State Profiles

Arizona’s Sex Education Snapshot

Advocates have actively worked to advance sex education in Arizona and to defeat restrictive legislation over the past five years. In light of the coronavirus pandemic, schools statewide have reported having mixed success in implementing virtual sex education programming. While some schools have been successful in allowing outside educators to provide virtual sex education programming, other districts have reported that they’ve temporarily paused sex education programming as a whole in light of the challenges in switching to virtual learning. As a result, the number of young people receiving sex education across the state has dramatically decreased.

Despite this setback, advocates are working to advance sex education requirements for students statewide. Two bills (House Bill 2647 and Senate Bill 1340) have been introduced in an effort to make sex education more comprehensive and accessible to students. If successful, both bills would change Arizona’s “opt-in” policy to an “opt-out” policy and to require each school to provide age-appropriate, medically accurate sex education that includes topics such as consent, discussion of communities that have historically been vulnerable to sexual abuse, healthy relationships, and methods of contraception. An identical, ultimately unsuccessful bill was introduced during the 2020 legislative session. Further, House Bill 2251 has been introduced by Representative Pamela Powers Hannley in an effort to change Arizona’s “opt-in” policy to an “opt-out” policy and mandate sex education to be both medically accurate and comprehensive.

Despite these positive efforts, House Bill 2184 has been introduced by Representative Walt Blackman in an effort to further restrict sex education. If successful, the legislation will further define the responsibility of parents to provide written permission for their children to participate in sex education instruction in public and charter schools, prevent students in grades 1-6 from participating in sex education, and further define requirements for updating sex education requirements. This bill is also similar to prior legislation introduced during the 2020 legislative session, which, in addition, sought to require curriculum to promote a return to abstinence for sexually active young people.

In 2019, a multi-year advocacy campaign aided in repealing the state’s “no promo homo” legislation that barred educators from discussing homosexuality in a positive manner, demonstrating a monumental step forward for providing Arizona’s young people with inclusive instruction. Also in 2019, the Arizona Board of Education held a meeting to discuss making additional changes to Arizona’s sex education guidelines, but ultimately decided against updating the guidelines after intense debate dominated the meeting. Attendees included parents and legislators who had varying opinions about the state making additional amendments to the guidelines.

Advocates have also taken action at the local level to improve access to more comprehensive instruction. In 2015, the Teen Outreach Pregnancy Services, Planned Parenthood Arizona, Sunnyside Unified School District, and Child & Family Resources came together to form the Tucson Teen Pregnancy Prevention Coalition. The group was awarded $4.3 million to implement and provide sex education in the Sunnyside Unified School District in Tucson.

Student activists in the VOX: Voices for Planned Parenthood chapter at the University of Arizona, now known as the UA Planned Parenthood Generation Action, mobilized in 2016 to advocate for improved sex education in the Tucson Unified School District. Many members were alumni of the school district and reported receiving unsatisfactory instruction. While advocates have been successful in advancing sex education across Arizona, significant efforts to undermine the importance of comprehensive sex education continue. Some state legislators have hosted town halls on the purported “role of sex education in sexualizing children,” and some parents have formed the opposition group, “Purple for Parents,” to protest efforts to advance sex education.

Because Arizona schools are not required to provide sex education to students, school districts are left to decide what type of sex education–if any at all– they provide to youth. Arizona’s “opt-in” policy also presents an unnecessary barrier to receiving sex education. Because of the lack of structure surrounding curriculum, advocates report that the quality of sex education varies widely by district, ranging from comprehensive instruction to no instruction at all.

Mandating local control over sex education presents unique challenges that have resulted in a glaring disparity regarding the quality of sex education that students receive. Such discretion allows for the implementation of policies and curriculum that stigmatize marginalized youth, such as students of color and LGBTQ youth, and presents further challenges in ensuring that low income districts have access to the resources needed to implement comprehensive sex education. One 2015 study found that Native people in Arizona experience higher rates of adverse health outcomes compared to non-native people, demonstrating a critical need for curriculum that is culturally responsive to the needs of young people of color, and Native youth in particular.

