Think Tank: States Aren’t Teaching Consent in Sex Ed


Not all require teachers to mention ‘healthy relationships,’ ‘sexual assault’ or ‘consent’ in class.

The Center for American Progress recently released an analysis of what it called “the current state of sex education standards” across the U.S., focusing on discussions of consent and healthy relationships in those teaching standards. Analysts at the think tank considered state laws in 24 states and Washington, D.C., that require sex education in public schools and found that not all states address those topics in their sex education standards.

According to the review, just 10 states and Washington, D.C., reference “healthy relationships,” “sexual assault” or “consent” in their sex education programs.

Rhode Island, West Virginia and Washington, D.C., mandate detailed state standards that “address aspects of sexual health and clearly categorize topic areas” by age, according to the analysis. Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, North Carolina and Vermont don’t spell out these requirements, but they have revamped state standards to address consent or health relationships.

Moreover, the review found that California, New Jersey and Oregon have comprehensive sex education standards, requiring teachers to discuss healthy relationships as part of sex education. Each state, CAP says, requires educators to use medically correct materials, as well as incorporate lessons on healthy relationships or consent. California, New Jersey and Oregon also boast teen pregnancy rates 3, 4 and 11 percent lower than the national average, respectively. 

The majority of the states analyzed – Delaware, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota,Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina and Utah – reportedly provide teachers with little guidance on which subjects should be covered in sex education curriculums. Those teachings cover pregnancy prevention and preventing sexually transmitted diseases, but don’t address the development of healthy relationships and don’t divide standards by age, according to the review.

Still, the think tank reports that a number of reforms are building momentum in state legislatures across the country.


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