State Profiles

Maryland’s Sex Education Snapshot

Advocates have worked diligently over the past six years to further advance sex education in Maryland. Current efforts include House Bill 194 which aims to add age-appropriate education on sexting to sex education curriculum.

Previous efforts to advance sex education include the passage of House Bill 72 in 2016. Known as “Erin’s Law,” Maryland schools are now required to provide age-appropriate instruction on sexual abuse and assault prevention. In 2018, Delegate Ariana Kelly championed House Bill 251, with the support of her teenage daughter, after repeatedly introducing the bill beginning in 2016. The successful bill requires sex education curriculum to include instruction on the meaning of consent and respect for personal boundaries. In 2019, 25 state delegates and 13 state senators wrote a letter to the Superintendent of Maryland Schools to emphasize the importance of including curriculum that highlights the history of LGBTQ and disability rights movements. In response, the Maryland Department of Education indicated that they have begun the process of implementing such curriculum. While this advancement does not directly impact sex education in Maryland, it demonstrates an important step toward recognizing the value of inclusive curriculum.

While legislators have successfully passed legislation to advance sex education and other policies promoting relevant issues, further efforts are underway to undermine access to reproductive health services for minors. Senate Bill 891, introduced in the 2022 legislative session, aims to require parental notification for health care providers to provide abortion care to a minor. While parents and guardians play an important role in the decision making process of young people, imposing such requirements may result in some young people choosing not to seek access necessary abortion care.

Given these recent advancements, Maryland students benefit from schools that are required to teach sex education using the Comprehensive Health Education Framework. The Maryland Framework includes instruction on sexual orientation, gender identity, and cultural responsiveness to meet the needs of young people of color. Unfortunately, local control over curriculum and limited enforcement still present 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 if curriculum is required to be comprehensive or identify what topics are missing from instruction, such as sexual orientation, gender identity, contraceptive options, or healthy relationships. They can then vocalize the important need for advancing sex education requirements in their community. Further, advocates can contact their representatives to discuss the critical need for advancing such requirements statewide. 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. 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

  • Maryland schools are required to teach sex education.
    • Curriculum is not required to be comprehensive. However, the health education program is required to be comprehensive.
    • Curriculum must advocate abstinence as the best method for preventing unintended pregnancy and STIs.
    • Curriculum must include inclusive instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • Curriculum must include instruction on consent.
  • Schools must provide parents or guardians the opportunity to view all instructional materials prior to their use and parents or guardians may remove their children from any or all “Family Life and Human Sexuality” classes. This is referred to as an “opt-out” policy.
  • Instruction on contraception and condoms must be medically accurate.

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 Maryland’s profile.

2022 Legislative Session

Senate Bill 852 (failed): Requiring each county board of education to create a health educator position to oversee the implementation of age-appropriate health education instruction and to gather detailed data regarding the operation and effectiveness of health education instruction in public schools in the county

House Bill 194 (failed): Requires family life and human sexuality curriculum to include age-appropriate instruction on sexting in schools

More on sex ed in Maryland…


State Law

Maryland Code of Public General Laws §7–401 requires instruction in health education and the joint development of standards and guidelines for school health programs by the Departments of Education and Health and Mental Hygiene. The Administrative Regulation fulfilling this requirement, Md. Code Regs. 13A.04.18.01, mandates that each local school board work with its county health department to establish a broad school health education program, including “Family Life and Human Sexuality” and “Disease Prevention and Control” instruction, both of which encompass sex education topics, including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) education. The goals are to enable students to “demonstrate the ability to use human development knowledge, social skills, and health enhancing strategies to promote positive relationships and healthy growth and development throughout the life cycle;” and to “demonstrate the ability to apply prevention and treatment knowledge, skills, and strategies to reduce susceptibility and manage disease.”

The family life and human sexuality component of Maryland’s health education instruction is required to “begin in or prior to the fifth grade,” and “as shortly in advance of puberty as is practical.” Determination of which grade is left to each local school board.

In 2018, Maryland enacted Education Code § 7-445, requiring county boards of education to provide instruction on the meaning of consent, including respecting personal boundaries, in sex education classes.

Schools must provide parents or guardians the opportunity to view all instructional materials prior to their use and parents or guardians may remove their children from any or all “Family Life and Human Sexuality” classes. This is referred to as an “opt-out” policy.