Organizations such as Planned Parenthood of Arizona have attempted to address the current gaps in sex education instruction by offering support and training for educators interested in implementing comprehensive programs in their schools through their SHARE (Sexual Health and Responsible Education) initiative.

Right now, advocates can take action to ensure young people in their community have access to quality sex education. Particularly, advocates can invest in local school board races to elect strong advocates for comprehensive sex education. In addition, they can build coalitions to advance positive narratives about sex education that center Native youth and push for a statewide opt-out policy. Advocates can also contact their local school board to determine what topics are missing from sex education instruction, such as instruction on consent, sexual orientation and gender identity, and contraceptives. They can then vocalize the important need for advancing instruction requirements in their community. Further, advocates can contact their representatives to discuss the critical need for advancing comprehensive sex education requirements and allocating additional funding to support districts in implementing more advanced curriculum. Advocates are encouraged to use the SIECUS Community Action Toolkit to guide local efforts.

State Sex Education Policies and Requirements at a Glance

  • Arizona schools are not required to teach sex education or HIV education.
  • If a school chooses to teach sex education, it must stress abstinence.
  • If sex education is offered, curriculum is not required to include instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • If sex education is offered, curriculum is not required to include instruction on consent.
  • If sex education is offered, curriculum must be medically accurate.

State House Highlights

This section highlights sex education bills that were introduced during the 2020 state legislative session as well as bills that have been introduced thus far in 2021. These proposed bills ​provide a brief overview of both recent and current legislative action taken to advance or restrict sex education. For a more comprehensive look at relevant legislation concerning sex education and related topics such as reproductive health care, LGBTQ rights, and HIV/AIDS, continue reading on to the “State Legislative Activity” section of Arizona’s profile.

2021 Legislative Session

House Bill 2184 (pending): Aims to further define the responsibility of parents in providing permission for their children to participate in sex education, require charter schools adopt an “opt-in” policy, outline additional requirements for amending sex education curriculum, and prohibits sex education from being taught to students in grades 1-6.

House Bill 2251 (pending): Aims to replace Arizona’s “opt-in” policy with an “opt out” policy. Would require sex education to be medically accurate and comprehensive.

House Bill 2647 (pending): Aims to require all school districts and charter schools to provide medically accurate and age-appropriate sex education instruction that includes instruction on consent, healthy relationships, and populations that historically have been more vulnerable to sexual abuse and assault, including LGBTQ individuals and people with disabilities. If successful, will also replace Arizona’s “opt-in” policy with an “opt out” policy.

Senate Bill 1340 (pending): Aims to require all school districts and charter schools to provide medically accurate and age-appropriate sex education instruction that includes instruction on consent, healthy relationships, and populations that historically have been more vulnerable to sexual abuse and assault, including LGBTQ individuals and people with disabilities. If successful, will also replace Arizona’s “opt-in” policy with an “opt out” policy.

Senate Bill 1456 (pending): Aims to require parents and guardians to provide written permission prior to their children receiving sex education or instruction on gender identity or gender expression. This is referred to as an “opt-in” requirement. Would further prohibit instruction on HIV/AIDS prior to fifth grade.

2020 Legislative Session
House Bill 2067 (failed): Sought to require all school districts to provide medically accurate, comprehensive sex education. If successful, will also replace Arizona’s “opt-in” policy with an “opt out” policy.

House Bill 2277 (failed): Sought to require all school districts and charter schools to provide medically accurate and age-appropriate sex education instruction that includes instruction on consent, healthy relationships, and populations that historically have been more vulnerable to sexual abuse and assault, including LGBTQ individuals and people with disabilities. If successful, will also replace Arizona’s “opt-in” policy with an “opt out” policy.

House Bill 2658 (failed): Sought to prohibit schools from providing sex education prior to 5th grade and requires parents and guardians to provide their consent for their children to participate in instruction on AIDS. This is known as an “opt-in” policy.

