By Guest Blogger Sasha Jones
In the wake of the #MeToo movement, several states have introduced legislation that would expand on what is covered in sex education lessons, including adding language on consent and healthy relationships.
Currently, 24 states and the District of Columbia have mandated sex education, according to a report by the Center for American Progress. However, what must be included in the curriculum varies based on each state’s standards. For example, 21 states and the District of Columbia include references to consent or healthy relationships in their standards. Even so, the language and details that each state uses in legislation may differ.
Since May 2018, eight states have updated their standards.
- Maryland and Rhode Island now require that discussion of consent is included.
- Colorado, Illinois, Missouri, and Oklahoma do not mandate sex education in all schools, but have added language about including consent or healthy relationships in their state standards for any schools that do teach sex education.
- Missouri additionally added instruction on inappropriate texting to its standards.
- New Jersey and California, which previously mandated instruction on consent and healthy relationships, passed bills to include instruction on the consequences of online distribution of sexually explicit images.
While not all states have yet updated their standards, bills are moving through the legislative process in seven more states.
- Arizona and New York introduced legislation to mandate sex education in all school districts.
- New York and Texas introduced legislation that would require sex education to cover healthy relationships
- Arizona, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Pennsylvania introduced bills that contain language about consent and healthy relationships.
- Massachusetts introduced a bill that would make sex education curricula LGBTQ-inclusive.
- Alabama and Arizona introduced bills that would remove current restrictions on the discussion of LGBTQ identities and relationships, such as Alabama legislation that states that “homosexuality is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public and that homosexual conduct is a criminal offense under the laws of the state.”
Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Washington also introduced legislation that would modernize their sex education standards, but the bills did not pass before the end of the states’ legislative sessions.
Some sex ed instructors have seen the Me Too movement as a catalyst for change in both what is taught in the classroom and what is required by the statehouse. While some believe the answer lies in covering more nuances surrounding social constructs, like gender roles, others say that sex education should come in earlier grades.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.