Implementing Comprehensive Sexuality Education for K-12 schools in Maryland

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Young people in the United States are at persistent risk for HIV, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), unintended pregnancy, and intimate partner violence (IPV). Research has shown that adverse sexual health outcomes are a function of disparities that disproportionately affect ethnic minorities and youth in low-income settings with neighborhood-level income inequality. Maryland has especially significant rates of HIV and syphilis, as well as higher levels of sexual risk behaviors among adolescents.

In 2011, an estimated 1,771 adults and adolescents were diagnosed with HIV in Maryland. Maryland ranked 7th among the 50 states in the number of HIV diagnoses in 2011.

In 2011, an estimated 1,771 adults and adolescents were diagnosed with HIV in Maryland. Maryland ranked 7th among the 50 states in the number of HIV diagnoses in 2011.

Current statues related to sexuality education at state and local levels represent a varied and fragmented approach to curbing alarming rates of poor sexual health. Furthermore, where policies do exist, funding for implementation and evaluation of these programs is largely inadequate. Comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) has consistently proven to have a positive impact on youth sexual behavior. Health behaviors are also positively correlated with academic success. Given clear developmental benefits and the growing need for such health programming, CSE should be mandated in K-12 schools in Maryland. There have already been tremendous strides to outline minimum, essential content and skills for K-12 sexuality education that is age-appropriate, evidence-informed, and part of an overarching school health education approach. These guidelines provide a starting point for adaptation in the state of Maryland.

Parents and leading medical professional groups are overwhelmingly in favor of CSE in public schools and should be regarded as a key partner in this effort. Additionally, the Planned Parenthood Foundation of Maryland is well respected and firmly believes in promoting youth sexuality education. Opposition may be strong from conservative religious communities and efforts to promote abstinence-only education; however, support from families, key healthcare organizations and prominent community stakeholders demonstrates an overwhelming need for CSE. State funding should support the development and evaluation of mandated comprehensive sexuality education programs in Maryland K-12 schools.

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4 Responses to “Implementing Comprehensive Sexuality Education for K-12 schools in Maryland”

  1. Yang Song Says:

    To me, not providing comprehensive sex education is like not teaching about the importance of using helmets when riding bikes. Both have been proven to protect against ill-health. At least the act of wearing helmets can be observed in public. The fact that 58% of US students had sex in high school is a strong argument for teaching sex education and that abstinence-only education doesn’t work. In my experience, peer health education programs seem to work pretty well in that they’re resource-efficient, warrant more attention from the audience, and beneficial for educators (e.g., public speaking skills, confidence, more knowledge, etc.). In addition, many students felt comfortable asking for more information from a peer.

  2. kguymd Says:

    It is difficult to take a stance on this issue. On one hand I do feel that sexuality is such a sensitive topic that perhaps its introduction should remain in the hands of parents. But on the other hand, we have tried this for decades and it has not worked to reduce our rates of STI’s. So perhaps the solution is to desensitize the issue by introducing it in a tactful way to children at an early age.

  3. maryburner Says:

    This is such an important topic! I agree with the author that CSE should be mandated in Maryland’s public schools. The majority of parents are clearly an ally in trying to get this done, but how can they be engaged to spur action on requiring CSE in public schools? How can advocates involve parents? Has comprehensive sex education been fully adopted in any other states in the U.S. that Maryland could perhaps look to as an example? Lastly, I was wondering if CSE is typically implemented on the state level or by individual districts within states? In looking online, I came across this resource listing different statutes on sex education by state (http://www.ncsl.org/research/health/state-policies-on-sex-education-in-schools.aspx), and it looks like in some states, it varies by district. I wonder if particular districts in Maryland, such as Baltimore, might be a good place to start in trying to implement CSE. Thanks for sharing such an interesting topic!

  4. bdhrphilippines2015 Says:

    I wholeheartedly support this initiative! I think it is so important to be able to educate people about sexual and reproductive health — knowledge is the only way that people can really understand what kind of choices that they may be making in their intimate decisions. I do wonder, however, what the curriculum currently consists of, and whether it takes into consideration other matters of sexuality, such as orientation. While society is gradually becoming more open to the LGBTQ community, I think it’s crucial to include education regarding the spectrum of sexual orientation, since that can also affect the kind of sexual health precautions that need to be addressed (i.e. the myths that “lesbians can’t get STIs,” or “only gay men get AIDS”). It would really be instrumental to make sure that CSE is both inclusive and comprehensive.

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