Senate Bill 1082 (failed): Sought to further define the responsibility of parents in providing consent for their children to participate in sex education, prohibits students in grades 1-6 from participating in sex education, and requires sex education to emphasize abstinence. If successful, this bill will prohibit the inclusion of curriculum that depicts nudity or sexual activity, normalizes sexual activity between minors, or suggests that any type of sexual activity is safe or risk free.

Senate Bill 1120 (failed): Sought to replace Arizona’s “opt-in” policy with an “opt-out” policy and requires schools to provide age-appropriate and medically accurate sex education that includes instruction on topics such as consent, contraceptives, and healthy relationships.

Senate Bill 1200 (failed): Sought to require school districts and charter schools to establish age-appropriate, research-based education and training on sexual abuse prevention for employees and students.


More on sex ed in Arizona…


State Law

Arizona law does not require schools to teach sex education or HIV education. However, Arizona Revised Statutes §§ 15-711, 15-716, and 15-102 state that if a school chooses to teach these topics, instruction must be age-appropriate, include instruction on the laws relating to sexual conduct with a minor (grades 7-12), and stress abstinence. Further, if a school chooses to teach HIV education, such instruction must be medically accurate.

Arizona Administrative Code R7-2-303 states that schools may “provide a specific elective lesson or lessons concerning sex education as a supplement to the health course of study.” Schools that choose to provide sex education must have the lessons approved by the school’s local governing board. All sex education materials and instruction that discuss sexual intercourse must:

  1. Stress that pupils should abstain from sexual intercourse until they are mature adults;
  2. Emphasize that abstinence from sexual intercourse is the only method for avoiding pregnancy that is 100% effective;
  3. Stress that sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) have severe consequences and constitute a serious and widespread public health problem;
  4. Include a discussion of the possible emotional and psychological consequences of pre-adolescent and adolescent sexual intercourse and the consequences of pre-adolescent and adolescent pregnancy; and
  5. Advise pupils of Arizona law pertaining to the financial responsibilities of parenting and legal liabilities related to sexual intercourse with a minor.

In Arizona, parents or guardians must provide written permission for the child to participate in sex education. This is referred to as an “opt-in” policy.

State Standards

Arizona has Health Education Standards in place that provide a foundation for curricula in the state for grades K-12. Although concepts related to sexuality are not specifically mentioned in the standards, “disease prevention” is included.

State Legislative Activity

State legislative activity related to sex education does not take place in isolation from the broader embroiled political and policy climate. Attacks on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or questioning (LGBTQ) individuals, and efforts to limit access to abortion care and other reproductive health care services prevent students from receiving comprehensive sex education and accessing sexual and reproductive health care services. Below are highlights of current legislative activity related to these topics. Arizona’s 2021 session convened on January 11, 2021. 

