Oregon’s Sex Education Snapshot
The State of Sex Education
Advocates in Oregon have championed significant advancements for the state’s sex education requirements, cumulating in mandating all schools to provide comprehensive sex education (CSE) through passage of the Human Sexuality Education Law of 2009, the Healthy Teen Relationship Act of 2013, the Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Law of 2015, and the revision of the Oregon Health Education Standards in 2016. Now, advocates are focused on implementing this legislation.
Advocates have continued this momentum in 2021 and through 2022 with local efforts to defend sex education. The Oregon Department of Education (ODE), through a Policy Action Package (POP) passed through the legislature in 2021 and increased full time employment (FTE) for the current Sexuality Education Specialist from 0.5 FTE to 1.0 FTE. In partnership with the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and the DHS My Future-My Choice program, ODE has offered teacher training through the Oregon Teacher Training Institute (OTTI) to 204 participants from 2018-2021. Additonally, ODE offered grants to create the statewide Sex Ed Open Learning project through funding from the Oregon Community Foundation. This project connects educators to free, openly licensed standards-aligned CSE lessons and resources.
Legislatively, sex education efforts were supported by the passage of the Oregon 2021 Menstrual Dignity Act (HB 3294) which created the requirement for school districts to provide free menstrual products for all menstruating students, in every student bathroom, in all public elementary, middle and high schools in Oregon. Classroom education on menstrual health and product instructions are required as part of the program requirements, which strengthens the current Human Sexuality Education law in Oregon. Additionally, ODE released a Menstrual Dignity for Students Toolkit. The kit includes affirming, equity-driven approaches to program implementation, including sexuality education materials and instructional practices.
Additional advancements in Oregon, building off of existing laws and standards have led to the development of teacher training by the University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD) at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU). This training intends to implement Friendships and Dating in school transition programs, which serve young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). The program has served more than 200 students since it began and is one of the few in the country to use Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP) funds to serve students with I/DD.
The OHA is also in the process of authoring a 10-Year Progress Report to show the state’s progress, and lack thereof, towards the five goals outlined in the Oregon Youth Sexual Health Plan. OHA and ODE also developed and launched the Sexual Violence Prevention Map, a statewide resource that provides information on intersecting strategies of sexual health, violence prevention, positive youth development, CSE, and more. The Oregon Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Task Force (SATF) also hosts a number of statewide spaces where organizations are coming together to think about comprehensive prevention efforts, including healthy sexuality. These spaces are working to connect prevention efforts across child abuse prevention, healthy sexuality education, violence prevention and more. These include SATF’s Prevention and Education Subcommittee and Abuse Prevention Learning Collaborative among others. Additionally, the Task Force produced the Exploring Prevention Audio Library, as well as multi-disciplinary sexuality education curriculum review efforts.
Despite continued advocacy efforts, challenges to implement CSE statewide remain. While the Oregon Department of Human Services, the Oregon Department of Education, and the Oregon Health Authority work tirelessly to support schools in implementing comprehensive sex education, it is reported that additional efforts are needed to ensure all youth receive comprehensive sex education. Advocates continue to have internal discussions regarding challenges in sex education implementation and what programmatic and policy changes could better support the implementation of current sex education requirements.
Challenges to implementing sex education in 2021 have included anti-sex education school board candidates running for office. Candidates would frequently post on anti-sex education Facebook groups including Oregon Parents Rights in Education and Oregonians for Liberty in Education. These groups are not only against sex education, but also oppose efforts to improve racial justice and gender equity in schools. Nonetheless, according to state reporting, more districts self-reported teaching CSE in compliance with the laws in the 2020-2021 school year than ever before.
Despite a state mandate and supporting policies, advocates report that the quality of sex education students receive varies greatly depending on their school district, demonstrating the ongoing need for reform. While many districts such as Portland Public Schools provide comprehensive sex education in accordance with Oregon statute in grades K-12, it is reported that some districts still provide abstinence-only instruction and others do not teach sex education at all. Despite this opposition, there are continuing coalition efforts to advance district sex education policies and revise the current Comprehensive Sexuality Education Implementation Plan.
In an effort to reform Oregon’s approach to implementing comprehensive sex education, advocates suggest requiring statewide participation in the Student Health Survey, developing accessible materials and guidelines for curriculum implementation, expanding agency capacity for supporting school districts in implementing comprehensive sex education, and providing training and professional development to teachers and administrators. Additional areas of improvement include establishing regulatory mechanisms for monitoring and enforcing district compliance and leveraging federal funding streams to advance sex education policy and implementation.