State Standards

Curriculum development is guided by Maryland’s health education standards, which are based on the National Health Education Standards. Family life and human sexuality are included in grades K-12. Sexual orientation, gender identity, contraception, HIV, and other sexually transmitted infections are all topics of instruction within this recommended framework.

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. Maryland’s 2022 session convened on January 12, 2022.

TitleDescriptionStatusLegislative Topic
Senate Bill 331Allows rape, sexual offense, or child abuse victims to access full course of treatment and follow up care for HIV prevention without providing insurance or personal information if they feel providing this information puts their safety at risk.Enacted (2022)HIV & STIshttps://legiscan.com/MD/text/SB331/id/2578613/Maryland-2022-SB331-Chaptered.pdf
House Bill 1256Prohibiting teacher or other school employee from including "certain concepts" (divisive concepts) in a unit of instructionDied in House Ways and Means Committee (2022)Racial Equity & Justicehttps://www.billtrack50.com/billdetail/1453601
Senate Bill 888Establishes the American Studies and Social Equity Standards Advisory Board within the State Dept. Education and requires them to review and recommend academic standards for American Studies in public schools while developing a policy on ethnic and social equity in schools.Died in Senate Education Health and Environmental Affairs Committee (2022)Racial Equity & Justicehttps://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/567ae6ff24360b0c0f0d4c7f32b42bc060a36c41b3ef451f0e6637ae687bda2e5ac62ce22c44b52d4409dffed5ac24ba
House Bill 953Requiring school boards to adopt policy on increased parental involvement and penalizing infringement on fundamental parental rightsDied in House Ways and Means Committee (2022)Parental Rights and Curriculum Transparencyhttps://mgaleg.maryland.gov/mgawebsite/Legislation/Details/HB0953?ys=2022rs
Senate Bill 682Requires Maryland Medical Assistance Program to provide for gender affirming treatmentDied in House Health and Government Operations Committee (2022)Sexual Orientation and Gender Identityhttps://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/5cdfe7414b400e55e1fa867033206ef500e22406e33dffb69becbc35fc461de6f84e3a9995aed5c478197a042bf8509e
Senate Bill 891Requires parental notification for abortion performed on minorsDied in Senate Finance Committee (2022)Reproductive Health Carehttps://mgaleg.maryland.gov/mgawebsite/Legislation/Details/SB0891?ys=2022rs
Senate Bill 852Requiring each county board of education to create a health educator position to oversee the implementation of age-appropriate health education instruction and to gather detailed data regarding the operation and effectiveness of health education instruction in public schools in the countyDied in House Ways and Means Committee (2022)Sex Educationhttps://mgaleg.maryland.gov/mgawebsite/Legislation/Details/SB0852?ys=2022rs
House Bill 850Prohibiting county boards of education and certain schools and prekindergarten programs from taking certain discriminatory actions because of a person's race, ethnicity, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disabilityEnacted (2022)Racial Equity & Justicehttps://mgaleg.maryland.gov/mgawebsite/Legislation/Details/HB0850?ys=2022rs
House Bill 746Requires Maryland Medical Assistance Program to provide for gender affirming treatmentDied in House Health and Government Operations Committee (2022)Sexual Orientation and Gender Identityhttps://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/d0e5e77f01b69c2265e212bb82b967ffe6c74be10e7f43d631f21d3070a74859a6e9fd2bb9e5c85866fb419b115eb41c
House Bill 757Requires 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 House Ways and Means Committee (2022)Sexual Orientation and Gender Identityhttps://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/64cce342e9b3d8be52fb2a7faf8d33ee1b1cadd52c2aed2e1d74413bc38fea57354814ecd6fd018e70d39a6e861ac567
Senate Bill 666Prohibits county Boards of Education from taking certain discriminatory actions on the basis of a person's race, ethnicity, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability and requiring them to print a certain statement in regards to this in their student handbookDied in House Ways and Means Committee (2022)Racial Equity & Justicehttps://mgaleg.maryland.gov/mgawebsite/Legislation/Details/SB0666?ys=2022rs
House Bill 618Requires State Board of Education and county board to allow a certain amount of time for certain testimony at public board meetings and prohibit employees of the school district from withholding info related to child's health and wellbeing from the parent guardian. Requires each county board to establish policy to increase parental involvement in public school systemDied in House Ways and Means Committee (2022)Parental Rights and Curriculum Transparencyhttps://mgaleg.maryland.gov/mgawebsite/Legislation/Details/HB0618?ys=2022rs
