Report: Sex Education by State
Find out what your state’s policies are on sexual education — with links.
Alabama- Currently, Alabama relies on the abstinence-only practices, are reflected in their state code. They state that abstinence-only education is the only effective way to prevent adolescent pregnancy and STI’s. Alabama does teach information about reporting sexual abuse and recognizing unwanted sexual behavior. Alabama teaches an anti-LGBT curriculum, which states that homosexuality is a sin and criminal under state law.
Alaska- Alaska recently enacted HB 156, which is essentially is related to parent’s rights with their child(s)’ public education. However, it also has sex education implementation. Sex education curriculum has to be pre-approved by the school board and public. This allows parents to be able to opt-out of the class if they do not want their child taking a sex ed class. Since there is regulation of curriculum through each school board, it is unclear what is being taught in a sexual education class in Alaska.
Arizona- According to the Frances McClelland Institute, who conduct research on children, youth and families, only 31% of Arizona School Districts reported teaching some kind of sexual education in the classroom. The curriculum varies by school district. Of the 55 districts interviewed, only 5 discuss comprehensive sexual education. A majority of school district used abstinence-based education. State board rule R7–2–203 require information to be “medically accurate” however promotes abstinence only education.
Arkansas- Arkansas Code Title 6 discusses sexual education. It states that school-based health clinics cannot be established without the school district and children must get parental consent before they enter the clinic. The health clinic that teaches sexual education may only teach abstinence related curriculum. It is “state policy” to discourage any sort of sexual activity, as it “gives an increased risk of pregnancy and STI’s.” No funds can go to contraceptives or abortion services in schools.
California- According to the CA Dept of Education, comprehensive sexual health education is required from K-12. California requires their sex education to be medically accurate, equally available for English language learners, disabilities and all cultures and genders. Sex education must include discussion on same-sex relationships, gender identity and expression, forming healthy relationships, and communicating honestly with parents and/or guardians. Schools may NOT teach or promote religious doctrine and abstinence education cannot be taught in isolation.
Colorado- In Colorado, the curriculum and implementation of human sexuality must be medically accurate. However, they emphasize an abstinence-only education, stating that it is the only way to prevent against pregnancy and STI’s. It is ensured to be culturally sensitive and does teach the benefits and limitations of contraceptive methods.
Connecticut- Connecticut’s overall goal when it comes to sexual education is, “ Sexuality education is a lifelong process of acquiring information and forming attitudes, beliefs and values about such important topics as identity, relationships and intimacy.” They do state that they teach a comprehensive sexual education curriculum, which means it is K-12. It requires schools to cover human growth and development, family planning, avoiding and leaving unhealthy relationships, and diversity within relationships (LGBTQ+, gender identity, and disabilities.). Their website was extremely thorough and full of information about their exact sex ed practices.
Delaware- According to Delaware’s Adolescent Sexual Health State Plan, they will, “continue to promote and expand evidence-based comprehensive sexual health curricula and programs” They utilize the curriculum Making Proud Choices! which is provided by organizations such as Planned Parenthood of Delaware. The program promotes abstinence as well as factual information on contraceptive methods to prevent pregnancy and STI’s. The goal is to also increase education in regards to sexually active minorities, including African American and LGBTQ+ youth.
District of Columbia- In the District of Columbia Public School’s Local Wellness Policy report, DCPS does mandate comprehensive sexual education from grades K-12. Trained school staff will be able to provide condoms to students the Sexual Health Liaison Program. DCPS also provides free sexual health screenings for every senior in high school. However, parents are allowed to opt-out for their children in regards to sex ed classes. Students are required to learn about gender identity and expression, LGBTQ+ relationships, and cultural relationships.
Florida- According to Florida law, the language of comprehensive sex education is used, however Florida does not encompass a complete sexual education curriculum conducive to comprehensive sex ed. The standard is abstinence-only and discusses the consequences of teenage pregnancy. They do mention discussing dating violence and abuse. A University of Florida study reported that there are no standards for course content, and it is unknown how long the education classes are. It is required however to teach HIV prevention.
Georgia- This is a recent report from the Georgia Department of Education. As of August 28, 2018, an abstinence-only curriculum is required to be taught in Georgia public schools as the only sure method of preventing pregnancy and STI’s. The requirement emphasizes abstaining until marriage and focuses on marriage as “important personal goals.” AIDS education is required under this plan. Parents/guardians are allowed to opt-out their children from sex education classes.
