States Address Dating Violence
"Sexuality Education Activity Across the Country"
Legislatures in 21 states sought this year to expand topics in sex education classes, in many cases to address teen dating violence or child sexual abuse, according to a new legislative analysis.
Lawmakers have debated 90 bills on sexuality education since January, but only five pieces of legislation actually became law—in Maryland, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Virginia—according to a report by the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, a nonprofit advocacy group.
A new Virginia law requires high school instruction on healthy relationships and avoiding dating and sexual violence. Maryland integrated online and social harassment prevention into its anti-bullying law and required sexual abuse prevention to be covered in elementary-grade health courses.
By contrast, the report found more than 1 in 4 of the bills studied would have moved away from science-based curricula or restricted students' access to comprehensive sex education classes. Two of those became law: Mississippi extended its abstinence-only sex education requirement, which was set to expire this year, and Oklahoma passed a law requiring the state's health agency and districts to provide "educational materials" that "clearly and consistently teach that abortion kills a living human being."
The report found fewer than half of high schools and 1 in 5 middle schools nationwide provide sex education that cover 16 critical topics identified by the Centers for Disease Control, including how HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is transmitted, and explanations of preventative care needed for reproductive health.
Vol. 35, Issue 37, Page 5Published in Print: August 3, 2016, as States Address Dating Violence