State Profiles

Ohio’s Sex Education Snapshot

Advocates have faced a continuously uphill battle toward advancing sex education in Ohio, most recently cumulating in the introduction of several anti-abortion and restrictive sex education bills. In 2019, Representative Niraj Antani introduced House Bill 90 in a regressive attempt to require the State Board of Education to develop an instructional program regarding the “humanity of the unborn child.” While this effort was ultimately unsuccessful, it is part of a larger pattern of legislative attempts to undermine access to abortion care in the state. Another anti-abortion bill, Senate Bill 23, which prohibits abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, successfully passed the legislature. However, U.S. District Judge Michael Barrett issued a preliminary injunction in July of 2019 to temporarily block the measure. It currently awaits further ruling after a series of motions. Additionally, Senate Bill 121 was introduced by Senators Vernon Sykes and Stephanie Kunze in an unsuccessful attempt to allow each school district to develop their own standards and curriculum for “venereal disease education,” that would require curriculum to emphasize abstinence. Further, Senate Bill 121 would also require the State Board of Education to develop health education standards. If implemented correctly, transparent health education standards could advance sex education curriculum statewide.

Sex education is mandated in Ohio and schools are required to provide instruction on abstinence, “venereal disease education,” laws related to sexual activity with minors, healthy relationships, dating violence prevention, and personal safety and assault prevention. However, curriculum is not required to be comprehensive, medically accurate, or include instruction on topics such as consent, sexual orientation or gender identity, or contraceptive options. This leaves local school districts to decide what additional sex education curriculum they provide.

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. While districts like Dublin City Schools provide more comprehensive instruction that includes topics such as sexual harassment, dating safety, and contraception, other schools report not teaching sex education at all despite the state mandate. Some students report that schools in Cuyahoga County provide abstinence-only or “sexual risk avoidance” instruction that is shame based, misleading, and un-affirming of LGBTQ young people.

In an effort to increase access to more comprehensive sex education, organizations such as Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio provide a Peer Education Program and medically accurate, evidence-based sex education programs to schools, parents, youth groups, and community programs.

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 sex education instruction, such as instruction on consent, sexual orientation and gender identity, and contraceptives. Advocates can also focus on ensuring that curriculum is medically accurate or culturally responsive to the needs of young people of color. 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 comprehensive sex education requirements statewide. 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

  • Ohio schools are required to teach sex education.
  • Curriculum is not required to be comprehensive.
  • Curriculum must emphasize abstinence.
  • Curriculum is not required to include instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • Curriculum is not required to include instruction on consent.
  • Upon written request of a parent or guardian, a student may be excused from receiving any or all sex education instruction. This is referred to as an “opt-out” policy.
  • Ohio has no standard regarding medically accurate sex education.

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 Ohio’s profile.

2021 Legislative Session

House Bill 105 (pending): Aims to require age appropriate instruction on sexual abuse prevention in grades K-6 along with sexual violence prevention in grades 7-12.

More on sex ed in Ohio…


State Law

Ohio Revised Code Sections 3313.60 and 3313.6011 require both sex education and human immunodeficiency (HIV)/sexually transmitted infection (STI) instruction, stating that the board of education of each school district must establish a health education curriculum for “all schools under their control.” The health education curriculum must include “[v]enereal disease education,” which must emphasize that “abstinence from sexual activity is the only protection that is [100 percent] effective against unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease [STD], and the sexual transmission of a virus that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome [AIDS].” Additionally, it must:

  1. Stress that students should abstain from sexual activity until after marriage;
  2. Teach the potential physical, psychological, emotional, and social side effects of participating in sexual activity outside of marriage;
  3. Teach that conceiving children out of wedlock is likely to have harmful consequences for the child, the child’s parents, and society;
  4. Stress that STDs are serious possible hazards of sexual activity;
  5. Advise students of the laws pertaining to financial responsibility of parents to children born in- and out-of-wedlock; and
  6. Advise students of the circumstances under which it is criminal to have sexual contact with a person under the age of 16, pursuant to section 2907.04 of the Revised Code.
  7. Emphasize adoption as an option for unintended pregnancies.

Upon written request of a parent or guardian, a student may be excused from receiving any or all of this instruction. This is referred to as an “opt-out” policy.

State Standards

Ohio law does not permit the State Board of Education to adopt the Health Education Standards in Ohio. However, the Ohio Department of Education does provide guidance on the overall health education curriculum requirements, K-6 health education requirements, 7-8 health education requirements, and 9-12 health education requirements. Under these requirements, students receive additional instruction on healthy relationships, dating violence prevention, and personal safety and assault prevention.

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. Ohio’s 2021 session convened January 4, 2021. 

