State Profiles

Indiana’s Sex Education Snapshot

Advocates have faced significant challenges in advancing sex education requirements across Indiana, most recently concerning the passage of a measure that makes it harder for schools to receive permission to teach sex education. In 2018, Senate Bill 65 was enacted to require schools to obtain documentation of parents and guardians consent for their children to participate in sex education instruction. Often referred to as an “opt-in” policy, these requirements present an unnecessary barrier to receiving sex education. While Senate Bill 65 marked a regressive step to limit sex education, advocates have acted at the local level to make advancements.

Parents in Vigo County raised concern in 2019 about a local school’s use of abstinence-only until marriage or “sexual risk avoidance” curriculum entitled “Creating Positive Relationships.” The parents reported that the curriculum was too narrow and failed to include topics relevant to LGBTQ young people. The program, delivered by the Terre Haute Crisis Pregnancy Center, teaches students that postponing sexual activity until marriage is the healthiest choice. Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs), also referred to as fake clinics, attract individuals trying to access reputable reproductive health care and provide false, manipulative information about abortion care. Unfortunately, crisis pregnancy centers have increasingly received federal funding to deliver abstinence-only instruction nationwide. Because Indiana’s sex education requirements largely rely on each school district to implement their preferred curriculum, the quality of sex education curriculum often varies greatly by district.

Sex education is not currently mandated in Indiana outside of instruction on AIDS and schools that do teach sex education must emphasize abstinence. Because Indiana 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. The Indiana Department of Education does not currently track the number of schools that provide sex education. However, Senator Karen Tallian found that survey results from 149 respondents, out of over 200 districts, showed that at least 131 districts had a regular sex education curriculum in 2018–demonstrating that a significant portion of Indiana schools teach sex education. However, this does not indicate that the curriculum used is comprehensive. Truth Talk, another abstinence-based curriculum provided by the Evansville Christian Life Center, was used in 29 schools, serving over 6,000 students, over four districts in 2019. Students report that they find current sex education curriculum to be lacking, demonstrating their desire for more comprehensive instruction.

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.

Right now, advocates can take action to ensure young people in their community have access to quality sex education. After contacting their local school board, advocates can 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 sex education requirements in their community. Advocates can also raise community awareness about the import Further, advocates can contact their representatives to discuss the critical need for advancing comprehensive sex education requirements.  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

  • Indiana schools are not required to teach sex education. However, schools are required to provide instruction on AIDS.
  • Curriculum is not required to be comprehensive.
  • Curriculum must stress abstinence as the expected social standard.
  • Curriculum is not required to include instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • Curriculum is not required to include instruction on consent.
  • Schools are required to make two attempts to receive written permission from parents or guardians for students to participate in sex education. If permission is not confirmed or is not denied, students will be automatically enrolled in the instruction. Parents may subsequently withdraw students from instruction. This includes elements of both an “opt-in” and an “opt-out” policy.
  • Indiana has no standard regarding medically accurate sex education instruction.

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 Indiana’s profile.

No bills have been introduced concerning sex education to date.


More on sex ed in Indiana…


State Law

Indiana Codes 20-30-5-12 and 20-34-3-17 require that schools provide instruction on acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) and “integrate this effort to the extent possible with instruction on other dangerous communicable diseases.” The law states that the Department of Education must work with the Department of Health to develop AIDS prevention educational materials and make them available to school districts. These materials must “stress the moral aspects of abstinence from sexual activity” and “state that the best way to avoid AIDS is for young people to refrain from sexual activity until they are ready as adults to establish, in the context of marriage, a mutually faithful monogamous relationship.”

Indiana Code 20-30-5-13 requires that, with respect to instruction on sex education and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), accredited schools meet the following criteria:

  • Require a teacher to teach abstinence from sexual activity outside of marriage as the expected standard for all school-age children;
  • Include in the instruction that abstinence from sexual activity is the only certain way to avoid out-of-wedlock pregnancy, STDs, and other associated health problems; and
  • Include in the instruction that the best way to avoid STDs and other associated health problems is to establish a mutually faithful monogamous relationship in the context of marriage.

In 2018, Indiana enacted Public Law 154, which requires schools to make two attempts to receive written parental permission in order for students to participate in sex education instruction. If permission is not confirmed or is not denied after two attempts, students will be automatically enrolled in the instruction. Parents may subsequently withdraw students from instruction. This includes elements of both an “opt-in” and an “opt-out” policy.

State Standards

The state department of education provides the Indiana Academic Standards for Health and Wellness, which is consistent with Indiana Code 20-30-5-13, to use as a foundation for schools that provide sex education. The Indiana Department of Education also provides a Health and Wellness standards overview and a human sexuality guidance memo. These standards do not discuss sex education, although the Health and Wellness standards overview includes Indiana statutes related to sex education.

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. Indiana’s 2021 session convened January 4, 2021. 