Guam- Sexuality Education is required for schools in Guam, in accordance with their Health Education standards. Schools must teach how to prevent injuries and other adolescent health problems that can include instruction on abstinence as a way to prevent pregnancy, STI’s and HIV/AIDS. The standards in Guam’s Health Education are general, but stress teaching abstinence in regards to improving personal health. There is no requirement to teach contraceptives or consent.
Hawaii- According to Hawaii’s Board of Education Policy 103.5, students are required to learn about abstinence, contraception, and infection prevention. Though they do discuss different types of contraceptives available, they emphasize that abstinence is the most sure way to prevent unwanted pregnancy and STI’s/HIV. The curriculum must include information on sexual violence and healthy relationships and encourages students to discuss sexuality with their families. Parents/guardians are allowed to opt-out their children from sex education classes.
Idaho- Sexual education programs are determined by the district level. Section 33 of Idaho State Legislature states, “the primary responsibility for family life and sex education, including moral responsibility, rests upon the home and the church and the schools can only complement and supplement those standards which are established in the family.” If sex education does exist in Idaho schools, they prioritize it necessary for students to control their sex drive through self-discipline. There is a bill, however, to amend this law passed in 1970! This bill would enact a more comprehensive sexual education requirement.
Illinois- As of 2014, it is not mandatory to teach sexual education in Illinois schools. If school districts DO decide to have sexual education programs, it must include instruction on both abstinence and contraceptive use as measures against unwanted pregnancy and STIs/HIV. Districts may also select grades 6–12 to teach sex ed. It is not mandated and they can choose what grades they want to teach sexual education. The education must be developmentally appropriate, must teach behavior changes to decrease risk of infection including reducing sexual partners and place “substantial emphasis” on both abstinence and contraceptives. Parents/guardians may opt-out of their child taking sex ed classes.
Indiana- The “expected standard” for Indiana schools is to teach an abstinence only curriculum that ensures students refrain from sex outside of marriage. Abstinence is the only certain way to avoid “out of wedlock” pregnancy and STIs/HIV. According to Indiana curriculum, AIDS education will be taught with instruction of “other dangerous, communicable diseases.” As of February 2018, there was a bill introduced in the Indiana Senate that would allow parents/guardians to opt-out of sex ed classes.
Iowa- Iowa requires for its sexual education curriculum to have age-appropriate and research-based instruction. This includes topics on: human sexuality, interpersonal relationships, HPV and the availability of a vaccine to prevent HPV in grades 1–12. Parents/guardians may opt-out of sexual education classes.
Kansas- In accordance with state law, sexual education can start in the 5th grade, with curriculum covering and labeling the reproductive organs. Kansas does promote an abstinence only education, requiring students to “demonstrate an in-depth, extensive knowledge of the importance and benefits of abstinent behavior and risk-reducing strategies in the areas of substance use and sexuality.” In the same document provided by Kansas State government, there is an opt-out form for parents/guardians. There was push from advocacy groups to include LGBTQ+ related sex education in schools.
Kentucky- There are no state laws mandating how sexual education should be taught in Kentucky schools. In accordance with their health policy, in grades 9–12 students are taught “how decision-making relates to responsible sexual behavior (e.g., abstinence,preventing pregnancy, preventing HIV/STDs), impacts physical, mental and social well-being of an individual.” There is no mandated contraceptive education. As of January of 2018, state legislatures are pushing for abstinence as the “expected standard” in Kentucky schools.
Louisiana- Louisiana does not mandate schools teach sexual education at any grade level. If schools do participate in sexual education, it is taught in 7–12 grades. Sexual education must emphasize abstinence only outside of marriage as the expected way to prevent unwanted pregnancies and STIs. Teaching about homosexuality or same-sex relationships is explicitly not allowed. Sexual education including distributing contraceptives and discussing abortion is explicitly barred. Parents/guardians may opt their students out of sexual education classes. There is no mandated instruction on sexual violence/healthy relationships.
Maine- Comprehensive sexual education is a requirement in Maine from grades K-12. Sex education must be age-appropriate and medically accurate. The state requires that schools much teach abstinence, family planning and contraceptives, STIs and HIV, healthy relationships, sexual violence, gender preferences, and masturbation. Parents/guardians may opt-out their child from sex ed classes, however.
Maryland- Comprehensive sexual education from grades K-12 is the standard in Maryland. There are a wide range of topics covered in this grade span, from defining puberty and sexual health organs in 5th grade to describing the methods of abstinence and contraceptive use in 8th grade. Starting in 8th grade, students learn the components of what makes a healthy relationship and resolving conflicts in safe ways. In April 2018, the state legislature passed a law requiring Maryland schools to teach consent. Parents/guardians may opt-out their child from sex ed classes.
