State Profiles

Kentucky’s Sex Education Snapshot

Advocates have worked diligently to advance sex education in Kentucky over the past few years, most recently cumulating in the introduction of House Bill 296, known as the Education for Healthy Youth Act. This bill, introduced by Representative Lisa Willner, sought to require comprehensive sex education in all Kentucky schools for students in grades K-12. While ultimately unsuccessful, the bill marks an important effort to continue to advance curriculum. The bill follows the re-introduction of House Bill 185  during the 2019 legislative session. Introduced by Representative Tom Burch, the bill sought to establish curriculum standards for sex education in grades 4-12, but was ultimately unsuccessful. While these recent efforts aimed to advance sex education, past legislative actions have attempted to restrict curriculum. In 2018, Senate Bill 71 was signed into law and requires sex education curriculum to include instruction on abstinence as the desirable goal for young people and the only certain way to avoid unintended pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and other associated health problems. It also requires teaching that establishing a permanent, mutually faithful, monogamous relationship is the best way to avoid STDs.

While Kentucky schools are required to provide instruction on responsible sexual behavior, including abstinence and preventing pregnancy, preventing STDs, and the basic reproductive system and functions, local school boards are responsible for identifying any additional curriculum schools provide. Curriculum is not required to be medically accurate, culturally responsive to the needs of young people of color, or include instruction on topics such as sexual orientation, gender identity, consent, healthy relationships, or contraceptive options.

While some counties, such as Lee County Schools, offer comprehensive sex education, others continue to fail to meet the needs of young people. Students report that curriculum continues to fall short and express a need for instruction on sexual abuse, consent, contraception and healthy relationships within sex education instruction. One student, a survivor of sexual assault, reported that her abstinence-only instructor made her feel like “damaged goods” after comparing women who have premarital sex to used pieces of tape. Advocates report that the current state standards are so vague that educators are often unsure of what they are permitted to teach, and opt to not teach sex education 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.

In efforts to further advance sex education in Kentucky, coalitions such as Louisville Sex Education Now and Lex Ed are working to advance comprehensive sex education in Jefferson County Public Schools and Fayette County Public Schools. Sexy Sex Ed, an Appalachian-based organization, also provides after school programming for young people and facilitates trainings to teach community members how to facilitate a sex education workshop.

Right now, advocates can take action to ensure young people in their community have access to quality sex education. In 2017, a report found that a majority of parents whose children attended middle school in a rural Appalachian town believe that sex education should begin in middle school and that abstinence-plus curriculum should be taught. These results demonstrate a unique opportunity for advocates to increase support for quality sex education. After identifying what topics are missing from local sex education requirements, advocates can vocalize the importance of implementing specific elements of comprehensive sex education, such as trauma informed, culturally responsive curriculum that addresses the needs of youth of color and LGBTQ youth and includes instruction on consent, healthy relationships, and contraceptives. Advocates can also emphasize the importance of requiring curriculum to be evidence based and medically accurate. Further, advocates can contact their representatives to discuss the critical need for advancing sex education requirements and increasing funding to support the implementation of comprehensive sex education in districts that lack the capacity to do so. 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

  • Kentucky schools are required to teach sex education.
  • Curriculum is not required to be comprehensive.
  • Curriculum must include instruction on abstinence as the desirable goal for school-age youth.
  • Curriculum is not required to include instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • Curriculum is not required to include instruction on consent.
  • Kentucky has no standard regarding the ability of parents and guardians to remove their children from sex education instruction.
  • Kentucky 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 Kentucky’s profile.

2021 Legislative Session 

House Bill 462 (pending): Aims to require schools to provide healthy relationships instruction in grades K-12. Such instruction, among other topics, must include age, developmentally, and culturally appropriate instruction on human development and reproduction, healthy relationships, developing effective communication skills, healthy decision making skills, the use of contraceptives, the benefits of abstinence, recognition of the roles that traditions, values, religion, norms, gender roles, acculturation, family structures, health beliefs, and political power play into decisions that affect students health, and sexual orientation and gender identity.

2020 Legislative Session ​

House Bill 296 (failed): Sought to require each school district to provide comprehensive sex education.

