Sexual education has always been a concern for many parents, especially if they are very religious. This is because they believe that sexual education will corrupt their child's beliefs. Only 13 states in the US require sex ed to be medically accurate, so a lot is left up to interpretation. The Public Library of Science External shows that when sex ed is comprehensive, students feel more informed, and make safer choices therefore have healthier outcomes. This results in fewer unplanned pregnancies and more protection against sexually transmitted diseases and infection (USC). According to Adrienne D. Bonham, MD, MS, half of all pregnancies in the US are unplanned, and of these, 43 percent will end in abortion. Comprehensive sexual education is a kindergarten through 12th grade program that covers a range of topics related to human development including reproduction, puberty, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Sexual health includes sexually transmitted diseases, contraception, and pregnancy (Planned parenthood). Having a comprehensive sexual education program for students in the US is not proving to be enough and has many flaws this is especially true through the ethical lens looking at the legal, religious and political perspectives.
Many states have strong laws addressing sexual education. 37 states stress abstinence (Lowen). For example the minimum requirements in Alabama public schools are that any program including sex education or the human reproductive process must emphasize that abstinence from sexual intercourse is the only effective protection against unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. They also stress that abstinence outside of marriage is the expected standard for students. The second law states that course materials relating to sexual education needs to be “age-appropriate”, which needs to be more specific because it could be interpreted in many different ways by teachers. The third law is that schools should emphasize all of the following elements: the importance of self-control and ethical conduct, statistics based on the latest medical information that show the degree of reliability of different forms of contraception, financial responsibilities associated with pregnancy, childbirth, and child rearing, information concerning the laws about sexual abuse, how to cope with exploitation, psychological methods for resisting peer pressure, parenting skills and responsibilities and the legal and ethical responsibilities of child care (USLegal). They also must be taught that homosexuality is not acceptable and is a criminal offense under the laws of the state. Too much pressure is being put on the students to stay abstinent along with other strict rules that they may not agree with. Instead they should be taught without being shamed. The laws need to be changed and added to for more specificity and less discrimination so that the laws can apply to a wider range of people and their beliefs.
With conservatism on the rise in the US, many people are interested in the role of religion, specifically white evangelicals in politics. The United States has entered into a strong conservative period, many politicians even cite religious text when advocating for policies. So it is important to think about the influence of politics on the state legislators that create the sex education policies (Skidmore). Sexual education involves socio-cultural, historical discourses for understandings childhood and sexuality. It is mediated through socio-cultural factors, like gender, sexuality, ethnicity, religion/faith, socio-economic class, disability and age (Robinson). These should not be factors stopping students from understanding other point of views as well as learning things that could help them in the future but instead be enhancing their learning. On April. 23, 2018 parents across the globe, specifically in the US prevented their children from attending their schools because they believe that too much information about sexual education is being taught and that it is a waist of their money, this was called the sex ed sit out. This protest was initiated by a few moms on social media who were troubled by the graphic nature of current sex education resources in schools. This protest has now spread to Canada and Australia as well (sexedsitout).
In 2013 46.8% of high school students in the US had sex at least once, 34% reported sex in the last three months. The recently sexually active half did not use a condom during last encounter (“CDC - Sexual Behaviors",” 2014). The U.S. has very high rates of teen birth and abortion compared to other developed nations (Barr, Moore, Johnson, Forrest, & Jordan, 2014). This could be prevented if sexual education was taught more effectively. Some school districts don’t offer sex education, for example Alaska. In 2010 only 65.9% of high school students received education about HIV, STIs, and pregnancy prevention (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2012).
Support for abstinence only is low (15%); most parents want their children to learn about topics such as abortion (85%), and homosexuality (77%). They also want teens to learn about delaying sex (95%) and how to make sexual choices based on individual values (91%) (Santelli et al., 2006). But the federal government has only funded sex education programs matching their own ethical values (Stein, 2010). Administration needs to put their own beliefs aside to teach correctly in order to prevent all unwanted situations and meet the learning wants and needs of the families attending their schools.