State Profiles

LOUISIANA’S STATE OF SEX ED

Current Requirements At Glance– Louisiana schools are required to teach some sex education by proxy via mandated health education standards. This includes instruction on sexual risk behaviors, HIV/AIDS, and other STIs. 

  • If sex education is offered, the curriculum must emphasize abstinence as the expected social standard. 
  • If sex education is offered, curriculum must not include any sexually explicit materials depicting homosexual activity. 
  • Curriculum is not required to include instruction on consent. 
  • Parents or guardians may remove their children from sex education classes. This is referred to as an “opt-out” policy.
  • There is no regulation regarding medically accurate sex education instruction. However, if a school chooses to teach sex education, instruction must be “based on factual biological or pathological information.”

RECENT LEGISLATION SHAPING THE STATE LANDSCAPE

Advocates in Louisiana have been facing an uphill battle to advance sex education alongside protecting other inclusive education. In 2022, a bill and resolution were introduced, HB 837 and HR 169, which sought to prohibit discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in the classroom. While not explicitly targeting sex education, sexual orientation and gender identity is an integral part of inclusive and affirming sex education and prohibiting its discussion has harmful implications for the implementation of quality sex education. Similar bills were introduced under the guise of “parental rights”. These bills represent the opposition’s attempt to attack sex education and other inclusive programs by stigmatizing vital and important curriculum and requiring additional, unnecessary procedures for consent, review of instructional materials, and advanced notification. While this “parental rights” legislation was ultimately unsuccessful, these bills represent one of the many challenges faced by advocates in Louisiana’s legislative landscape.

Due to a lack of a mandate for sex education, school districts are left to decide what sex education is provided, if any. 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 LGBTQAI+ youth, and presents further challenges in ensuring that low income districts have access to the resources needed to implement sex education. In Louisiana, Black youth in particular face racist, systematic barriers to health care and education that result in disproportionate adverse health outcomes. For example, the majority of new HIV diagnoses in Louisiana in 2020 were among African Americans. To continue to advance sex education, advocates note that a culture of accountability and evaluation of learning standards is necessary for new, comprehensive policy implementation.

Advocates are tirelessly fighting to improve sex education across the state. The Louisiana Adolescent Reproductive Health Coalition (LARHC) has led efforts to engage legislators to increase support for access to sex education. They were successful in pushing a bill that would ensure the sexuality component of the YRBS to be administered in public schools out of the House, but were ultimately unsuccessful in getting it passed into law. Unfortunately, New Orleans schools are entirely handled by charter management organizations (CMOs). Progressive policies within CMOs can allow for better sex education in some schools, but not all of them. This inconsistency between schools only exacerbates inequity. Efforts to advance sex education at the state level have been largely unsuccessful due to opposition from the Louisiana Family Forum, which has a significant base of supporters that routinely turn out to oppose sex education efforts. 

Despite the numerous challenges to advance sex education at the state level, advocates can take action to ensure young people in their community have access to quality sex education. Survey data from the Louisiana Public Health Institute found that 84 percent of parents believe sex education is an important part of school curriculum, indicating that there is a unique opportunity to build a diverse base of local support to advance sex education. After identifying what topics are missing from local sex education requirements, advocates can vocalize the importance of implementing specific elements of sex education, such as trauma informed, culturally responsive curriculum that addresses the needs of youth of color and LGBTQAI+ youth and instruction on consent. Advocates are encouraged to take action on pending legislation that seeks to advance or restrict the principles of sex education. For a current overview of pending legislation, see table below. Further, advocates can contact their representatives to discuss the critical need for advancing sex education requirements. Advocates are encouraged to use the SIECUS Community Action Toolkit to guide local efforts to advance sex education and to reach out to EducateUs to get connected to local advocacy groups.


More on sex ed in Louisiana…


State Law: A Closer Look

Louisiana statute does not require schools to offer sex education, but Louisiana Revised Statute §17:24.4(E) states that “the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education … shall develop and establish statewide curriculum standards for required subjects to be taught in the public elementary and secondary schools of [the] state.” Starting in the 2014-2015 school year, all incoming 9th graders are required to take 1/2 credit of health education. Under this authority, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education promulgated Part LIX. Bulletin 103 to describe the state’s health education content standards. From grades 7–12, students learn about sexual abstinence and sexual risk behaviors; in grades 4 and 7–12, students receive human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) and other sexually transmitted disease (STD) education.

Louisiana Revised Statute §§17:281 mandates that sex education cannot be offered in grades K–6, except in Orleans Parish, which may offer sex education in grade 3 and above. If a student is parenting or pregnant, schools must provide this education “regardless of the student’s grade level.” The education must be integrated into “an existing course of study such as biology, science, physical hygiene, or physical education.” It cannot include “religious beliefs, practices in human sexuality, nor the subjective moral and ethical judgments of the instructor or other persons. Students shall not be tested, quizzed, or surveyed about their personal or family beliefs or practices in sex, morality, or religion.”

Classes may not include “any sexually explicit materials depicting male or female homosexual activity.” They also may not in “any way counsel or advocate abortion.” In addition, this education must emphasize that:

  • Abstinence from sexual activity outside of marriage is the expected standard for all school-age children;
  • Abstinence from sexual activity is a way to avoid unwanted pregnancy, STDs, including AIDS, and other associated health problems;
  • Each student has the power to control personal behavior and to encourage students to base action on reasoning, self-esteem, and respect for others.