Senate Bill 116 (failed): Sought to assert that a parent has unalienable rights, including directing the education of their children, reviewing all school records related to their children, directing the upbringing and moral or religious training of their children, and making and consenting to all physical and mental healthcare decisions for their children.

More on sex ed in Kentucky…


State Law

Kentucky Revised Statute 156:160 requires that the Kentucky Board of Education “promulgate administrative regulations establishing standards [that public] school districts shall meet.” With that authority, 704 KAR 3:305 was promulgated, requiring students to take 0.5 credits of health education in order to graduate. It also requires the health education course to include the content standards delineated in the Kentucky Core Academic Standards. Furthermore, 704 KAR 3:303 adopted the Kentucky Academic Standards into law.

In 2018, Kentucky enacted Chapter 156, stating that any human sexuality or STD curricula must include instruction on abstinence, state that “abstinence from sexual activity is the desirable goal for all school-age children,” and advocate for “permanent mutually faithful monogamous relationship[s].”

Kentucky statute does not require parental permission for students to participate in sexuality or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)-related instruction.

State Standards

Sex education is mentioned within the “Practical Living (Health and Physical Education)” section of the Kentucky Academic Standards, which schools are required to follow. Students learn “how decision-making relates to responsible sexual behavior (e.g., abstinence, preventing pregnancy, preventing HIV/[sexually transmitted diseases] (STDs), and impacts the physical, mental, and social well-being of an individual.” Students also learn about the basic reproductive system and functions. No specific curriculum is required.

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. Kentucky’s 2021 session convened on January 5, 2021. 