When school districts lack resources to provide comprehensive sex education instruction, they may turn to community partners to bridge the gap. While local health departments may provide satisfactory sex education curriculum, advocates report that an increasing number of individuals from crisis pregnancy centers are providing sex education instruction in Oregon schools, and this instruction overwhelmingly fails to meet Oregon’s comprehensive sex education standards. Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) attract individuals trying to access reputable reproductive health care and provide false, manipulative information about abortion care. Unfortunately, crisis pregnancy centers have increasingly received federal funding to deliver abstinence-only instruction nationwide.
Right now, advocates can take action to ensure young people in their community have access to quality sex education. Advocates can identify what sex education requirements are currently in place in their district and advocate for the inclusion of specific elements of comprehensive sex education, such as requiring curriculum to be culturally responsive to the needs of Native American young people, young of color, and LGBTQ youth, or inclusive of a variety of contraceptive methods. 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. Further, advocates can contact their representatives to discuss the critical need to address barriers that prevent adequate implementation. 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
- Oregon schools are required to teach sex education.
- Curriculum must be comprehensive.
- Curriculum must promote abstinence.
- Curriculum must recognize different sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expression.
- Curriculum must include instruction on consent.
- Parents or guardians may remove their children from sex education instruction. This is referred to as an “opt-out” policy.
- Oregon law requires sex education to 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 Oregon’s profile.
2022 Legislative Session
No bills have been introduced concerning sex education to date.
2021 Legislative Session
No bills have been introduced concerning sex education to date.
More on sex ed in Oregon…
Oregon Revised Statutes §§ 336.035, 336.455, and 336.465, as well as Oregon Administrative Rules §§ 581-022-2030 and 581-022-2050, mandate human sexuality education and instruction in infectious diseases, including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), and sexually transmitted infection prevention, throughout elementary and secondary school. Students in grades 6-8 must receive instruction at least once annually, while students in grades 9-12 must receive instruction twice annually. Oregon does not suggest or recommend a curriculum. However, 336.455 states that:
2) Course Instruction shall:
- Be medically accurate …
- Include information about responsible sexual behaviors and hygienic practices that eliminate or reduce the risks of pregnancy and the risks of exposure to HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and other infectious or STI Information about those risks shall be presented in a manner designed to allay fears concerning risks that are scientifically groundless.
- Promote abstinence for school-age youth and mutually monogamous relationships with an uninfected partner for adults as the most effective way to prevent pregnancy and the transmission of STDs; however, abstinence may not be taught to the exclusion of other material and instruction on contraceptive and disease reduction measures;
Furthermore, the comprehensive plan of instruction must include information that:
- Provides balanced, accurate information and skills-based learning on the risks and benefits of contraceptive and disease reduction measures that reduce the risk of unintended pregnancy, exposure to HIV, hepatitis B/C, and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and diseases; …
- Discusses the benefits of delaying pregnancy beyond the adolescent years as a means to better ensure a healthy future for parents and their children. Students shall be provided with statistics based on the latest medical information regarding both the health benefits and the possible side effects of all forms of contraceptives, including the success and failure rates for prevention of pregnancy, STIs, and diseases; …
- Encourages positive family communication and involvement and helps students learn to make responsible, respectful, and healthy decisions; …
- Validates through course material and instruction the importance of honesty with oneself and others, respect for each person’s dignity and well-being, and responsibility for one’s actions; and
- Uses inclusive materials, language, and strategies that recognize different sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expression.
Sex education courses must also include information on teen dating violence and “must be presented in a manner sensitive to the fact that there are students who have experienced sexual abuse” and must not devalue or ignore students who have engaged in sexual intercourse.
Teachers may not “be subject to discipline or removal for teaching or refusing to teach courses concerning” STDs. Parents or guardians may remove their children from sex education and/or STD/HIV education classes. This is referred to as an “opt-out” policy.
Furthermore, an administrative rule provides specific guidelines that communities must follow when creating their own plan. The plans must be developed locally by community members who are “knowledgeable of the latest scientific information and effective education strategies” approved by local school boards and reviewed biennially in accordance with new scientific information.
Oregon’s Health Education Standards and Performance Indicators provide a foundation for curricula development. The promotion of sexual health constitutes its own “strand” of learning. Concepts covered include “recogniz[ing] diversity among people, including age, disability, national origin, race, ethnicity, color, marital status, biological sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression…set[ting] a personal goal to not have sex until you’re ready,” as well as, “ use protection when sexually active” and “demonstrat[ing] ways to communicate decisions about whether or when to engage in sexual behaviors and to practice safer sex.”