Massachusetts- Sexual education is not required to be taught in Massachusetts schools. If schools provide sexual education, it is recommended by their Department of Education to include the effectiveness and consequences of various pregnancy and STI prevention methods, determinants of sexual orientation, and to distinguish degrees of sexual risk (sexual assault and violence) in their curriculum. It is also recommended to teach HIV and AIDS. Parents/guardians may opt-out their child from sex ed classes.
Michigan- School districts in Michigan are required to teach about HIV/AIDS but can choose to teach sexual education. For school districts to implement the class, the curriculum and materials have to be approved by a sex education advisory board. Sex education must be age-appropriate and medically necessary. It must discuss the “benefits of abstaining from sex until marriage and that unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases are serious possibilities of sexual intercourse that are not fully preventable except by abstinence.” The document also discusses saying “no” and how self-control gives them the power to resist sex. LGBTQ+ relationships and abortion cannot be discussed. Parents/guardians may opt-out.
Minnesota- The only requirements for sexual education in Minnesota are STI and HIV/AIDS education and that abstinence must be taught as the full-proof way to prevent unwanted pregnancy and STIs. Since there is no requirement mandating sexual education, school districts and even individual schools can determine what they will include in their sexual education program, so the education will vary school by school.
Mississippi- Sex education is mandated in every Mississippi school district, however, it requires an abstinence only curriculum. An abstinence only program is defined as “abstinence from sexual activity before marriage, and fidelity within marriage, is the only certain way to avoid out-of-wedlock pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and related health problems.” This program even teaches that drug an alcohol abuse increase vulnerability to sexual advances. Teaching about abortion is not allowed and the classes must be divided by gender.
Missouri- Missouri law does not require sexual education to be taught in class. If sexual education is taught in a school, it is mandated that abstinence from sexual activity is the preferred choice of behavior and the “only method that is one hundred percent effective in preventing pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and the emotional trauma associated with adolescent sexual activity.” The law also stresses the advantages of adoption and involvement in making an “adoption plan.” Students are taught sexual harassment, violence, and consent. Abortion services or referrals are not allowed in schools. Schools may separate sexual education classes by gender. Parents/guardians can remove their children from these classes.
Montana- Sexuality education is a mandatory part of Montana’s taught curriculum called “health enhancement.” Schools have flexibility in what they can teach, but abstinence only is a requirement as long as it is age-appropriate and abstinence-based. They do state that they present information on disease prevention methods for those unable or unwilling to refrain from sexual intercourse, but it is not a required component. When questioning materials, Montana asks if the material is offensive as a whole, if the material contains sex role stereotypes, and if the material is culturally sensitive. Students may opt-out of the class without parental consent.
Nebraska- Nebraska does not have any mandated sexuality education teaching (including HIV/AIDS) in their schools. Local school boards get to decide what and when is to be taught in their schools. The Board of Education does support an abstinence until marriage approach to sexual risk behaviors. The expected standard for all students is “ mutually faithful monogamous relationship in the context of marriage is the expected standard of human sexual activity.”
Nevada- According to the group Immunize Nevada, the law regarding sex education (NRS 389.065) has not been updated in 30 years. The only curriculum the law states is that there should be factual information on AIDS, the human reproductive system, related communicable diseases and sexual responsibility. This means that Nevada students could get different information on sex education depending on where they live.
New Hampshire- New Hampshire requires a school curriculum to include information on AIDS and STI’s, and how they affect the “human system.” The middle and high school curriculum are available online. According to the middle school curriculum, The curriculum states that abstinence is the most effective way to prevent pregnancy and STI’s, but also mention different forms of contraception as well. Students will learn about “dynamic family relationships” and learn to say no when feeling pressured. In the high school curriculum, the standards are very similar to the middle school curriculum, though more age-appropriate. It goes more into detail on date-rape and other forms of abuse.
New Jersey- A developmentally appropriate health class, which includes a family life education component, is required for all students. Parents/guardians can opt-out of the class if it goes against moral or religious beliefs. New Jersey schools are required to “stress abstinence” as the one completely reliable method of prevention when discussing contraception. Education on the risks and benefits of contraception methods is also required. HIV/AIDS and STI education is required as well. The department also requires schools to discuss differing family units, including same-sex couples and sexual orientation/gender identity.