TitleDescriptionStatusLegislative Topic
House Bill 105 Requires age appropriate instruction on sexual abuse prevention in grades K-6 along with sexual violence prevention in grades 7-12. Referred to the Senate Committee on Primary and Secondary Education (2021) Sex Education https://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/59a231f14fe1f779294b4ad9dcdd5adbf03a89f6bc4e5ee766da879f4a18063c07e791ebc0c281eda7f980b327fd9513
House Bill 110Creates appropriations for FY 2022-2023 that include requiring parental consent if additional, advanced sex education is provided, and imposes further limitations on access to abortion care while increasing funding for crisis pregnancy centers. Enacted (2021) Sexual Orientation and Gender Identityhttps://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/73ca8cf2ef2d39315b43f24c6b337ed283a584d03897abac1269a5fc745cd68d155fa8913c6a8fff61d3b7f69a553571
House Bill 208Prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. Referred to the House Committee on Commerce and Labor (2021) Sexual Orientation and Gender Identityhttps://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/e0fdfe3907735bd760d7a7182768d99531886d24bc74b5dc9a3d584f54f879901041159a8456cde32c590a4f5cc31d62
House Bill 240Requires school districts to provide written notice and receive parental consent prior to providing additional sex education instruction outside of the required topics.Referred to the House Committee on Primary and Secondary Education (2021) Sex Education https://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/446af34ec69ae0c36aa1fd37073590ac0ef0b83bc3660fe7db17d40ff7ff5d8c5f26fdbbaca8671827733395f0a4f5f8
House Bill 420Prohibits health care professionals from engaging in conversion therapy with minors. Referred to the House Committee on Health (2021) Sexual Orientation and Gender Identityhttps://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/2cdc78acf6eed705d0ae888527cda3db9ac574186073b755200786d5d1509d75c435c6e78f9cb3a9d11ee622c7a1f800
House Bill 503Prohibits health care professionals from engaging in conversion therapy with a minor. Died in the House Committee on Health (2020)Sexual Orientation and Gender Identityhttps://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/6aafc597a3e16cea8f292b11d2266f289ca6c94307cc93821cd761b9532fccf72a87ad36c93523319cc4609acddb7d3b
House Bill 513Prohibits health professionals from providing gender affirming surgery, therapy, or hormones. Died in the House Committee on Health (2020)Sexual Orientation and Gender Identityhttps://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/d251343d01a014a2e0da7238bbcd2d98f89b8c5d67112483e30e513bef469825798bdf8933bf8b4780fd7918a44f3850
Senate Bill 119 Prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. Referred to the SenateCommittee Government Oversight and Reform (2021) Sexual Orientation and Gender Identityhttps://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/37bda8d1b25f3bb8b73e842258783b773e155939c8333b4163b81ea65401866fe2812c7a603b5767cc9d281a44dce7c4
Senate Bill 50Prohibits health care professionals from engaging in conversion therapy with minors. Referred to the Senate Committee on Health (2021) Sexual Orientation and Gender Identityhttps://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/e0fbd7ed2174cc5651a1c1b23d2c607db0caaa8ed7008e857fa19ca5b6b309c3829baa8d79ea8852f9a52275ef5dbbdc
Senate Bill 123Prohibits abortion after the supreme court issues an opinion that upholds a state's authority to prohibit abortion or if the United States Constitution is amended to authorize a state to prohibit abortion. Referred to the Senate Committee on Health (2021) Reproductive Health Care https://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/14c4e439dfb30894dff5ef34641c1ad07d625b0d54f1b22471c7d416479f94bb46565173731ac545d329df913603547f
Senate Bill 125 Requires the department of health to develop an initative to improve birth equity, reduce peripartum racial and ethnic disparities, and address implicit bias in the health care system. Referred to the Senate Committee on Health(2021) Reproductive Health Care https://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/304875a41444a842b358afa0d9cf5bc3941fc5008d617775fa99eab64f3c294083c6353f85543e92bf70d497c444ab1e
Senate Bill 260Prohibits physicians from providing abortion medication unless they are physically present. Failed to pass the House (2020)Reproductive Health Carehttps://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/2fdaec0bcf61cb22b548f52e5b4dcbb588a17b672ffdf3beab0e432fa93c84a5b0a671ad0c87ac72408a3c71c1925c55

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

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

Reported teaching all 20 critical sexual health education topics

  • 7.2% of Ohio secondary schools taught students all 20 critical sexual health education topics in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8.
  • 33.0% of Ohio 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

  • 65.9% of Ohio secondary schools taught students about the benefits of being sexually abstinent in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8.
  • 92.0% of Ohio 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

  • 54.3% of Ohio 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.
  • 92.0% of Ohio 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

  • 69.4% of Ohio 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.
  • 92.5% of Ohio 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

  • 51.6% of Ohio 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.
  •  89.1% of Ohio 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

  • 15.4% of Ohio secondary schools taught students how to correctly use a condom in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8.
  • 51.4% of Ohio 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

  • 28.8% of Ohio secondary schools taught students about methods of contraception other than condoms in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8.
  • 77.9% of Ohio 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

  • 25.8% of Ohio secondary schools taught students about sexual orientation in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8.
  • 60.7% of Ohio 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

  • 26.1% of Ohio secondary schools taught students about gender roles, gender identity, or gender expression in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8.
  • 55.4% of Ohio 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

  • 42.4% of Ohio 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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