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Fam Plann Perspect. 1998 Jul-Aug;30(4):188-93.

School-based sexuality education: the issues and challenges.

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Alan Guttmacher Institute, Washington, DC, USA.



This commentary on the issues and challenges related to the provision of sex education in US schools opens by using a 1997 action of the Franklin County, North Carolina, school board as an example of the controversy. In this case, the school board ordered the removal of chapters on sex behavior, contraception, AIDS, and sexually transmitted diseases from its 9th grade health text book to comply with a new state law requiring public schools to teach sexual abstinence until marriage. While most US adults approve of sex education in schools, the abstinence-only movement has orchestrated a highly organized, successful campaign to remove information from schools and has garnered a $250 million commitment from the federal government to promote abstinence until marriage as part of welfare reform efforts. The commentary continues with a review of efforts to undermine sexuality education starting in the 1960s and sketches the current state of sex education efforts. The next section looks at the new strategy used by sex education opponents, which led them to refocus efforts on local school boards and state legislatures instead of national policies. Remaining topics include the other tactics used by sex education opponents, the heightened fear of teachers to discuss controversial subjects, the lack of teacher training to discuss sexuality, and the consequences of this situation in the classroom. Recommendations to redress this situation include improving professional training, forming local advisory committees, encouraging parental involvement, and promoting the benefits of comprehensive programs.

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