New Mexico- NM Administrative Code §§ 22.214.171.124 and 126.96.36.199 mandate that schools must teach a course in health education in either middle or high school. The content must include HIV/STI education . Schools require that abstaining from sex is the only completely effective way to prevent pregnancy and STIs, but teaching other forms of contraception is required as well. Education on the media and traditional gender roles are also discussed in their curriculum. However, the information is not required to be medically accurate.
New York- Public schools are not required to teach sexual education in New York State, according to the report. However, NYCDOE made sexual health education a mandatory component of the comprehensive health education courses required in middle and high schools. The laws seem conflicting here. There is no set curriculum so it is up to local school districts to decide what is taught in health class. According to the linked task force report and City and State New York article, “ 5 percent of students reported that their school’s health class did not include sexuality education, and 59 did not learn about consent.”
North Carolina- According to the Reproductive Health and Safety Education Act, sexual education is mandated starting in the seventh grade. Local school systems must provide information that is medically accurate and age appropriate. It includes information on abstinence, Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) prevention, contraceptive methods, and sexual assault/abuse risk reduction. The law does state that a “ mutually faithful monogamous heterosexual relationship in the context of marriage is the best lifelong means of avoiding STIs and HIV/AIDS.” Parents/guardians can opt-out of sexual education classes for their children.
North Dakota- According to a 2011 law (HB 1229), every school district in North Dakota is required to expand sexual education to abstinence education if sex ed is part of that school’s curriculum. The required content ranges from teaching that abstinence is the expected standard for all students and that “bearing children out of wedlock is likely to have harmful consequences for the child, the child’s parents, and society.”
Ohio- Ohio does not require schools to teach sexual education. Sex education standards are left to the local school districts through their Board of Education. The curriculum states that teachers “ shall emphasize (that) abstinence from sexual activity is the only protection that is 100% effective against unwanted pregnancy, STD’s, and the sexual transmission of a virus that causes AIDS.” Parents/guardians can opt-out of sexual education classes for their children.
Oklahoma- Sexual education classes are not required for students in Oklahoma. If school boards decide to teach sex ed in schools, abstinence must be stressed as the only full-proof way to prevent unwanted pregnancy and STI’s. There is no requirement to teach about other contraceptive methods. AIDS prevention education is required and teaches that “engaging in homosexual or promiscuous sexual activity is primarily responsible for contact…” There is a section in the Oklahoma State Department of Education 2016 School Law Book that requires teaching of “humanity of the unborn child” which provides information at the two-week gestation period. All curriculum materials shall be made available to the parents/guardians of the students if asked. Parents/guardians can also opt-out of the class for their children via written notice.
Oregon- As of 2009, the Human Sexuality Education Law requires comprehensive sexual education to be taught in public schools. The law states that abstinence only education is outdated and states that teaching about abstinence and contraceptives is the best approach. Teachings must be age-appropriate and medically accurate. The curriculum must be culturally inclusive and cannot be shame or fear based that would disgrace students from having sexual relationships. Sex education must be inclusive, showing all types of relationships and gender identities.
Pennsylvania- Pennsylvania does not have a separate mandate for sexual education, however there is a state standard for “health, safety, and physical education.” According to this standard, abstinence and STD and HIV prevention must be taught. It does not mandate information on contraceptive use. Other than these requirements, any other materials or curriculum is up to the school districts. Parents/guardians cam choose to opt-out of classes for their children if the class goes against their religious beliefs.
Puerto Rico- According to the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, Puerto Rico does mandate some form of health education in its schools. The health policy states that the education should lead to develop “fundamental habits for maintain good health including respect for the human body in order to develop positive sexual behavior.” Health risks related to sexual relationships must be taught. The law does not state whether parents can remove their children from the class.
Rhode Island- Sexuality education is a required class for secondary education in Rhode Island. The course instruction must include that “abstinence from sexual activity and refraining from sexual intercourse as the preferred method of pregnancy prevention and the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases.” Contraceptive use is also covered in the curriculum. Parents/guardians may exempt their cold from the program through written consent. As of July 5th, 2018, teaching of consent is also required in sexuality education classes in Rhode Island.
South Carolina- Schools are required to teach sex education starting in sixth grade. Local school boards decide which topics they want to cover. According to the Comprehensive Health Education Act, it is required to stress the importance of abstaining from sexual activity until marriage and to assist students with resisting sexual activity. Information about AIDS and STI;s cannot be taught prior to 6th grade. Contraceptive risks and benefits must also be taught, but abortion cannot be included. The state requires that classes on pregnancy prevention must be separated by gender. Classes may not include discussion on homosexual relationships. Parents must be told in advance of sex ed instruction and can opt-out their student at any time.