Louisiana Revised Statute §§17:279 requires that all public high schools offering home economics classes must also provide “parenthood education” and include the following topics about family living and community relationships: the consequences of the lack of adequate prenatal care, home management, and the responsibilities of parenthood. In addition, Louisiana Revised Statutes Annotated §§ 17:263 requires that adoption awareness be included in any health education or appropriate class. This includes instruction on “the benefits of adoption for families wishing to add a child, for potential adoptees, and for persons who are pregnant or who have a child for whom they are unable to care.”

In 2018, Louisiana enacted Act 369, requiring schools to provide parents with information regarding “the public health risks and harms associated with pornography,” including “the dangers of sexually charged cyberbullying,” as well as “the addictive and destructive nature of pornographic and illicit materials.”

Parents or guardians may remove their children from sex education classes. This is referred to as an “opt-out” policy.

State Standards

Louisiana’s Health Education Handbook outlines expectations that should be mastered by the end of each grade level and defines sexual health as:

“[T]he area of health education encompassing a broad scope of concepts and skills, including acquiring information about sexual development, reproductive health, interpersonal relationships, body image, and gender roles; recognizing habits that protect female and male reproductive health; and learning about pregnancy, childbirth, and the development of infants and children. It also includes skill development in areas such as communication, decision-making, refusal techniques, and goal-setting. Sexual health topics are grounded in the premise that sexuality is a natural, ongoing process that begins in infancy and continues through life.”

The handbook also delineates abstinence as the “safest, most effective risk avoidance method of protection from HIV, STDs, and pregnancy.

Furthermore, according to the Louisiana Handbook for School Administrators- Bulletin 741, students must be taught “the principal modes by which communicable diseases, including, but not limited to, HIV infection, are spread and the best methods for the restriction and prevention of these diseases.” Schools are prohibited from distributing any “contraceptive or abortifacient drug, device, or other similar product.”

State Legislation

State legislative activity related to sex education does not take place in isolation from the broader embroiled political and policy climate. In 2022, a national wave of attacks on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or questioning (LGBTQAI+) individuals, attempts to restrict or prohibit instruction on “divisive concepts” such as “Critical Race Theory” (which is not taught in public schools), and efforts to limit access to abortion care and other reproductive healthcare services swept the country in an effort to prevent students from receiving sex education and accessing sexual and reproductive healthcare services. Below are highlights of current legislative activity related to these topics. Louisiana’s 2024 annual legislative session convenes March 11, 2024.

TitleDescriptionStatusLegislative Topic
House Bill 102Requires libraries to establish policy that limits access of minors to "sexually explicit materials". This policy would include a library card system which would allow parents to indicate whether a minor is permitted to check out sexually explicit material and a procedure that allows library patron to request reconsideration of availability of library materialIntroduced (2023)Parental Rights, Curriculum Transparency, and Book Banshttps://www.legis.la.gov/Legis/ViewDocument.aspx?d=1303090
Senate Bill 7Requires libraries to establish policy that limits access of minors to "sexually explicit materials". This policy would include a library card system which would allow parents to indicate whether a minor is permitted to check out sexually explicit material and a procedure that allows library patron to request reconsideration of availability of library materialIntroduced (2023)Parental Rights, Curriculum Transparency, and Book Banshttps://www.legis.la.gov/Legis/ViewDocument.aspx?d=1299438

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 Louisiana’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) results, click here. At the time of publication, the 2021 YRBS data was not made available yet.

Louisiana School Health Profiles Data 

In 2022, 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 22 sexual health education topics as critical for ensuring a young person’s sexual health. Below are key instruction highlights for secondary schools in Louisiana as reported for the 2019–2020 school year. 

Reported teaching all 22 critical sexual health education topics

  • 11.1% of Louisiana secondary schools taught students all 22 critical sexual health education topics in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8.
  • 24.5% of Louisiana secondary schools taught students all 22 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

  • 23.9% of Louisiana secondary schools taught students about the benefits of being sexually abstinent in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8. 
  • 64.0% of Louisiana 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

  • 22.9% of Louisiana 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.
    63.4% of Louisiana 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

  • 28.3% of Louisiana 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. 
  • 65.1% of Louisiana 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

  • 20.7% of Louisiana 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. 
  • 53.0% of Louisiana 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

  • 11.1% of Louisiana secondary schools taught students how to correctly use a condom in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8. 
  • 29.9% of Louisiana 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

  • 17.6% of Louisiana secondary schools taught students about methods of contraception other than condoms in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8.
  • 41.0% of Louisiana 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 and gender identity

  • 14.4% of Louisiana secondary schools taught students about sexual orientation and gender identity in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8.
  • 33.9% of Louisiana secondary schools taught students about sexual orientation and gender identity in a required course in any of grades 9, 10, 11, or 12.

Reported teaching about how gender roles and stereotypes affect goals, decision-making, and relationships

  • 19.8% of Louisiana secondary schools taught students about gender roles and stereotypes in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8.
  • 44.3% of Louisiana secondary schools taught students about gender roles and stereotypes  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

  • 21.7% of Louisiana 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.

Back to the SIECUS State Profiles

SIGN UP FOR EMAIL UPDATES

Interested in receiving the latest updates from SIECUS? Join our email list today.