State Profiles

Michigan’s Sex Education Snapshot

Michigan advocates have worked tirelessly to advance sex education. Their most recent efforts culminated in the introduction of Senate Bill 270, introduced by Senator Curtis Hertel. Although unsuccessful, the bill sought to mandate sex education curriculum to include instruction on consent, sexual violence, and dating violence. However, Senate Bill 600, introduced by Senator Jon Bumstead and also unsuccessful, sought to remove health and physical education as a graduation requirement. Advocates worry that if successful, the implementation of this policy would result in even fewer schools opting to provide sex education under the already regulated curriculum requirements.

Michigan advocates have faced significant setbacks in their efforts to advance access to reproductive health information. In 2016, the 2016 School Aid Act went into effect and included a provision that introduced penalties for any public school employees that assist students in accessing abortion care. This provision furthered the inability for teachers to discuss abortion as a valid outcome of pregnancy, following the passage of a 2004 regulation that prohibits teachers from discussing abortion as a method of reproductive health. In response, districts including the East Lansing Public School district publicly condemned the 2016 resolution. Affirming abortion as a valid outcome of pregnancy is a critical topic for inclusion within comprehensive sex education programs. Limiting access to abortion further inhibits the ability of young people to make informed decisions about their health and future.

On the local level, few legislative advancements have occurred. The city of Allendale received pushback in 2019 after parents advocated for sex education curriculum to be science-based and inclusive of topics related to sexual orientation and gender identity. After intense debate largely dominated by community members opposed to updating the curriculum, the school district removed all mention of sexual orientation and gender identity from course materials regardless of the subject.

However, some districts are beginning to see incremental changes toward advancing sex education. In 2017, Forest Hills school district removed its abstinence-only program in favor of the state’s abstinence-based curriculum and additional districts have begun reaching out to the Department of Education for more comprehensive curriculum.

Since Michigan 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. 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. Students in Michigan report that sex education curriculum often lacks instruction on consent, information about sexual orientation and gender identity, and utilizes fear tactics to encourage young people to remain abstinent. Further, some parents report that their children have even brought home virginity pledge cards. Advocates from the Michigan Department of Education report that a majority of districts implement some or all of the Michigan Model for Health curriculum. There has been a continuous effort to secure state funding to update this curriculum, as the high school portion was last updated in 2007 and the middle school portion in 2010. As the state curriculum becomes increasingly outdated, districts have begun utilizing more advanced curriculum, including the Rights, Respect, Responsibility curriculum, created by Advocates for Youth.

Advocates note that the biggest barrier to sex education for young people in Michigan is the lack of a state-wide comprehensive sex education requirement. The political makeup of the current legislature also presents a significant challenge in advancing sex education legislation. To address the current gaps in education, organizations such as Planned Parenthood of Michigan and the Michigan Organization on Adolescent Sexual Health (MOASH) provide sex education programs and resources to young people and advocates across the state. In addition, the Michigan Radical Sex Ed Initiative released a guide on implementing queer and trans-inclusive sex education in 2019 with the support of SIECUS.

Right now, advocates can take action to ensure young people in their community receive quality sex education. After contacting their school board of education and sex education advisory board, advocates can raise awareness on important topics missing from local sex education instruction. This can include topics such as medically accurate instruction on contraceptives or curriculum that is culturally responsive to the needs of youth of color and LGBTQ youth. If an advocate’s school district does not require sex education, they can form their own sex education advisory board with the support of community members to directly influence what curriculum recommendations are made to the school board. In addition, advocates can contact their representatives to discuss the critical need for further inclusive sex education policies and a comprehensive sex education requirement for Michigan schools. 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

  • Michigan schools are not required to teach sex education. However, HIV/AIDS education is required.
  • Curriculum is not required to be comprehensive.
  • Curriculum must stress abstinence as a positive lifestyle.
  • Curriculum is not required to include instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • Curriculum is not required to include instruction on consent. However, curriculum must include instruction on refusal skills.
  • Parents or guardians must receive written notice of any sex education class and can remove their children from any part of the instruction. This is referred to as an “opt-out” policy.
  • HIV/AIDS education must be medically accurate. If a school chooses to teach sex education, curriculum cannot be medically inaccurate.

State House Highlights

This section highlights sex education bills that were introduced during the 2019 state legislative session as well as bills that have been introduced thus far in 2020. 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 Michigan’s profile.

2019-2020 Legislative Session
House Bill 5500 (pending): If successful, will require sex education to include instruction on consent, sexual assault, and dating violence.