TitleDescriptionStatusLegislative Topic
BR 826Establishes the right of all people to have access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care. Prefiled (2022) Reproductive Health Care https://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/ea6405c6a30cd1eb6d3daad67c5972bbd423cda1f9f39be35a5d81afd00d3e9516c36e908233bc6a61ed11d362cc9363
House Bill 19 Prohibits mental health professionals from engaging in conversion therapy with minors. Died in the House Committee on Committees (2021) Sexual Orientation and Gender Identityhttps://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/753e8b8f7de839c5dc48869c510432eba7559a956afcd483d63ceefb8e96c99644af7555b504789d3d56bd23ec9f9ea5
House Bill 91Asserts that nothing in the state Constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.Enacted (2021) Reproductive Health Care https://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/6988d39957efd4a14545d15055164da8b5b92ca26fce413ededdbdc1d6667bc5df2340d43ce9723ae15ba2dfd0970cde
House Bill 67Amends the Constitution of Kentucky to state that the Constitution does not secure or protect a right to abortion or funding of abortion. Died in the Senate Committee on State & Local Government (2020)Reproductive Health Carehttps://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/b16dd20366e656fd142db2170581ac7ec3c7ce8d3df4379d19202c9107c09b7acd6e27c5ef5cae5c77bbf4eb36aa46ca
House Bill 199Prohibits physicians from engaging in conversion therapy with a minor. Died in the House Committee on Health and Family Services (2020)Sexual Orientation and Gender Identityhttps://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/4067a48bc67ac8796c4e59488cede1107e4637be25e503c705c0337c1484e2a10b90879502c702820ff0041c928f5225
House Bill 321Prohibits physicians from providing gender affirming hormones or surgeries to minors. Died in the House Committee on Health and Family Services (2020)Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity https://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/646126e931aa13502fba5d0d3ee89e9bf13a18c48672a99fdd195a63beebb1493d98a569a19ad346f5f1b0c32dbae3a0
House Bill 460Further clarifies parental consent requirements for a minor obtaining an abortion. Informed written consent must include a copy of the ID, certification that they consent to the procedure, which includes a signed, dated, and notarized document that has been initialed. Further amends the right for minors to petition for self-consent to abortion to further address the credibility and demenor as a witness, ability to accept responsibility, ability toa ssess both the immediate and long range consequences of the abortion, and ability to understand and explain the medical risks of the abortion and to apply that understanding to their decision. Died in the House Committee on Committees (2021) Reproductive Health Care https://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/067d4075bd97983ce6713bc70a7b8937748e157135ad693c3198b3d82dca75888ab03c846c6c7454e1f0df73ae1e5adf
House Bill 462Requires schools to provide healthy relationships instruction in grades K-12. Such instruction, among other topics, must include age, developmentally, and culturally appropriate instruction on human development and reproduction, healthy relationships, developing effective communication skills, healthy decision making skills, the use of contraceptives, the benefits of abstinence, recognition of the roles that traditions, values, religion, norms, gender roles, acculturation, family structures, health beliefs, and political power play into decisions that affect students health, and sexual orientation and gender identity. Died in the House Committee on Committees Sex Education https://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/50139e9a12a86ba2840f2ab209dd48e1140e30a380ed3b2f2c36e6d8d0be5868b622b362b72ea4c04fd5df59ca7e1a7d
House Bill 477Requires medical professionals to receive parental consent prior to providing gender affirming care to minors. Died in the House Committee on Committees (2021) Sexual Orientation and Gender Identityhttps://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/6f2a03a48c3064f6f2f514d571fee0ce9257005d3dc6e0279fe5338079113d88abd0d899d1d6fad8a4914dba3a505bf1
Senate Bill 30 Prohibits mental health providers form engaging in conversion therapy with minors. Died in the Senate Committee on Committees (2021) Sexual Orientation and Gender Identityhttps://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/ee1450e1591721541dcc7ed555427b0e6d0308a56a3d9f699f1eb5b8c147bd28efd9f102a06a017379ea1106f7d3ff8c
Senate Bill 114Requires the state board that manages interscholastic athletics to establish administrative regulations that require students to participate in athletic events or use a single sex athletic facility that align with their "biological sex." Died in the Senate Committee on Education (2020)Sexual orientation and Gender Identity https://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/7a91f29daa50d1f39e48d63ef9b62a19349e78407773515d985c5234b9724f569dd1686eaca99140f1736f158a248d63
Senate Bill 116Asserts that a parent has unalienable rights, including directing the education of their children, reviewing all school records related to their children, directing the unbringing and moral or religious training of their children, and making and consenting to all physical and mental healthcare decisions for their children. Died in the Senate Committee on Judiciary (2020)Sex Educationhttps://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/132321b442f21baa67f6077247d349a85d0bd4dc997fd92c685345ce7844636ac4d204a448a355726af56b1c9aad0f0d
Senate Bill 90Permits health practitioners to abstain from procedures which violate their conscience.Died in the Senate Committee on Judiciary (2020)Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity https://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/6fdf5e930cabfdffd5e098eb0d1eba6feddd61aa60c75ba883dd56cc7aa5fc700c25b08f7cfe59170618a43a8fd7ec61
House Bill 296Requires school districts to provide comprehensive sex education. Died in the House Committee on Education (2020)Sex Education https://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/12c3265e987fae808a74acc9de48f9660bbcf198b894196fe6aac62d9a93f14b9a1246b28866d340ecad3146390b51c9
Senate Bill 72Requires the Department for Public Health to develop curriculum regarding female genital mutilation. Enacted (2020)Reproductive Health Carehttps://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/860ae661f1f59f1cbcb6c71bedb0648dad1926535429b777d229ee5595379b1b1f19a04bdb709ce754ba5e10c9ca348d

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

Kentucky 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 Kentucky as reported for the 2017–2018 school year.

Reported teaching all 20 critical sexual health education topics

  • 14.5% of Kentucky secondary schools taught students all 20 critical sexual health education topics in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8.
  • 44.3% of Kentucky secondary schools taught students all 20 [JD1] 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

  • 63.3% of Kentucky secondary schools taught students about the benefits of being sexually abstinent in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8.
  • 97.1% of Kentucky 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

  • 48.2% of Kentucky 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.
  • 91.4% of Kentucky 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

  • 61.3% of Kentucky 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.
  • 96.1% of Kentucky 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

  • 41.9% of Kentucky 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.
  • 90.3% of Kentucky 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

  • 19.1% of Kentucky secondary schools taught students how to correctly use a condom in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8.
  • 60.7% of Kentucky 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

  • 19.1% of Kentucky secondary schools taught students about methods of contraception other than condoms in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8.
  • 60.7% of Kentucky 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

  • 20.7% of Kentucky secondary schools taught students about sexual orientation in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8.
  • 61.9% of Kentucky 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

  • 24.1% of Kentucky secondary schools taught students about gender roles, gender identity, or gender expression in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8.
  • 54.6% of Kentucky 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

  • 38.6% of Kentucky 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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