House Bill 352Establishes the American Studies and Social Equity Standards Advisory Board within the State Dept. Education and requires them to review and recommend academic standards for American Studies in public schools while developing a policy on ethnic and social equity in schools.Died in House Ways and Means Committee (2022)Racial Equity & Justicehttps://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/bafa5e13bd6367689d79c4ce3a32f50187966f268b06ba398a41a41b7809c62d88fbafc1a70cbfee2ead08c32242b291
House Bill 194Requires family life and human sexuality curriculum to include age-appropriate instruction on sexting in schoolsDied in Senate Education Health and Environmental Affairs Committee (2022)Sex Educationhttps://mgaleg.maryland.gov/2022RS/bills/hb/hb0194f.pdf
House Bill 78Establishes the Maryland Commission on Health Equity to, among other initiatives, reduce health inequities for racial and ethnic minority populations in the state.Enacted (2021) Reproductive Health Care https://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/7cecabf983a7966d3c32f04ef24b06197b04c651725b41eef92583e1ca4e134569e43bce1e1e793b53ea2502283f5254
House Bill 846Prohibits abortion if there is a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome. Died in the House Committee on Health and Government Operations (2021) Reproductive Health Care https://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/2d92fb5501be1e037f204d78bd936be66a8178d83faf682738044bb9d2cf757ef2c65267dea444c69d7060d1b67f16e6
House Bill 997Prohibits abortion. Died in the House Committee on Health and Government Operations (2021) Reproductive Health Care https://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/370ea0a9f0e3951660315bc08fb3466dd185fa887f8f69b76177c9143523acce547e913c1a503e3d6ec28f97e3a149da
House Bill 1088Prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Died in the House Committee on Health and Government Operations (2021) Sexual Orientation and Gender Identityhttps://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/225f152aad739f6733eb35cc791aad6f0655aba957b0ab2cd03fc7daba58048234ca858dd3656c4a5f2a5987061be006
Senate Bill 52Establishes the Maryland Commission on Health Equity to, among other initiatives, reduce health inequities for racial and ethnic minority populations in the state.Enacted (2021) Reproductive Health Care https://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/b8d956a7ae12807464a4056dd22ef6b4062931edfb849ef84229ddb4232a449c4b130caa44c97d222bb456853db02b14
Senate Bill 768Prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Died in the Senate Committee on Judicial Proceedings (2021) Sexual Orientation and Gender Identityhttps://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/7db55029a8d96b13b9be8173d2f185b421be83bfe1a3c59a171ce1be4af4d0ad93992f48623c469f31a69a8778cf2f1d
Senate Joint Resolution 5 Urges the State Board of Education to update their health education program to include instruction on monthly menstrual cycle tracking. Withdrawn by Sponsor (2021) Sex Education https://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/d2a080735d5ba2069eb9f21e0524902f2a0de44b79588c096ebdf4f59e6183af7c89a3adfddc52cec85157e583d05e05

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

Maryland 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 Maryland as reported for the 2017-2018 school year.

Reported teaching all 20 critical sexual health education topics

  • 30.4% of Maryland secondary schools taught students all 20 critical sexual health education topics in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8.
  • 48.1% of Maryland 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

  • 93.4% of Maryland secondary schools taught students about the benefits of being sexually abstinent in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8.
  • 97.9% of Maryland 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

  • 90.6% of Maryland 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.
  • 95.1% of Maryland 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

  • 92.8% of Maryland 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% of Maryland 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

  • 81.5% of Maryland 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.
  • 94.1% of Maryland 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

  • 41.8% of Maryland secondary schools taught students how to correctly use a condom in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8.
  • 71.8% of Maryland 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

  • 79.4% of Maryland secondary schools taught students about methods of contraception other than condoms in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8.
  • 96% of Maryland 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

  • 52.2% of Maryland secondary schools taught students about sexual orientation in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8.
  • 69.2% of Maryland 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

  • 53% of Maryland secondary schools taught students about gender roles, gender identity, or gender expression in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8.
  • 67.2% of Maryland 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

  • 21.6% of Maryland 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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