House Bill 5499 (pending): If successful, will require sex education to be age appropriate, medically accurate, and objective. Requires all materials to be appropriate for students regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnic and cultural backgrounds, students with disabilities, and English language learners. Requires curriculum to include instruction on sexual orientation, gender identity, all outcomes of pregnancy including abortion, and sexual abuse. Further, curriculum must not teach or promote religious doctrine.

Senate Bill 270 (pending): Sought to require sex education curriculum to include instruction on consent, sexual assault, and dating violence.

Senate Bill 600 (pending): Sought to remove health and physical education as a graduation requirement.


More on sex ed in Michigan…


State Law

Michigan state law does not require schools to teach sex education. However, HIV/AIDS education is required. As outlined in Michigan Compiled Laws §§ 380.1169–.1170, 380.1506–.1507, and 388.1766–.1766a, schools may also offer sex education instruction, which can include information on family planning, family life education, and sexually transmitted disease (STD) prevention. HIV and sex education must present abstinence as “a responsible method of preventing unwanted or out-of-wedlock pregnancy and [STDs]” and as “a positive lifestyle for unmarried young people.”  If offered, sex education classes must be offered as an elective—not as a graduation requirement.

HIV/AIDS classes may be taught by health care professionals or teachers specifically trained in HIV/AIDS education, and sex education instruction must be provided by teachers qualified to teach health education. All instruction in reproductive health must be taught by qualified instructors and “supervised by a registered physician, a registered nurse, or other person certified by the state board as qualified.” Abortion “shall not be considered a method of family planning, nor shall abortion be taught as a method of reproductive health.” Further, no school official or school board member may dispense any family planning drug or device in school, nor may they make abortion referrals. Districts found in violation of this may face corrective actions, such as being forced to forfeit aid.

School boards must establish an advisory board to review all sex education materials and curricula. This advisory board must include parents, students, educators, clergy, and health professionals. Each school district must also appoint a state-approved sex education program supervisor. All curricula must be approved by the local school board and, if any changes are made, the local school board must hold at least two public hearings on the revisions.

Parents must receive notification of any sex education class and be allowed to review its content, and they may remove their children from any part of the sex education instruction. This is referred to as an “opt-out” policy.

To access a summary of HIV/STD and sex education requirements and best practices for Michigan public schools, click here.

State Standards

Most Michigan public schools also follow guidelines from the Michigan Model for Health, formerly the Michigan Model for Comprehensive School Health Education, which promotes nationally recognized and research-based curricula, including curricula on HIV/AIDS prevention. Michigan also provides a set of standards for grades K–8 that guide health education curricula development to ensure that there are a uniform set of content expectations.

In addition, the Michigan Board of Education adopted the Policy to Promote Health and Prevent Disease and Pregnancy, which states that sex education programs must be age-appropriate, developmentally and culturally appropriate, medically accurate, and based on effective programming.

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. Michigan’s 2020 session convened on January 7, 2020 and the 2019 session adjourned on December 31, 2019.

