General Articles

Revisions Passed to Oregon Administrative Rule Further Strengthens the State’s Comprehensive Sex Education Policy

On December 3, 2009 the Oregon State Board of Education unanimously approved revisions to Oregon Administrative Rule 581-022-1440, Human Sexuality Education.  The revisions further strengthen the state’s comprehensive sex education policy by refining the state’s human sexuality administrative rule to match the statutes of the state’s sex education law.
The new law, House Bill 2509, which was passed but the Oregon’s state legislature in May of this year, amended the state’s sex education law by further defining the type of instruction that must be provided to students.[i]  While Oregon law already required human sexuality education to be comprehensive, the revised law now requires “each school district” to provide comprehensive sexuality education “in all public elementary and secondary schools as an integral part of the health education curriculum.”  In addition the instruction must be “age-appropriate” and “medically accurate,” and must present statistics on the “health benefits,” in addition to the potential side effects, of all contraceptive methods.[ii]  A new section of the law also requires students to receive instruction on “Oregon laws that address young people’s rights and responsibilities related to childbearing and parenting.”[iii]  Additional minor amendments are also included in the updated law.  The law took effect for the 2009–2010 school year.
The revisions to Oregon Administrative Rule 581-022-1440 serve to align the state’s education standards with the updated state law.  Two primary changes were made under the new revisions.  First, language in the rule requiring that instruction discuss the negative impact of pre-adolescent and adolescent sexual intercourse was revised to state that instruction should discuss “the characteristics of the emotional, physical and psychological aspects of a healthy relationship” along with discussing “the benefits of delaying pregnancy beyond the adolescent years as a means to better ensure a healthy future for parents and their children.”[iv]  The second key change revises the definitions for the terms gender identity, gender orientation and sexual orientation.  The previous rule, conflated the terms “gender identity” and “gender orientation” and defined both as “an individual’s actual or perceived heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality or gender identity, regardless of whether the individual’s gender identity, appearance, expression or behavior differs from that traditionally associated with the individual’s sex at birth.”  The revised rule replaces the terms “gender identity” and “gender orientation” used for this definition with the more accurate term “sexual orientation.”[v]  The revisions also remove the term “gender orientation” altogether from the administrative rule.
Overall the revised administrative rule is one more step in ensuring the implementation and enforcement of Oregon’s comprehensive sex education law. In addition to recent revisions to the state law and the administrative rule, the state also created the Oregon Youth Sexual Health Plan, which was published last year. The plan outlines five core objectives for supporting the sexual health of Oregon’s youth and creates a holistic strategy that recognizes multiple societal factors that contribute to one’s sexual well-being.
 The state is unique in its achievements to ensure that all students receive full and complete sexual health information throughout their elementary and secondary education and are equipped with the tools and skills necessary to lead healthy lives.  “With the passage of the new revisions to OAR 581-022-1440 combined with the state’s new sex education law, Oregon can be considered to have the most progressive comprehensive sexuality education policy in the nation,” said Brad Victor, sexuality education programs specialist for the Oregon Department of Education. “Combined with the Oregon Youth Sexual Health Plan, Oregon has shown our clear commitment to ensuring the sexual health and well-being of our young people.”[vi]

[i] See SIECUS’ June 2009 Policy update, “New Sex Ed Laws Pass in Oregon and North Carolina.”

[ii] Enrolled House Bill 2509 (HB 2509-A), An Act Relating to health education; creating new provisions; amending ORS 336.455; and declaring an emergency, accessed 14 December 2009, <>.

[iii] Ibid.

[v] Ibid.

[vi] Statement taken from an email sent from Brad Victor.