TitleDescriptionStatusLegislative Topic
House Joint Resolution 4 Prohibits abortion, asserting that all rights set forth in Indiana's State Constitution apply to a fetus as soon as the parent becomes aware they are pregnant. Referred to the Senate Committee on Judiciary (2021) Reproductive Health Care https://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/7499be06cbaf10c8c73964013b3df5fe5a662a8d8f700cbbe16fe5c9176f10f3dcc01d44c70efdf3183f14cb9bff7e5c
House Bill 1213 Prohibits health providers from performing conversion therapy on minors. Referred to the House Committee on Public Health (2021) Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity https://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/88ac536b2c46a94ee37857d56a690661119a1d16c0c5db8bc271aef58db9536dcfd04d7d26e0e2030aae87309e32851b
House Bill 1310 Permits the general assembly to initiate a session if it is established that a state may prohibit abortion. Referred to the House Committee on Judiciary (2021) Reproductive Health Care https://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/97e2732368657f52deba22e0a1f249cd33f10286ee50eb827f293455a0e6c473ed15cfe77b9ad6ff6326be1cbc123c1c
House Bill 1366 Requires schools that teach sex education to provide comprehensive instruction. Requires the governing bodies of school corporations to approve all materials related to HIV. Referred to the House Committee on Education (2021) Sex Education https://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/960b8555781c0eb0abcc55d64f38f7c70f2b0b631cef1647740d111f04ec05a89445e9ed8e923b8aadee5e909a3344fb
House Bill 1505 Prohibits health care professionals from providing gender affirming care to minors. Referred to the House Committee on Public Health (2021) Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity https://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/30d8d9a83414762ddd0e00ff3585829be116a78e7532ba5c3740d46ce4f151d77f99f31bc5bc639b2d1d1d6e669651b8
House Bill 1539 Prohibits abortion. Referred to the House Committee on Judiciary (2021) Reproductive Health Care https://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/6deef0fbbaca5872cde6a6b5b4357a42003a888b34cd342bf8d98f56b48a13b4722827c3e83e5dbacd9639bc42c6aa6a
House Bill 1577Further limits the time in which medication abortion may be provided, requires the physician to provide false information about medication abortion, prohibits telemedicine to be used to provide medication abortion, and imposes further restrictions on abortion providers. Enacted (2021) Reproductive Health Care https://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/dc3d472a7970bae8becb518d4bb726c5d5fdab06aa093e6c82de57ad0d162211d0b77074e0958d68973ae9665d0035a9
Senate Bill 32 Prohibits health care professionals from performing conversion therapy on minors. Referred to the Senate Committee on Health and Provider Services (2021) Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity https://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/872f1886e2d906a26d767aedadb86e17620dbdd03f905a1c55379cd0f695809ca7cf5cccad08b171d8bd3ef0c62af999
Senate Bill 224 Prohibits health care professionals from providing gender affirming care to minors. Referred to the Senate Committee on Health and Provider Services (2021) Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity https://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/6cdd66d7d996ec97226ac6679c41d33895277e2d1b72107d506a77d7647709c30dc646daf082272c10ef89c5c587d221
Senate Bill 399 Permits the general assembly to initiate a session if it is established that a state may prohibit abortion. Referred to the Senate Committee on Judiciary (2021) Reproductive Health Care https://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/ec7940f6e69c7f6d5b18355b0e3373a3331169f5a372d1f7c8c0e3f60e56814ef7e2501c474074980b65ae0a50b1db03
House Bill 1089Prohibits abortion. Died in the House Committee on Public Policy (2020)Reproductive Health Care https://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/7dfd211f8ad2da111ee36eab91264719d830f59a5abc0eb7ce8931e28b5da0e9784fb455354f004a280a8b5abf10e4d4

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

Indiana 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.

Indiana did not participate in the 2019 survey. Below are key instruction highlights for secondary schools in Indiana 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

  • 10.9% of Indiana secondary schools taught students all 19 critical sexual health education topics in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8.
  • 31.5% of Indiana 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

  • 82.7% of Indiana secondary schools taught students about the benefits of being sexually abstinent in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8.
  • 95.9% of Indiana 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

  • 70.9% of Indiana 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.
  • 92.6% of Indiana 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

  • 85.4% of Indiana 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.
  • 95.9% of Indiana 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

  • 61.5% of Indiana 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.
  • 88.3% of Indiana 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

  • 20.2% of Indiana secondary schools taught students how to correctly use a condom in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8.
  • 40.8% of Indiana 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

  • 31.7% of Indiana secondary schools taught students about methods of contraception other than condoms in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8.
  • 62.1% of Indiana 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

  • 32.5% of Indiana secondary schools taught students about sexual orientation in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8.
  • 50.1% of Indiana 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

  • 35.5% of Indiana secondary schools taught students about gender roles, gender identity, or gender expression in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8.
  • 50.2% of Indiana 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

  • 41.3% of Indiana 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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