South Dakota- Schools are not required to teach sex education in South Dakota. The decision is up to local school districts. In general instruction, abstinence only sexual education is required as “the only effective method of eliminating the risk of unplanned or out-of-wedlock pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases or infections.” Schools may not include instruction on contraceptive drugs, devices or methods. The law states that if schools teach sexual education, they must emphasize “ that the student has the power to control personal behavior.” If schools teach sex ed, they must provide instruction on healthy dating relationships and teach that it is wrong to exploit someone sexually. Parents/guardians may opt-out their child of sex ed classes through written consent.
Tennessee- According to the Family Life Education law, sexuality education is only required in counties where the pregnancy rate has exceeded 19.5 per 1000 in females aged 11–18. Curriculum must be “abstinence-based” and addresses the consequences of non-marital sexual activity. Curriculum must be age-appropriate and medically accurate.The teacher may not provide materials that condone unmarried sexual activity or distribute contraception. However, the law does state that “ medically-accurate information about contraception and condoms may be provided so long it is presented in a manner consistent with the preceding provisions.” Parents/guardians may opt their child out of sex education classes.
Texas- Schools are not required to teach sexual education in Texas. Any and all material relating to a sexual education class must be reviewed and approved by the school district’s local school health advisory council. Curriculum must stress that abstinence from sexual activity is the only 100% way to prevent pregnancy and STI’s. Instruction on condoms and contraceptives is allowed if school districts choose to do so based on “ human use reality rates instead of theoretical laboratory rates.” School districts also have a choice to separate their students by gender when teaching sexual education.
Utah- Sexual education classes are required in Utah schools. Abstinence only education is required in all classes. School districts are not allowed to provide material or teach advocacy for premarital sex, the advocacy of contraceptive use and devices, or homosexuality. Information must be age appropriate and medically accurate. Refusal skills are taught in the curriculum but consent is not. Parents/guardians have to opt their children into sexual education classes with written consent. There is a list of topics covered in curriculum here.
Vermont- Vermont state law requires schools to provide comprehensive sexual education. Local school boards determine what curriculum to use and when students will learn sexual education. Abstinence, contraceptives, HIV/AIDS and STI education, adoption, and abortion are required topics. Schools are also required to include STI and HIV/AIDS education. The curriculum also includes how to recognize and prevent sexual abuse and violence.
Virginia- Virginia does not require sexual education classes in its schools. If school districts do allow sexual education curriculum, teaching abstinence education is required. Schools are also required to teach “the benefits of adoption as a positive choice in the event of an unwanted pregnancy.” The curriculum also encourages teachings of the importance of immediate medical advice after a sexual assault. Virginia requires STI and HIV/AIDS education. This information must be age appropriate. Parents/guardians can opt-out of sex ed classes for their children.
Washington- Sexual health education is not required in Washington schools and is determined at the district level by the local school board. All education must provide an emphasis on abstinence as the 100% effective way of preventing unwanted pregnancy and STI’s. However, they must also provide alternative methods of preventing unwanted pregnancy, such as contraception. Abstinence only education is explicitly banned. The curriculum must be age appropriate, medically accurate, and inclusive of students regardless of their gender, race, disability status or sexual orientation. Parents must be notified of the program one month before the program begins. They may choose to opt their child out of sex ed classes.
West Virginia- Sexual education is not required for students in West Virginia schools. Local school boards decided what information is covered. Abstinence is to be stressed as the only completely effective way to prevent pregnancy and STI’s. West Virginia does require HIV/AIDS education in schools. Parents/guardians may opt their child out of sex ed classes.
Wisconsin- Wisconsin does not require schools to teach sexuality education. Local school boards are to decide what subjects sex education must cover, if allowed. If schools do teach sex ed, abstinence is the only completely effective way to prevent unwanted pregnancy and STI’s. Schools can teach information on development, healthy relationships, sexually transmitted diseases including HIV, condoms and contraception and personal safety. Parents/guardians may opt their child out of sex ed classes.
Wyoming- Sexual education classes are not required for Wyoming schools. There is no specific curricula indicated for schools that do provide sexual education courses but there are brief guidelines listed in the link. HIV/AIDS education is not required as well. Parents/guardians may opt their child out of sex ed classes.