What are we teaching our children?

Jun 25, 2021

Sexual education is inconsistent throughout the U.S. due to a lack of regulation. Individual school administrations ultimately decide what to teach their students if the state requires sex-ed. As of October 1, 2020, 30 states and the District of Columbia require public schools teach sex-ed, and 28 of these require HIV education in addition. In 22 states, if sex education is taught, it must be “medically, factually, or technically accurate.”. 25 states and D.C. require their school districts to inform the parents that sex-ed/HIV education is provided by the school, 5 states require parental consent before a child can receive sex-ed, and 36 states and D.C. allow parents to opt their children out of sex education [1]. 

Generally, sex education is meant to teach about sexual health and how to avoid sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancy. Several states require that information must be “age-appropriate” and “medically accurate”. These terms do not provide school administrators defined boundaries to determine what is appropriate to teach.

In a private school in New York City, parents had learned that their first-grade children (6-year-olds) watched a cartoon videoexplaining masturbation among other things. In the video, an adult explains different names for “private parts”, answers questions about an erection, and goes on to say “its okay to touch yourself and see how different body parts feel, but its best to only do it in private.”. According to the New York Post, Justine Ang Fonte, the health and wellness educator, has since resigned from Dalton. This was not her first controversial encounter with parents concerned with their children’s education. In May, she had led a presentation at another elite private school in NYC discussing pornography. The slideshow presentation had taught 120 boys and girls lessons of how “porn takes care of three big male vulnerabilities”, the “orgasm gap”, included photos of women partially-nude and in bondage, and went so far as to explain the “marketability of Only Fans” [3]. 

In Illinois, the REACH Act, Senate Bill 818, which calls on schools that teach sex-ed to follow the curriculum under the National Sex Education Standards (NSES) for grades K-12 was recently approved. NSES standards were updated in March 2020. While NSES maintains a comprehensive curriculum expanding upon human biology and interpersonal relationships, the new standards include teaching arguably explicit content to young children. By following this new curriculum, some examples of the material young children are exposed to are as follows:

· 3rdgraders learning about masturbation

· 5thgraders learning about human sexual development and the role hormones play in romantic sexual feelings

· 6thgraders learning about anal sex, oral sex, and dental dams [4]. 

Mentioned above are 2 examples of sex-ed evolution in different parts of the U.S. There are more states and cities where sex education looks similar to these programs. With that being noted, some questions to think about regarding the future of sex education in the U.S. may be:

· How do we define “age-appropriateness” as we continue to teach sex-ed?

· Are the programs discussed above good examples of how we should continue to teach sex-ed in the U.S?

· Is the material presented in these programs for younger children “too much too soon”?

· In comparing these programs to a standard john school curriculum, why are we seeing such dramatic differences? John schools are usually a diversion program for people - almost exclusively men - arrested for soliciting the services of a prostitute, or another related offense. See posts about john schools to draw comparisons.

**This post is not intended to give opinions, but to start a conversation among the public who have children learning sex-ed in school. **

Researcher:  Georgia Verrastro  


[1] Johnson T, Bradford K. [Internet]. State Policies on Sex Education in Schools. 2020 [cited 2021Jun25]. Available from: https://www.ncsl.org/research/health/state-policies-on-sex-education-in-schools.aspx 

[2] Help kids learn that bodies are private [with Scoops & Friends] [Internet]. Youtube. AMAZE Parents; 2019 [cited 2021Jun25]. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JOcaYIaeEDQ 

[3] Kennedy D. Sex-ed teacher out at Dalton after 'masturbation' lesson for first graders. New York Post [Internet]. NYP Holdings Inc.; 2021Jun12 [cited 2021Jun25]; Available from: https://nypost.com/2021/06/12/sex-ed-teacher-out-at-dalton-after-masturbation-lesson-for-first-graders/ 

[4] Cantu D. GOP Lawmakers Say 'National Sex Education Standards' Are Too Explicit For Illinois Schools [Internet]. NPR Illinois. NPR Illinois; 2021 [cited 2021Jun25]. Available from: https://www.nprillinois.org/statehouse/2021-05-27/gop-lawmakers-say-national-sex-education-standards-are-too-explicit-for-illinois-schools 


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