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Real Education for Healthy Youth Act Offers a New Vision for U.S. Sex Education Policy


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:                    CONTACT:    Will Neville-Rehbehn, Advocates for Youth
November 2, 2011                                                            202-419-3420 //
                                                                                             Jen Heitel Yakush, SIECUS
                                                                                             202-265-2405 // 
Real Education for Healthy Youth Act Offers
a New Vision for U.S. Sex Education Policy
Today, Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA) introduced the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act, a new bill that lays out a comprehensive, age-appropriate, and holistic vision for sex education policy in the United States.
“Comprehensive sex education programs are successful at reducing behaviors that put young people at risk,” said Congresswoman Lee.  “Research has shown programs that combine information about abstinence and contraception effectively delay the onset of sexual intercourse, reduce the number of sexual partners, and increase contraceptive use among teens.  These programs also reduce unintended pregnancy and the transmission of STIs, including HIV.”
Among its many highlights, the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act:
  • Recognizes young people’s right to sexual health information–the first time federal legislation has ever done so
  • Prepares young people to make informed, responsible and healthy decisions about relationships and sexual health by including a comprehensive range of topics such as communication and decision-making skills; promoting safe and healthy relationships; and preventing unintended pregnancy, HIV, other STDs, dating violence, sexual assault, bullying, and harassment
  • Includes grants for comprehensive sex education programs for adolescents and young adults in institutions of higher education
  • Requires all funded programs to be inclusive of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and heterosexual youth and meet the needs of young people who are and are not sexually active
  • Highlights the importance of, and provides resources for, teacher training to ensure that our nation’s sex educators have the tools they need to provide the highest quality comprehensive sex education possible to our nation’s youth.
In the past two years, the United States began providing federal funding for science- and evidence-based teen pregnancy, STD, and HIV prevention programs. The Real Education for Healthy Youth Act expands on this foundation to provide a new vision for comprehensive, medically-accurate, sex education policy that brings together best scientific evidence and an acknowledgement of young people’s fundamental rights to information so they can make safe and responsible decisions about their sexual health and become sexually health adults.
“Growing up isn't easy and our kids find themselves in tough situations every day,” said Senator Lautenberg.  “They need all the information to make smart choices and 'abstinence-only’ programs don't work.  It’s time to bring sex education up-to-date to reflect the real life situations facing young Americans.”
A comprehensive approach to sex education policy enjoys widespread support from the American public and leading medical organizations. Public opinion research consistently shows that more than 80% of parents support sex education that includes information on both abstinence and contraception. The American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists, American Medical Association, American Public Health Association, Institute of Medicine, and Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine, among others, also support comprehensive sex education that includes information about both abstinence and contraception, including condoms.
The Real Education for Healthy Youth Act represents a turning point for sex education policy in America, with support from a diverse array of public health, nonprofit, and youth-serving organizations.
“This is a landmark day as the U.S. Congress for the first time recognizes the rights of young people to complete, accurate, and honest sex education,” said Debra Hauser, Executive Vice President of Advocates for Youth. “The Real Education for Healthy Youth Act exists as a direct result of the tireless advocacy of grassroots activists across the country, allies throughout the nonprofit community, and courageous leaders in Washington. Young people have played a critical role championing many of the ideas in this historic piece of legislation, and we look forward to working with them in the months and years ahead to ensure that the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act is enacted into law. The health and safety of America’s youth is at stake, and we all have a responsibility to meet this challenge by providing the education, information and access to reproductive and sexual health services that young people need to make responsible decisions and lead healthy lives.”
“SIECUS commends Senator Lautenberg and Congresswoman Lee not only for their leadership in introducing this landmark legislation but also for their continued commitment to providing young people with the comprehensive sex education they need to succeed,” said Monica Rodriguez, President and CEO of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS).  “Our goal is to create a sexually healthy America and while we have recently made advances in the way our federal government addresses sex education, we still have a long way to go before the health and education needs of youth and young adults are fully met. The Real Education for Healthy Youth Act sets the new gold standard for the federal government: what it should, and should not, be supporting with regards to sex education. This legislation sets the path forward to ensure that adolescents and young adults finally receive the information and skills they need to make informed, responsible, and safe decisions about their sexual health so they can become sexually healthy adults and we can finally realize that vision of a sexually healthy America.”
Choice USAExecutive Director Kierra Johnson stated, “From Kansas to Georgia, we’ve heard from innumerable students that the sex education they received did little to prepare them to lead healthy lives. Students are making the connections, noting that their peers and even they themselves have had to deal with the consequences of bad sex education, including unintended pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections, sexual violence and more. These students know that comprehensive sex education saves lives, and they are willing to stand up for sex education on their campuses and at the ballot box." 
“The National Education Association Health Information Network is pleased that the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act includes the much needed and too often neglected issues of professional preparation and professional development,” said Jerald Newberry, Executive Director of the NEA Health Information Network. “Without these, educators cannot successfully teach the age-appropriate knowledge and skills our young people need to help them grow up to be healthy adults.”
"Futures Without Violence, formerly Family Violence Prevention Fund, applauds the introduction of the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act,” says Esta Soler, President.  “This legislation takes an important step forward in integrating two important fields:  dating violence prevention and unintended pregnancy prevention.  But more importantly, it lays the groundwork for helping young people build healthy relationships.  By integrating these two often siloed efforts and focusing equally on what we want for our young people in their relationships as opposed to merely what they must be protected against, we hope to both improve the health and happiness of all young people.”
“Senator Lautenberg and Representative Lee understand that schools should be providing our nation’s youth with comprehensive, age-appropriate, evidence-based sex education,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese.  “For too long our nation’s youth have been left in the dark without access to accurate information and resources.  HRC has long opposed federal funding for abstinence-only programs because they exclude, or even denigrate, LGBT students.  This bill ensures that all students, including LGBT students, receive the instruction and information they need to make informed, responsible life decisions.”
“The Real Education for Healthy Youth Act is important legislation to expand access to effective sex education programs for adolescents and young adults and help to train teachers to provide high quality sex education,” said Leslie Kantor, Vice President of Education for Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “A recent poll from Planned Parenthood and NYU's Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health found that more than 90 percent of parents feel comprehensive sex education is important in both middle school and high school, and they want it to include a wide range of topics, including information about birth control.  Young people have a right to sex education that will help them protect their health.  Congress must fund programs that work to protect young people’s health and discontinue unproven approaches, such as abstinence-only programs.”
The following organizations have endorsed the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act:Advocates for Youth, The AIDS Institute, AIDS United, American Civil Liberties Union, Choice USA, Futures Without Violence, Guttmacher Institute, Human Rights Campaign, International Women’s Health Coalition, NARAL Pro-Choice America, National Coalition of STD Directors, National Council of Jewish Women, National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S. (SIECUS).
Advocates for Youthis a national organization that promotes programs and advocates for policies that help young people make informed and responsible decisions about their reproductive and sexual health.
SIECUS affirms that sexuality is a fundamental part of being human, one that is worthy of dignity and respect. We advocate for the right of all people to accurate information, comprehensive education about sexuality, and sexual health services. SIECUS works to create a world that ensures social justice and sexual rights.