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Sex Education Programs Fall Short of CDC Recommendations in Many States

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More than half of high schools in 44 states surveyed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention teach all 16 topics recommended by the agency as "essential components of sexual health education," it reported Wednesday. And only about a fifth of middle schools in those states teach all 16 topics, the agency said.

The findings come from the CDC's school health profiles, which explored school programs related to issues like engagement, drug prevention, and health in 2014.The 16 sex education components recommended by the agency relate to HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy prevention, and sexual decision making. Those components include: the benefits of being sexually abstinent, how to access reliable health information, the importance of using condoms "consistently and correctly," and "the importance of limiting the number of sexual partners."

States examined in the report had widely varying rates of secondary schools that met those guidelines. Arizona had the lowest percentage of high schools that met the guidelines, at 21 percent, and New Jersey had the most, at 89.5 percent, the report says. Kentucky had the lowest percentage of middle schools that met the guidelines, at 3.7 percent, and North Carolina had the most, at 45.6 percent, the report says.

"Lack of effective sex education can have very real, very serious health consequences," Stephanie Zaza, director of CDC's Division of Adolescent and School Health, said in a statement. "Young people who have multiple sex partners, don't use condoms, and use drugs or alcohol before sex are at higher risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. School-based sex education is a critical opportunity to provide the skills and information they need to protect themselves."

As I've reported before, sex education approaches are very different from school to school because of vastly inconsistent state- and district-level policies:

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, just 22 states and the District of Columbia require public schools teach sex education (20 of which mandate sex education and HIV education), and "19 states require that if provided, sex education must be medically, factually or technically accurate. State definitions of 'medically accurate' vary, from requiring that the department of health review curriculum for accuracy, to mandating that curriculum be based on information from 'published authorities upon which medical professionals rely.' "

How did your state stack up on sex education and other topics? Check out the whole report here.

Related reading on sex education:

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