead to positive social change. In the 1950s, this same vocal minority focused on keeping Black kids out of all-white schools. In the 1990s, the goal was to censor facts regarding evolution in science classes. Now, this very same vocal minority is creating a false panic about sex education and all equity work in schools.
  • Extreme groups are funding and organizing a vocal minority of individuals—wrongly portrayed as a grassroots effort—to stoke fear and outrage around sex education in communities across the country. They blatantly lie to cause panic so they can dictate what is and isn’t allowed in schools—including pushing for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs and banning students from safely using the bathroom that matches their gender identity.
  • To create an illusion of grassroots resistance, these groups have brought people from other towns or states to pretend they live locally and take over school board meetings. They fund big social media misinformation campaigns and harass young people, parents, and school staff who advocate for real education and safe schools.
  • Eliminating or censoring sex education puts young people at risk and sets them up for failure instead of success. 
You can take action to advocate for sex education in your community, starting today.
All you need to do is ask the right questions and join with others in your community to ensure sex education for all.
  • Parents and caregivers can ask their children what, if any, sex education they’ve gotten in school. They can find out if their children are happy with what they’re taught, if they feel included in it, and what they wish school would teach that they currently don’t.
  • Parents, caregivers, and students can find out who is making decisions about sex education at their local school. It may be a health coordinator or individual teacher, or a district-wide School Health Advisory Committee (SHAC). You can contact the teacher, coordinator, or chair of the committee to learn about how decisions about sex education are made and what is currently being taught.
  • You can find out from local decision-makers about how sex education is taught in your community. This includes how often and when sex education is being taught, as well as what topics are being taught, what curriculum is being used, and who is teaching the program. 

You can contact your representatives and senators and tell them to support the Real Education and Access for Healthy Youth Act (REAHYA) and federal funding for sex education like the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program (TPPP) and the Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP), and to remove funding for so-called “Sexual Risk Avoidance,” aka Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage, programs.

Want more information on #SexEdForAll? These talking points were developed by the Sex Education Collaborative as part of Sex Ed For All Month. 

PHOTO CREDIT: Jeswin Thomas on Unsplash

At Healthy Teen Network, we believe that every young person has a right to live their authentic sexuality. And we see you, the professionals and caring adults, helping them do this. We know you do your best when you're connected to great opportunities and resources. That's why we're here...to help make those connections and support you. Read more about us.

Discover the magic of the Network.