TitleDescriptionStatusLegislative Topic
House Bill 5499Requires sex education to be age appropriate, medically accurate, and objective. Requires all materials to be appropriate for students regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnic and cultural backgrounds, students with disabilities, and English language learners. Requires curriculum to include instruction on sexual orientation, gender identity, all outcomes of pregnancy including abortion, and sexual abuse. Further, curriculum must not teach or promote religious doctrine.Referred to the House Committee on Education (2020)Sex Educationhttps://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/797501a9ee24fd3812da983f012f89c36b8e03aa5cce6a8fa383908b1b867551f27b2dbfad7b59b1e7b33a08c0b49ae7
House Bill 5500Requires sex education, if offered, to include instruction on consent, sexual assault, and dating violence.Referred to the House Committee on Education (2020)Sex Educationhttps://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/9900ee552f139b2830c8e73b8e2c7d297b9f52d1d458f76c9ffaf9992ce9a0101c001037d839096775908899f5d44ff0
House Bill 5501 Mandates public schools to teach the ways in which dangerous communicable diseases, including HIV and AIDS, are spread and the best methods for prevention of such diseases. Instruction must be taught by trained professionals, and beginning with the 2022-2023 school year, must include medically accurate information regarding post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) or pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). Referred to the House Committee on Education (2020)HIV/AIDS (That Impacts Youth) https://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/44581c17db057f44a539850e65dc1872a30839bea170a76bd609a96da26aae0955fcb1afe6d57f8ea15937157b5f6762
Senate Bill 270Requires sex ed to include instruction on affirmative consent, sexual assault, dating violence, prevention of sexual assault and dating violence. Referred to the Senate Committee on Education and Career Readiness (2020)Sex Educationhttps://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/fd0cc7abc05dc1e53e9619545b0e251d29f167e8c1a65dc4c8aeec6b122d8616d97e159221d0a751b857324269ad25db
Senate Bill 284Prohibits mental health professionals from engaging in conersion therapy with a minor. Referred to the Senate Committee on Health Policy and Human Services (2020)Sexual Orientation and Gender Identityhttps://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/8eb6f8270d310ea2647635bbe859bb8bb360cf4a17bd1ecf64ff7daa61f5f1ee3706522dc5a701f2c20fefe8dc7112ba
Senate Bill 600Removes health and physical education curriculum as a graduate requirement. Referred to the Committee of the Whole (2019)Sex Educationhttps://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/7141c035eed1ba7e4dde7ee8eb3c156310c64dd18d9ee780a46ca0a8411d19791bf6f1be205dc474666b609eb1cdb581
House Bill 4515Prohibits mental health professionals from engaging in conversion therapy with a minor.Died in the House Committee on Health Policy (2019)Sexual Orientation and Gender Identityhttps://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/c1acef5fd8f9b7d030e8bbe03e585e8e32f1d312e5e4900a4ab833b37ee64a540313746e5740711e3be3c5567dc661f4
House Bill 4320Prohibits “dismemberment” abortion.Died in the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety (2019)Reproductive Health Carehttps://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/244d764fb5611ed0cb6702fdca219277ac74f85813db50c7ec72dbdc5b3dd53d101bac353ae8be14c840e57c3ce65f0e
House Bill 5179Asserts the fundamental right to choose or refuse sterilization, carry a pregnancy to term or have an abortion before fetal viability.Died in the House Committee on Government Operations (2019)Reproductive Health Carehttps://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/244d764fb5611ed0cb6702fdca219277ac74f85813db50c7ec72dbdc5b3dd53d101bac353ae8be14c840e57c3ce65f0e
Senate Bill 165Establishes a 20-week abortion ban.Died in the Senate Committee on Health Policy and Human Services (2019)Reproductive Health Carehttps://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/088575da72832856cb6260444c27382d3a04f0407676539557a4e2789a2612124c300f354cee3630843db74e34bececd
Senate Bill 229Prohibits “dismemberment” abortion.Died in the House Committee on Judiciary (2019)Reproductive Health Carehttps://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/8beef0ad274e71ef167a8ae0d63ef30674cb0fe96270f6f0e7fd2a94f1927bc8d4112d23bd4bd11ae1558108d2868939
Senate Bill 357Prohibits abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected.Died in Senate Committee on Health Policy and Human Services (2019)Reproductive Health Carehttps://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/45e904e72d01e272a54396369f97e28b12028dfa162797202c3714cc22c97fdb438cbbd3306259ee4eff15a98cb3e367
Senate Bill 622Asserts the fundamental right to choose or refuse sterilization, carry a pregnancy to term or have an abortion before fetal viability.Died in the Senate Committee on Government Operations (2019)Reproductive Health Carehttps://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/793de09337f04d2273bd5a1ae71fa7c41fc4ea8fe4dfb117a995fb6f4056c43096a716ad1260a4abe7dfc04baa3f3500

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

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

Reported teaching all 20 critical sexual health education topics

  • 16.4% of Michigan secondary schools taught students all 20 critical sexual health education topics in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8.
  • 34.8% of Michigan 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

  • 72.8% of Michigan secondary schools taught students about the benefits of being sexually abstinent in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8.
  • 89.4% of Michigan 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

  • 63.1% of Michigan 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.
  • 86.2% of Michigan 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

  • 69.2% of Michigan 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.
  • 87.8% of Michigan 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

  • 54.9% of Michigan 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.
  • 82.6% of Michigan 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

  • 25.8% of Michigan secondary schools taught students how to correctly use a condom in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8.
  • 53.4% of Michigan 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

  • 32.5% of Michigan secondary schools taught students about methods of contraception other than condoms in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8.
  • 71.7% of Michigan 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

  • 36.2% of Michigan secondary schools taught students about sexual orientation in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8.
  • 47.9% of Michigan 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

  • 35.8% of Michigan secondary schools taught students about gender roles, gender identity, or gender expression in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8.
  • 50.8% of Michigan 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 

  • 50.9% of Michigan 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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