State Profiles

Montana’s Sex Education Snapshot

The State of Sex Education

Advocates have focused on working at the local level to advance sex education in Montana over the past decade despite efforts to restrict young people’s access to sex education and reproductive health services. The most recent of these reductive efforts was Senate Bill 99, introduced by Senator Cary Smith (R-27) and enacted on April 30, 2021. The law now requires schools to give written notification to a parent or guardian prior to providing sex education that covers the basic content and the right to remove their children from such instruction. Further, the law prohibits school districts from receiving sex education instruction from any person or entity affiliated with providing abortion care.

While Montana schools are required to teach sex education, state statute provides little guidance as to what content or curriculum should be used. As a result, school districts are left to decide what type of instruction they provide to youth. Local control over sex education presents unique challenges that have resulted in a glaring disparity regarding the quality of sex education that students receive across the state. 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.

A 2017 report found that students perceive their instructors to be uncomfortable while providing sex education and even called their sex education experience “useless.” Further, the report found a majority of educators failed to provide instruction on the differences between biological sex, sexual orientation, sexual behavior, and gender identity.

Youth of color, and Native youth in particular, face unique challenges and systematic barriers in Montana schools. While Native students make up only 11 percent of Montana’s public school student body, they disproportionately represent almost 30 percent of the student dropout rate. This stark contrast demonstrates the critical need for sex education that is culturally responsive to the needs of Native youth to ensure they receive affirming instruction.

To address barriers in education, advocates at PPMT have provided comprehensive sex education curriculum in schools for the past 15 years and have established four training programs to address the needs of young people. This includes the Billings Teen Council, the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Trainings (SANE), the Foundations: Core Skills Training for Teaching Sex Education, and the Making Proud Choices Curriculum Training of Educators. Since 2016, Rrepresentatives from EmpowerMT, Planned Parenthood of Montana (PPMT), Missoula City-County Relationship Violence Services, and Missoula Forum for Children and Youth have been working informed a coalition to provide advanced sex education to Missoula middle school students.  These local efforts demonstrate the desire for advanced sex education to compensate for the lack of a statewide mandate. In 2019, PPMT also introduced the Rural Sex Ed Curriculum Project, which is specifically targeted to rural schools, including American Indian Reservations. This program had a tentative completion date of fall 2021, but has experienced delays due to COVID-19. Unfortunately, the recent passage of SB 99 prohibits Planned Parenthood educators from teaching or providing materials in public schools, creating new barriers to the effort. However, the project is still in progress despite these obstacles, and PPMT is working with the community of Browning on the Blackfeet Reservation to continue advancing the program. 

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 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 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 can also contact their representatives to discuss the critical need for advancing such requirements. Advocates are encouraged to use the SIECUS Community Action Toolkit to guide local efforts.

State Sex Education Policies and Requirements at a Glance

  • Montana schools are required to teach sex education.
    • Curriculum is not required to be comprehensive.
    • Montana statute has no standard regarding abstinence instruction.
  • Curriculum is not required to include instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • Curriculum is not required to include instruction on consent.
  • Schools must give written notification to a parent or guardian at least 48 hours prior to providing sex education that covers the basic content and the right to remove their children from such instruction. This is known as an “opt-out” requirement.
  • School districts are required to make all curriculum used in the district’s or school’s human sexuality instruction available for public inspection prior to the use of the materials in actual instruction.
  • Montana has no statute regarding medically accurate sex education instruction.

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 Montana’s profile.

2022 Legislative Session

                    Montana’s legislature does not meet in even numbered years. 

2021 Legislative Session

Senate Bill 99 (enacted): Requires schools to give written notification to a parent or guardian prior to providing sex education that covers the basic content and the right to remove their children from such instruction. This is referred to as an “opt-out” requirement.


More on sex ed in Montana…


State Law and Standards

Montana Code Annotated § 20-2-121 requires the board of public education to adopt content standards for school districts to follow in their curriculum development, and Administrative Rule 10.55.905 states that “health enhancement” is a required subject for graduation. Montana Administrative Rule §§ 10.53.101 requires schools to use the content standards for the health enhancement graduation requirement. Administrative Rules §§ 10.53.701-709 codify the health content standards into law. Montana does not require parental permission for students to participate in sex education or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) education, nor does it say whether parents or guardians may remove their children from such classes.

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.  Montana’s legislature does not meet during even numbered years.