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. Oregon’s 2022 session convened on February 1, 2022.
|Senate Bill 1522||Provides free menstrual products in an alternate location when public education providers do not have control over restrooms used by students of the public education provider.||Enacted (2022)||Health Disparities and Menstrual Equity||https://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/2982482fd284770d616e38e9e148bfabdca8055f5801f292112c33fd9590553cc505c947fd3e48fd0cfa0b2f8e49b8cc|
|House Bill 4022||Increasing access to course material on the school district website.||Died the House Committee on Education (2022)||Parental Rights and Curriculum Transparency||https://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/a699c5bde43685077c6cc6603533c7684ee3ba3a90bedbc862649f4d33fc540c1c1f8a8bea1ca6df73ae9c8c81ae792b|
|House Bill 4091||Directs the Department of Education (DoE) to develop and implement statewide education plans for students who are Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander.||Died the House Committee on Ways and Means (2022)||Racial Equity & Justice||https://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/1b192dbaefcea355dbf15bffbdad447cf57ac96781f30cc2a714691dcf10e76c8185a971ce72c330985e312d4bf8f9a0|
|House Bill 4099||Directs the DoE to create the Racial Equity and Justice Youth Collaborative.||Died in the House Committee on Ways and Means (2022)||Racial Equity & Justice||https://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/25590ce61b5f3d271ea0d00a98a245ceaa29dc702a31428a3df880788879bdd898e3b5411cf4f4fdfa4b8c3b1df60e93|
|Senate Bill 1575||Increasing access to course material on the school district website.||Died in the Senate Committee on Education (2022)||Parental Rights and Curriculum Transparency||https://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/28cce6fbedb5acf21a0e3547b9492d1d554e9c1bc266ef48afe5a5fee4ea2ebc94f2f51b15aa9bfae1e8ee4254a8412a|
|House Bill 3294||Requires every public education provider to provide both tampons and sanitary pads at no cost to students.||Enacted (2021)||Health Disparities and Menstrual Equity||https://olis.oregonlegislature.gov/liz/2021R1/Downloads/MeasureDocument/HB3294/Enrolled|
|House Bill 2540||Prohibits abortion after 20 weeks except in the case of a medical emergency.||Died in the House Committee on Health Care with subsequent referral to Judiciary (2021)||Reproductive Health Care||https://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/dd2c2f18c85965f9ae90da2cc14828e610e70691d3446feb14e3c6e023b42c33583e5d39360fa2a7f5703197f0c169ec|
|House Bill 3414||Declares that racism is a public health crisis.||Died in the House Committee on Rules (2021)||Reproductive Health Care||https://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/fc92357cc74b91743fb2d1a6fbef253d6c191c6e5a3e1ac069e185b5ea9f2766b859ee5e2825fb3c82774076c419c9a6|
|Senate Bill 507||Prohibits abortion after 20 weeks unless in the case of a medical emergency.||Died in the Senate Committee on Health Care (2021)||Reproductive Health Care||https://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/689cad19a4919d2823cd194d26078b85885ee9d8eb38979fadfc9f4c2ee5a289c4f7388877b6234ab3d65b9e7efd302b|
|Senate Bill 654||Prohibits abortions during the third trimester based on the known or suspected sex of the fetus.||Died in the Senate Committee on Health Care (2021)||Reproductive Health Care||https://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/8939d7874ae3af64833baf9bdc2a83e3d85090c9d748614a928cffe759627dcf70b65270d62f06d10861165b729c027c|
|Senate Bill 671||Prohibits abortion after 20 weeks unless in the case of a medical emergency.||Died in the Senate Committee on Health Care(2021)||Reproductive Health Care||https://s3.amazonaws.com/fn-document-service/file-by-sha384/dd9eea545f7d455e41f8f22de9d75621cb952b48bfd392fb9cd6a67c0e350ddc34caeac8fdb838831682f33e8f5b1811|
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 Oregon’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) results, click here.
Oregon 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 Oregon as reported for the 2017–2018 school year.
Reported teaching all 20 critical sexual health education topics
- 23.3% of Oregon secondary schools taught students all 20 critical sexual health education topics in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8.
- 63.3% of Oregon 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
- 81.5% of Oregon secondary schools taught students about the benefits of being sexually abstinent in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8.
- 98.0% of Oregon 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
- 76.4% of Oregon 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.
- 96.9% of Oregon 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
- 85.3% of Oregon 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.
- 99.0% of Oregon 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
- 68.3% of Oregon 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.
- 95.1% of Oregon 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
- 46.5% of Oregon secondary schools taught students how to correctly use a condom in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8.
- 84.8% of Oregon 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
- 70.6% of Oregon secondary schools taught students about methods of contraception other than condoms in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8.
- 97.2% of Oregon 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
- 42.7% of Oregon secondary schools taught students about sexual orientation in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8.
- 76.2% of Oregon 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
- 43.9% of Oregon secondary schools taught students about gender roles, gender identity, or gender expression in a required course in any of grades 6, 7, or 8.
- 79.6% of Oregon 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
- 63.6% of Oregon 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