TitleDescriptionStatusLegislative Topic
House Bill 1532Prohibits school districts from requiring educators to provide instruction on "controversial topics" or engage in diversity training. Failed to pass the Senate. (2021) Sexual Orientation and Gender Identityhttps://www.azleg.gov/legtext/55leg/1R/bills/SB1532H.htm
House Bill 2035Requires parents and guardians to provide their written consent prior to their children receiving sex education. Prohibits the provision of sex education prior to grade 5, and requires sex education curriculum to be available for parental review. Prior to school districts implementing their own sex education curriculum, parents and guardians must have a meaningful opportunity to provide their input on the proposed curriculum. Concurrence Recommended (2021) Sex Education https://www.azleg.gov/legtext/55leg/1R/bills/HB2035S.htm
House Bill 2184 Further defines the responsibility of parents in providing permission for their children to participate in sex education and requires charter schools to adopt an “opt-in” policy. Outlines additional requirements for amending sex education curriculum, and prohibits sex education from being taught to students in grades 1-6.House Second Reading (2021) Sex Education https://www.azleg.gov/legtext/55leg/1R/bills/HB2184P.htm
House Bill 2251 Changes the parental "opt-in" requirement to "opt-out" and requires sex education to be medically accurate and comprehensive. Referred to the House Committee on Rules (2021) Sex Education https://www.azleg.gov/legtext/55leg/1R/bills/HB2251P.htm
House Bill 2487Prohibits medical professionals from performing conversion therapy on a minor. Introduced (2021) Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity https://www.azleg.gov/legtext/55leg/1R/bills/HB2487P.htm
House Bill 2647Requires all school districts and charter schools to provide medically accurate and age-appropriate sex education instruction that includes instruction on consent, healthy relationships, and populations that historically have been more vulnerable to sexual abuse and assault, including LGBTQ individuals and people with disabilities. Replaces the parental “opt-in” policy with an “opt out” policy.Introduced (2021) Sex Education https://www.azleg.gov/legtext/55leg/1R/bills/HB2647P.htm
House Bill 2650 Prohibits abortion unless in the case of a medical emergency. Referred to the House Committee on Rules (2021) Reproductive Health Care https://www.azleg.gov/legtext/55leg/1R/bills/HB2650P.htm
House Bill 2656 Requires health education to include instruction on mental health. Introduced (2021) Sex Education https://www.azleg.gov/legtext/55leg/1R/bills/HB2656P.htm
House Bill 2878Prohibits abortion. Introduced (2021) Reproductive Health Care https://www.azleg.gov/legtext/55leg/1R/bills/HB2878P.htm
Senate Bill 1317Prohibits textbooks or instructional material from adversely reflecting a group of people based on race, ethnicity, sex, religion, disability, nationality, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Senate Second Reading (2021) Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity https://www.azleg.gov/legtext/55leg/1R/bills/SB1317P.htm
Senate Bill 1381 Prohibits abortion based upon the fetus being diagnosed with or potentially having a disability. Reported proper for consideration out of Rules Committee (2021) Reproductive Health Care https://www.azleg.gov/legtext/55leg/1R/bills/SB1381P.htm
Senate Bill 1383Prohibits abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected. Senate Second Reading (2021) Reproductive Health Care https://www.azleg.gov/legtext/55leg/1R/bills/SB1383P.htm
Senate Bill 1340 Requires all school districts and charter schools to provide medically accurate and age appropriate sex education that includes instruction on consent, healthy relationships, and populations that have historically been more vulnerable to sexual abuse and assault, including LBGTQ individuals and people with disabilities. Changes the parental "opt-in" requirement to "opt-out". Senate Second Reading (2021) Sex Education https://www.azleg.gov/legtext/55leg/1R/bills/SB1340P.htm
Senate Bill 1426Prohibits mental health professionals from engaging in conversion therapy with minors. Introduced (2021) Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity https://www.azleg.gov/legtext/55leg/1R/bills/SB1426P.htm
Senate Bill 1456Requires parents and guardians to opt their children into sex education and instruction on gender identity or gender expression. Prohibits instruction on HIV/AIDS prior to fifth grade. Vetoed by Governor (2021) Sex Education https://www.azleg.gov/legtext/55leg/1R/bills/SB1456P.htm
Senate Bill 1457Prohibits abortion based on a genetic abnormality of the fetus. Enacted (2021) Reproductive Health Care https://www.azleg.gov/legtext/55leg/1R/bills/SB1457P.htm
