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Lack of state sex ed regulation puts students in danger of receiving harmful lessons, report finds

For Immediate Release
March 5, 2020

Contact: Zach Eisenstein
Phone: (202) 265-2405 ext 3330

(Washington, DC) – Today, SIECUS: Sex Ed for Social Change released its new report, the SIECUS State Profiles, providing an in-depth and up-to-date look at the state of sex education in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and other United States territories.

“Unfortunately, we are seeing a rampant inconsistency in sex ed policies nationwide,” said Christine Soyong Harley, SIECUS President & CEO. “In many states and districts, there are no requirements for accuracy, inclusiveness, or appropriateness of curricula. This lack of regulation has fostered an environment in which many young people are particularly vulnerable to the harm caused by receiving bad sex ed, or no sex ed at all.”  

Of particular concern, the SIECUS State Profiles reports a growing number of abstinence-only programs (also called “sexual risk avoidance”) being taught in schools by Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs). CPCs have increasingly received federal funds to deliver abstinence-only instruction to young people nationwide. 

These programs often feature inaccurate and shame-based content. For example, one common lesson compares sexually active young women to used pieces of tape. The report notes that such instruction is being provided to young people in Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, New Mexico, Oregon, and Pennsylvania–among other states.

“With this iteration of the SIECUS State Profiles, we prioritized the inclusion of updates that came directly from state and local partners, advocates, educators, parents, and students,” Harley said. “These are the individuals who experience the effects of their communities’ sex ed, or lack thereof, firsthand. Many of them shared inspiring stories of advancing comprehensive sex education. However, far too many expressed that the needs of youth simply aren’t being met.”

The report also details which states do and do not mandate sex education; the quality of that instruction; the topics that must be covered; and related parental consent requirements through its Sex Ed State Law and Policy Chart. Highlights include:

  • 28 states and the District of Columbia mandate sex education.
  • 35 states require schools to stress abstinence when sex education or HIV/STI instruction is provided.
  • 16 states require instruction on condoms or contraception when sex education or HIV/STI instruction is provided.
  • 15 states do not require sex education or HIV/STI instruction to be any of the following: age-appropriate, medically accurate, culturally responsive, or evidence-based/evidence-informed.
  • Only 8 states require sex education or HIV/STI instruction to include information on consent.
  • Only 8 states require culturally responsive sex education and HIV/STI instruction.
  • 11 states have policies that include affirming sexual orientation instruction on LGBQ identities or discussion of sexual health for LGBQ youth. 
  • 9 states explicitly require teachers to portray LGBTQ people negatively in health education instruction or prohibit teachers from mentioning LGBTQ people.

The SIECUS State Profiles is intended to serve as a living resource and will be regularly updated as new legislation and related activity become available. 

“We are thrilled to release this newly configured version of one of SIECUS’ most utilized resources,” said Harley. “It is our hope that these profiles will help advocates, educators, parents, and young people alike in their efforts to advance sex education across the country.”


SIECUS: Sex Ed for Social Change has served as the national voice for sex education for 55 years, asserting that sexuality is a fundamental part of being human, one worthy of dignity and respect. Through policy, advocacy, education, and strategic communications efforts, SIECUS advances sex education as a vehicle for social change—working toward a world where all people can access and enjoy sexual and reproductive freedom as they define it for themselves.