Beginning in the 1970s, concerns over adolescent pregnancy—and later, HIV/AIDS—galvanized widespread public support for sex education in schools. Most states currently 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 messages versus more comprehensive approaches has intensified, states have enacted a number of specific content requirements. Growing acknowledgment of young people’s sexuality has popularized instruction on life skills, with most states now requiring instruction on healthy relationships and the prevention of sexual violence.
Visit our state legislation tracker for policy activity on all sexual and reproductive health topics.
General Requirements for Sex Education and HIV Education
- 39 states and the District of Columbia mandate sex education and/or HIV education.
- 28 states and DC mandate both sex education and HIV education.
- 2 states only mandate sex education.
- 9 states only mandate HIV education.
- 30 states and DC mandate that, when provided, sex and HIV education programs meet certain general requirements.
- 17 states require program content to be medically accurate.
- 26 states and DC require instruction to be appropriate for the students’ age.
- 9 states require the program to provide instruction that is appropriate for a student’s cultural background and that is not biased against any race, sex or ethnicity.
- 3 states prohibit the program from promoting religion.
- 40 states and DC require school districts to involve parents in sex education, HIV education or both.
- 25 states and DC require parental notification that sex education or HIV education will be provided.
- 5 states require parental consent for students to participate in sex education or HIV education.
- 36 states and DC allow parents the option to remove their child from instruction.
Content Requirements When Sex Education is Taught
- 20 states and DC require provision of information on contraception.
- 39 states and DC require provision of information on abstinence.
- 29 states require that abstinence be stressed.
- 10 states and DC require that abstinence be covered.
- 19 states require instruction on the importance of engaging in sexual activity only within marriage to be provided.
- 17 states and DC require either an inclusive or discriminatory view of sexual orientation.
- 11 states and DC require inclusive content with regard to sexual orientation.
- 6 states require only negative information to be provided on homosexuality and/or positive emphasis on heterosexuality.
- 19 states and DC require the inclusion of information on the negative outcomes of teen sex and pregnancy.
Content Requirements When HIV Education is Taught
- 19 states require inclusion of information on condoms or contraception.
- 37 states and DC require provision of information on abstinence.
- 28 states require that abstinence be stressed.
- 9 states and DC require that abstinence be covered.
Life Skills Requirements for Sexual Consent, Relationships and Prevention of Dating and Sexual Violence
- 35 states and DC require provision of information about skills for healthy romantic and sexual relationships.
- 31 states and DC require information on healthy relationships to be provided.
- 26 states and DC require instruction on self-control and decision making about sexuality.
- 38 states and DC require prevention of teen dating violence and sexual violence to be covered.
- 24 states and DC require provision of information on asserting personal boundaries and refusing unwanted sexual advances.
- 9 states require the importance of consent to sexual activity to be covered.
- 37 states and DC require provision of information on preventing, recognizing and responding to teen dating violence and sexual violence.
- 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