State Profiles

Delaware’s Sex Education Snapshot

The State of Sex Education

Advocates have worked tirelessly over the past decades to advance sex education in Delaware, most recently cumulating in the passage of Senate Bill 78 in 2019. Sponsored by Senator Nicole Poole and Senator Stephanie Hansen, the legislation requires schools to include age-appropriate and evidence-informed instruction on consent and personal boundaries for students in grades 7-12, marking a significant advancement to sex education requirements statewide.

In 2018, Governor John Carney issued an executive order to draft a policy to increase protections against discrimination for young people in Delaware that included the ability of students to self-identify their race and gender without parental consent. Following significant backlash, education officials revised the plan to require parental consent for such requests.

Delaware schools are required to provide what is referred to as “comprehensive sex education.” However, curriculum must stress abstinence and is not required to be medically accurate or include instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity and, therefore, does not meet the nationally recognized standards for comprehensive sex education. 

Right now, advocates can take action by contacting their local school boards. They can also determine what is missing from sex education instruction, such as curriculum that is medically accurate and comprehensive or instruction on topics such as sexual orientation and gender identity or contraceptives. They can then vocalize the important need for advancing sex education requirements in their community. Advocates are encouraged to take action on pending legislation that seeks to advance or restrict the principles of comprehensive sex education. For a current overview of pending legislation, see table below. Additionally, reach out to EducateUS to get connected to local advocacy groups. Further, advocates can contact their representatives to discuss the critical need for advancing comprehensive sex education requirements and increasing funding to expand the existing efforts of organizations such as Planned Parenthood of Delaware. Advocates are encouraged to use the SIECUS Community Action Toolkit to guide local efforts to advance sex education.

State Sex Education Policies and Requirements at a Glance

  • Delaware schools are required to teach sex education as part of the Comprehensive Health Education Program required in grades K-12.
    • Delaware statute states that curriculum must be comprehensive. However, the state’s standards do not meet the nationally recognized standards for comprehensive sex education.
    • Curriculum must stress abstinence.
  • Curriculum is not required to include instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • Curriculum is required to include instruction on consent.
  • Delaware statute has no standard regarding the ability of parents and guardians to enroll or remove their children from sex education instruction.  
  • Delaware has no standard regarding medically accurate sex education instruction. However, curriculum on consent must be evidence informed. 
  • In order to graduate high school, students must receive 0.5 credits of comprehensive health education.

State House Highlights

This section highlights sex education bills that were introduced during the 2021 state legislative session as well as bills that have been introduced thus far in 2022. 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, racial equity and justice, parental rights, bullying and harassment, mental health, assault and violence prevention, and HIV/STIs as it impacts youth, continue reading on to the “State Legislative Activity” section of Delaware’s profile.

No legislation has been introduced concerning sex education to date.


More on sex ed in Alabama…


State Law

Delaware Administrative Code title 14, § 851 requires sex education as part of K-12 health education. This education must be coordinated by an employee in each school district and overseen by a District Consolidated Application Planning Committee. The committee must consist of teachers, parents, school nurses, community leaders, law enforcement, and other community members “with expertise in the areas of health; family life; and safe and drug-free schools and communities.” Sex education must include a HIV prevention program “that stresses the benefits of abstinence from high-risk behaviors.”

Delaware administrative code also sets a minimum number of hours for “comprehensive health education and family life education.” For students in grades K-4, the minimum is set at 30 hours per grade, 10 of which must be dedicated to drug and alcohol education. In grades five and six, the minimum is set at 35 hours per grade, 15 of which must be dedicated to drug and alcohol education. In grades seven and eight, the minimum is set at 60 hours per grade, 15 of which must be dedicated to drug and alcohol education. In order to graduate high school, students must receive 0.5 credits of comprehensive health education. Delaware statute does not require parental permission for students to participate in sexuality or HIV education.

State Standards

Sex education courses must also follow the Delaware Health Education Standards and the courses must include instruction on decision-making skills and the ability to practice health-enhancing behaviors. The Department of Education also provides model curricula online for educators.

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, attempts to restrict or prohibit instruction on “divisive concepts” such as Critical Race Theory, 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.  Delaware’s 2022 legislative session convened January 11, 2022.