TitleDescriptionStatusLegislative Topic
LC 2459Requires health professionals to obtain written or oral consent from the parent, custodian, or guardian prior to performing health services on a minor, including but not limited to physical examinations, surgical procedures, prescription of pharmaceuticals, or mental health evaluation or treatment in a clinical or nonclinical setting.(S) Died in Process (2021) Reproductive Health Care https://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/8d21a1a3b143469367c5210adbbd26c4bc8e0b245c0e61cc8b081f67091500da7619eb038db1ec732e71a16f4d667750
House Bill 113Prohibits medical professionals from providing gender affirming care to minors. (H) Died in Process (2021) Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity https://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/e9f83f4e91a0c7c528fc2d114e385e82a56c035ce8c6f162594460729d2c7e507fb728705c041f0b6a5360d4f4cd27d3
House Bill 136Prohibits abortion if the fetus is capable of feeling pain. Enacted (2021) Reproductive Health Care https://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/c33aecadac9b4ce94cb266de9029e50bcd5d1f037e8ed3b0b62bae4552cabf874501e2f5450191805e0eaddcf749b713
House Bill 171Requires physicians to provide abortion pills, requiring in person examination and prohibiting delivery of the medication. Enacted (2021) Reproductive Health Care https://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/b61270100f0e80b49e25d4d7831a92a9c796e6ba99ccbcfb562ff422df38c9566b5a43b8a391caad5f34e175856b731a
House Bill 427Prohibits medical professionals from providing gender affirming care to minors. (S) Died in Process (2021) Sexual Orientation and Gender Identityhttps://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/eec7ef42c336400b10bcbb33f61c50efd15aa15d2f50f2a32c29e165249e1571b59fabaadee5fc70c09fe069bfb3db77
Draft Bill 2219 Generally revise laws related to "late-term abortions"Draft Died in Process (2021) Reproductive Health Care http://laws.leg.mt.gov/legprd/LAW0210w%24BSIV.ActionQuery?P_BILL_DFT_NO5=LC2219&Z_ACTION=Find&P_SESS=20211
Draft Bill 2865Prohibits abortion based upon the fetus being disabled. Draft Died in Process (2021) Reproductive Health Care http://laws.leg.mt.gov/legprd/LAW0210w%24BSIV.ActionQuery?P_BILL_DFT_NO5=LC2865&Z_ACTION=Find&P_SESS=20211
Draft Bill 3124Prohibits abortion. Draft Died in Process (2021) Reproductive Health Care http://laws.leg.mt.gov/legprd/LAW0210w%24BSIV.ActionQuery?P_BILL_DFT_NO5=LC3124&Z_ACTION=Find&P_SESS=20211
Senate Bill 99Requires parents and guardians to provide written consent prior to their children receiving sex education. Enacted (2021) Sex Education https://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/807fc1d4f34895fec2c3b192c726591905531ee5841cfe29ddb82a1c6e6bab6d25a247eae5a7c9599e4cea75627d50c3
Senate Bill 282 Further amends Montana law that asserts that parents have the fundamental right to make decisions regarding the health of their children. Waives the right for minors to consent to care related to pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections.Died in Process (2021) Reproductive Health Care https://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/53cb30fbd480deed3eac69f36b13df914b96cb6ba8144af672a35f0636c24da0134a9632fc8f4ef99dff8d67019a133b

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

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

Reported teaching all 20 critical sexual health education topics

  • 12.4% of Montana secondary schools taught students all 20 critical sexual health education topics in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8.
  • 38.0% of Montana 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

  • 73.3% of Montana 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 Montana 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

  • 57.6% of Montana 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.
  • 81.4% of Montana 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

  • 79.3% of Montana 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.
  • 88.5% of Montana 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

  • 53.0% of Montana 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.
  • 75.5% of Montana 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

  • 19.5% of Montana secondary schools taught students how to correctly use a condom in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8.
  • 56.4% of Montana 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

  • 42.6% of Montana secondary schools taught students about methods of contraception other than condoms in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8.
  • 70.4% of Montana 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

  • 27.9 of Montana secondary schools taught students about sexual orientation in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8.
  • 57.7% of Montana 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

  • 31.0% of Montana secondary schools taught students about gender roles, gender identity, or gender expression in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8.
  • 57.7% of Montana 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

  • 42.0% of Montana 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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