Senate Bill 1511 Prohibits medical professionals from providing gender affirming care to minors. Senate Second Reading (2021) Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity https://www.azleg.gov/legtext/55leg/1R/bills/SB1511P.htm
Senate Bill 1641Prohibits "dismemberment" abortion unless in the case of a medical emergency. Senate Second Reading (2021) Reproductive Health Care https://www.azleg.gov/legtext/55leg/1R/bills/SB1641P.htm
Senate Bill 1706 Requires history education to include instruction on the roles and contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in the history of the Untied States. Senate Second Reading (2021) Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity https://www.azleg.gov/legtext/55leg/1R/bills/SB1706P.htm
House Bill 2067Requires all school districts to provide medically accurate, comprehensive sex education. If successful, will also replace Arizona’s “opt-in” policy with an “opt out” policy.Died in the House Committee on Rules (2020)Sex Educationhttps://www.azleg.gov/legtext/54leg/2R/bills/HB2067P.pdf
House Bill 2277Requires all school districts and charter schools to provide medically accurate and age-appropriate sex education instruction that includes instruction on consent, healthy relationships, and populations that historically have been more vulnerable to sexual abuse and assault, including LGBTQ individuals and people with disabilities. If successful, will also replace Arizona’s “opt-in” policy with an “opt out” policy.Died in the House Committee on Rules (2020)Sex Educationhttps://www.azleg.gov/legtext/54leg/2R/bills/HB2277P.pdf
House Bill 2658Prohibits schools from providing sex education prior to 5th grade and requires parents and guardians to provide their consent for their children to participate in instruction on AIDS. This is referred to as an “opt-in” policy.Died in the House Committee on Rules (2020)Sex Educationhttps://www.azleg.gov/legtext/54leg/2R/bills/HB2658P.pdf
House Bill 2706Athletic teams or sports sponsored by an educational institution must be designated based on "biological sex."Died in the House Committee on Rules (2020)Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity https://www.azleg.gov/legtext/54leg/2R/bills/HB2706H.htm
House Bill 2707Classifies conversion therapy performed on a minor as an act of unprofessional conduct subject to disciplinary action. Died in the House Committee on Rules (2020)Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity https://www.azleg.gov/legtext/54leg/2R/bills/HB2707P.htm
Senate Bill 1120Enacts a parental “opt-out” policy and requires each school to provide age appropriate and medically accurate sex education that includes, among other topics, instruction on consent, discussion of communities that have historically been vulnerable to sexual abuse including LBGTQ and disabled individuals, healthy relationships, and methods of contraception.Died in the Senate Committee on Rules (2020)Sex Educationhttps://www.azleg.gov/legtext/54leg/2R/bills/SB1120P.htm
Senate Bill 1082Further defines the responsibility of parents to provide written permission for their children to participate in sex education instruction and prevents students in first through sixth grade from participating in sex education. Further, the bill promotes the return to abstinence for sexually active young people, emphasizes abstinence, and prohibits curriculum that depicts nudity or sexual activity, normalizes sexual activity between minors, or suggests that any type of sexual activity is safe or risk free. Details the actions a parent or guardian should take if they believe their children’s school has not complied with the outlined provisions. Died in the Senate Committee on Rules (2020)Sex Educationhttps://www.azleg.gov/legtext/54leg/2R/bills/SB1082P.htm
Senate Bill 1200Requires school districts and charter schools to establish age-appropriate, research-based education and training on sexual abuse prevention for employees and students.Died in the Senate Committee on Rules (2020)Sex Educationhttps://www.azleg.gov/legtext/54leg/2R/bills/SB1200P.htm
Senate Bill 1270Permits abortion providers to perform an abortion on a minor without parental consent if they provide the required information and conseling and explain, in a manner that the minor will understand, the minor's alternative choices and that agencies are available to provide birth control information.Died in the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Senate Committee on Rules (2020)Reproductive Health Care https://www.azleg.gov/legtext/54leg/2R/bills/SB1270P.htm
Senate Bill 1272Permits abortion providers to perform an abortion on a minor without parental consent if they receive the informed consent of the minor.Died in the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Senate Committee on Rules (2020)Reproductive Health Care https://www.azleg.gov/legtext/54leg/2R/bills/SB1272P.htm