TitleDescriptionStatusLegislative Topic
House Concurrent Resolution 90Encouraging the Department of Education to identify age-appropriate lessons for students in grades 7-12 relating to LGBTQ+ historyPassed Legislature (2022)Sexual Orientation and Gender Identityhttps://legis.delaware.gov/json/BillDetail/GenerateHtmlDocument?legislationId=109613&legislationTypeId=3&docTypeId=2&legislationName=HCR90
Senate Bill 279Creates the Delaware Education Right to Know Act to give parents, guardians, and other education stakeholders more information and opportunities to evaluate public and charter school education in Delaware and to express concerns to school officials.Died in the Senate Committee on Education (2022)Parental Rights and Curriculum Transparencyhttps://legiscan.com/DE/text/SB279/id/2578899/Delaware-2021-SB279-Draft.html
House Bill 300Establishes a mental health services unit for Delaware middle schools consisting of school counselor, social worker, and/or a school psychologist depending on ratio of studentsEnacted (2022)Mental Healthhttps://legiscan.com/DE/text/HB300/id/2513463/Delaware-2021-HB300-Draft.html
House Bill 326Creates the Delaware Education Right to Know Act to give parents, guardians, and other education stakeholders more information and opportunities to evaluate public and charter school education in Delaware and to express concerns to school officials.Died in House Education Committee (2022)Parental Rights and Curriculum Transparencyhttps://legiscan.com/DE/text/HB326/id/2542055/Delaware-2021-HB326-Draft.html
Senate Bill 227Requires that students are classified on sports teams based upon biological sex which would effectively targets transgender students from being able to participate in school sportsDied in Senate Health & Social Services Committee (2022)Sexual Orientation and Gender Identityhttps://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/c791b74d82eaf8c25735beb40e4df04376d46f6f4abf3484c449693fe7912601bdc01e0ae5b00bfd00d7094abe4a4e3d
House Bill 301Requires Dept of Education to establish statewide mental health educational programs for each grade in each school districtEnacted (2022)Mental Healthhttps://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/6825b2d53039d68557659f96c9b357da04801e83812911d507c9c92c2a89ecbb4174597b0aa05f2173c76b94d2fc26d0
Senate Bill 205Expands access to free menstrual hygiene products in all public schoolsEnacted (2022)Reproductive Health Carehttps://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/7751067b3582f634c6bfdd52ed90440da26927a8e45ede9aeb54185df41afa8615a9bb1a1ee6c4029bd6b59dfe2d36c1
House Bill 198Requires schools to establish and implement curriculum on Black History. Enacted (2021) Sex Education https://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/44c55db1229a79b9d1b9b22cd326555235186ee523ca9ce52d2c1abd099ea995c40cff9565ab3e5e4ebef03b04ca9f81
House Bill 199Amends the Delaware Constitution to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes from discrimination. Referred to the House Committee on House Administration (2021) Sexual Orientation and Gender Identityhttps://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/d5e4f7d6175ce731b6fe6aa86b77f8cda1718b522f5afa08599a7d5c387b6a13b70fb151775fe2624a1fae19803ebbcc

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 Delaware’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) results, click here.

Delaware 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. Below are key instruction highlights for secondary schools in Delaware as reported for the 2017–2018 school year.

Reported teaching all 20 critical sexual health education topics

  • 30.2% of Delaware secondary schools taught students all 20 critical sexual health education topics in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8.
  • 75% of Delaware secondary schools taught students all 20 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

  • 59.5% of Delaware secondary schools taught students about the benefits of being sexually abstinent in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8.
  • 92.9% of Delaware 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

  • 59.5% of Delaware 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.
  • 93.1% of Delaware 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

  • 56.3% of Delaware 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.
  • 96.6% of Delaware 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

  • 52.2% of Delaware 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.
  • 93.1% of Delaware 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

  • 37.5% of Delaware secondary schools taught students how to correctly use a condom in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8.
  • 89.7% of Delaware 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

  • 41.2% of Delaware secondary schools taught students about methods of contraception other than condoms in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8.
  • 96.6% of Delaware 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

  • 41.2% of Delaware secondary schools taught students about sexual orientation in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8.
  • 86.8% of Delaware 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

  • 41.2% of Delaware secondary schools taught students about gender roles, gender identity, or gender expression in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8.
  • 83% of Delaware 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

  • 54.2% of Delaware 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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