Two Main Sex Education Programs Taught in Schools

What is Your Teen Taught?

Students in further education
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As a parent, you need to be fully aware of what your teen is taught about sex at school for two reasons: One, you want to be sure that the information is complete, accurate and reflects your family's values. Two, you want to be sure that you are prepared to answer questions your teen may have.

Additionally, you'll want to fill in any gaps in your teen's knowledge. For example, the school's sex education program may focus on birth control and safe sex, without addressing the emotional issues that accompany becoming sexually active.

The Two Main Sex Education Programs

There are two different basic types of sex education classes. Depending on what your state or local school district mandates, your teen will either be learning the Comprehensive Sexuality Education or the Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Program.

These programs represent two completely different schools of thought, but either way, it is imperative for you to know what your child is learning. You will need to do your best not to get caught up in the politics of the sex education classes as much as be the buffer or the fill-in person for your teenager.

Comprehensive Sexuality Education

Comprehensive Sexuality Education is a program that starts in kindergarten and continues through high school. It brings up age-appropriate sexuality topics and covers the broad spectrum of sex education, including safe sex, sexually transmitted infections, contraceptives, masturbation, body image, and more.

It teaches that sexuality is a natural, normal part of healthy living. It covers topics such as sexual expression, relationships, and culture.

It includes accurate medical information on sexually transmitted infections and HIV. And although abstinence is addressed, it also emphasizes strategies to reduce the risk of unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.

Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Program

Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs emphasize abstinence from all sexual behaviors and do not cover information on contraceptives, sexually transmitted infections, masturbation, etc. It teaches that sexual expression outside of marriage could have harmful psychological, social, and physical consequences.

This program usually does not cover controversial topics such as abortion or masturbation. It may address using condoms, but it emphasizes the failure rates of using them. 

Get to Know the Type of Program Your School Department Uses

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost half of all teenagers become sexually active between the ages of 15 and 19. Almost 20 percent of teens do not use birth control the first time they engage in sexual intercourse. 

Never be afraid of what your teen is learning in school about sex education. While schools cannot begin to teach about sexuality in a way that includes your family values along with everyone else's family values, they can teach the basics of physical sex and then you can inform your teen of your family values.

This will give your teen a base, a foundation in which the form questions and have conversations with you.

They will bring examples from class that you may not agree with or they may share things that their peers of said.

Remember that sex education shouldn't be about having "the talk." Instead, it should be a series of open conversations over the course of many years.

As your teens mature, they will have more questions about sex. It's important for you to show your teen that you are comfortable answering questions, if you want your teen to turn to you as a source for more information. 


Advocates for Youth: Sex Education Programs: Definitions & Point-by-Point Comparison.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Sexual Activity, Contraceptive Use, and Childbearing of Teenagers Aged 15-19 in the United States.

National Conference of State Legislatures: State Policies on Sex Education in Schools.

Pew Research Center: Favor Sex Education in Public Schools.

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