Beginning in the 1970s, concerns over teen pregnancy– and later HIV/AIDS–galvanized widespread public support for sex education in schools. Most states today have a policy requiring HIV education, usually in conjunction with broader sex education. Meanwhile, as debate over the relative merits of abstinence-only-until-marriage versus more comprehensive approaches has intensified, states have enacted a number of specific content requirements. This brief summarizes state-level sex and HIV education policies, as well as specific content requirements, based on a review of state laws, regulations and other legally binding policies.
General Requirements: Sex Education and HIV Education
- 24 states and the District of Columbia mandate sex education.
- 22 states and the District of Columbia mandate both sex education and HIV education.
- 2 states only mandate sex education.
- 34 states and the District of Columbia mandate HIV education; of these states, 12 mandate only HIV education.
- 27 states and the District of Columbia mandate that, when provided, sex and HIV education programs meet certain general requirements.
- 13 states require that the instruction be medically accurate.
- 26 states and the District of Columbia require that the information be appropriate for the students' age.
- 8 states require that the program must provide instruction that is appropriate for a student’s cultural background and not be biased against any race, sex or ethnicity.
- 2 states prohibit the program from promoting religion.
- 38 states and the District of Columbia require school districts to involve parents in sex education, HIV education or both.
- 22 states and the District of Columbia require that parents be notified that sex education or HIV education will be provided.
- 3 states require parental consent for students to participate in sex education or HIV education.
- 36 states and the District of Columbia allow parents to remove their children from instruction.
Content Requirements When Sex Education is Taught
- 18 states and the District of Columbia require that information on contraception be provided.
- 37 states require that information on abstinence be provided.
- 26 states require that abstinence be stressed.
- 11 states require that abstinence be covered.
- 19 states require that instruction on the importance of engaging in sexual activity only within marriage be provided.
- 13 states require discussion of sexual orientation.
- 9 states require that discussion of sexual orientation be inclusive.
- 4 states require only negative information on sexual orientation.
- 13 states require the inclusion of information on the negative outcomes of teen sex and pregnancy.
- 28 states and the District of Columbia require the provision of information about skills for healthy sexuality (including avoiding coerced sex), healthy decision making and family communication when sex education is taught.
- 20 states and the District of Columbia require that sex education include information about skills for avoiding coerced sex.
- 21 states require that sex education include information on making healthy decisions around sexuality.
- 11 states require that sex education include instruction on how to talk to family members, especially parents, about sex.
Content Requirements When HIV Education is Taught
- 20 states require information on condoms or contraception.
- 39 states require that abstinence be included
- 27 states require that abstinence be stressed.
- 12 states require that abstinence be covered.
- United States: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming
Monthly State Policy Updates
Get an overview of state legislative and policy activity in all topics of sexual and reproductive health.