It is the position of the National Association of School Nurses NASN that developmentally appropriate evidence-based sexual health education should be included as part of a comprehensive school health education program and be accessible to all students. NASN recognizes the role of parents and families as the primary source of education about sexual health. The registered professional school nurse hereinafter referred to as school nurse is a valuable resource to parents and educators in this area and supports the implementation of evidence-based sexual health education programs that promote healthy sexual development for all students.
What Does Comprehensive Sex Ed Look Like?
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC survey indicates that more than 47 percent of all high school students say they have had sex, and 15 percent of high school students have had sex with four or more partners during their lifetime. Among students who had sex in the three months prior to the survey, 60 percent reported condom use and 23 percent reported birth control pill use during their last sexual encounter. Sexual activity has consequences. Though the teen birth rate has declined to its lowest levels since data collection began, the United States still has the highest teen birth rate in the industrialized world. Teenage mothers are less likely to finish high school and are more likely than their peers to live in poverty, depend on public assistance, and be in poor health. Their children are more likely to suffer health and cognitive disadvantages, come in contact with the child welfare and correctional systems, live in poverty, drop out of high school and become teen parents themselves. Adolescents are disproportionately affected by sexually transmitted infections STIs.
When only 13 states in the nation require sex education to be medically accurate, a lot is left up to interpretation in teenage health literacy. Research published by the Public Library of Science shows that when sex education is comprehensive, students feel more informed, make safer choices and have healthier outcomes — resulting in fewer unplanned pregnancies and more protection against sexually transmitted diseases and infection. Of course many young students pick up sexual health information from sources other than school — parents, peers, medical professionals, social media and pop culture. However, public schools are the best opportunity for adolescents to access formal information. Teachers are left to interpret vague legislative guidelines, meaning information might not be accurate or unbiased. The chart below compares the legislative policies of all 50 states, including how they mandate specific aspects of sex education like contraception, abstinence and sexual orientation. Read the text-only version of these graphics here. Even when sex education is required, state policies still vary widely regarding the inclusion of critical information.
Sex education in the United States is taught in two main forms: comprehensive sex education and abstinence-only. Comprehensive sex education is also called abstinence-based, abstinence-plus, abstinence-plus-risk-reduction, and sexual risk reduction sex education. This approach covers abstinence as a choice option, but also informs adolescents about human sexuality , age of consent and the availability of contraception and techniques to avoid contraction of sexually transmitted infections.