Youth Sexual Health Data

Young people are more than their health behaviors and outcomes. While data can be a powerful tool to demonstrate the sex education and sexual health care needs of young people, it is important to be mindful that these behaviors and outcomes are impacted by systemic inequities present in our society that affect an individual’s sexual health and well-being. To learn more about Arizona’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) results, click here.

Alabama School Health Profiles Data 

In 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released the School Health Profiles, which measure school health policies and practices and highlight which health topics were taught in schools across the country. Since the data were collected from self-administered questionnaires completed by schools’ principals and lead health education teachers, the CDC notes that one limitation of the School Health Profiles is bias toward the reporting of more positive policies and practices. In the School Health Profiles, the CDC identifies 20 sexual health education topics as critical for ensuring a young person’s sexual health.

Arizona did not participate in the 2018 School Health Profiles. Below are key instruction highlights for secondary schools in Arizona as reported for the 2015–2016 school year. In this edition of the School Health Profiles, the CDC identified 19 sexual health education topics and has since updated the number of topics to 20.

Reported teaching all 19 critical sexual health education topics

  • 5.1% of Arizona secondary schools taught students all 19 critical sexual health education topics in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8.
  • 14.5% of Arizona secondary schools taught students all 19 critical sexual health education topics in a required course in any of grades 9, 10, 11, or 12.

Reported teaching about the benefits of being sexually abstinent

  • 17.7% of Arizona secondary schools taught students about the benefits of being sexually abstinent in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8.
  • 41.6% of Arizona secondary schools taught students about the benefits of being sexually abstinent in a required course in any of grades 9, 10, 11, or 12.

Reported teaching how to access valid and reliable information, products, and services related to HIV, other STDs, and pregnancy

  • 13.3% of Arizona secondary schools taught students how to access valid and reliable information, products, and services related to HIV, other STDs, and pregnancy in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8.
  • 36.2% of Arizona secondary schools taught students how to access valid and reliable information, products, and services related to HIV, other STDs, and pregnancy in a required course in any of grades 9, 10, 11, or 12.

Reported teaching how to create and sustain healthy and respectful relationships

  • 17.7% of Arizona secondary schools taught students how to create and sustain healthy and respectful relationships in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8.
  • 44.5% of Arizona secondary schools taught students how to create and sustain healthy and respectful relationships in a required course in any of grades 9, 10, 11, or 12.

Reported teaching about preventive care that is necessary to maintain reproductive and sexual health

  • 10.8% of Arizona secondary schools taught students about preventive care that is necessary to maintain reproductive and sexual health in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8.
  • 34.7% of Arizona secondary schools taught students about preventive care that is necessary to maintain reproductive and sexual health in a required course in any of grades 9, 10, 11, or 12.

Reported teaching how to correctly use a condom

  • 6.1% of Arizona secondary schools taught students how to correctly use a condom in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8.
  • 22.5% of Arizona secondary schools taught students how to correctly use a condom in a required course in any of grades 9, 10, 11, or 12.

Reported teaching about methods of contraception other than condoms

  • 7.2% of Arizona secondary schools taught students about methods of contraception other than condoms in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8.
  • 35.9% of Arizona secondary schools taught students about methods of contraception other than condoms in a required course in any of grades 9, 10, 11, or 12.

Reported teaching about sexual orientation

  • 8.9% of Arizona secondary schools taught students about sexual orientation in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8.
  • 27.5% of Arizona secondary schools taught students about sexual orientation in a required course in any of grades 9, 10, 11, or 12.

Reported teaching about gender roles, gender identity, or gender expression

  • 10.2% of Arizona secondary schools taught students about gender roles, gender identity, or gender expression in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8.
  • 28.5% of Arizona secondary schools taught students about gender roles, gender identity, or gender expression in a required course in any of grades 9, 10, 11, or 12.

Reported providing curricula or supplementary materials relevant to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning (LGBTQ) youth

  • 20.2% of Arizona secondary schools provided students with curricula or supplementary materials that included HIV, STD, or pregnancy prevention information relevant to LGBTQ youth.

Visit the CDC’s School Health Profiles report for additional information on school health policies and practices.

 

***The quality of sex education taught often reflects funding available for sex education programs. To learn more about federal funding streams, click here.

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