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Gabby Giotto

Ben Henderson
CAS 138T
14 April 2016
Comprehensive Sexual Education
Sexual Education is a topic that teenagers never really want to
hear at 8 a.m. on a Monday morning, especially when it is coming from
one of their teachers. Sexual intercourse, puberty, and all of the other
topics that sexual education entails excites nearly every student in
middle school and high school. The subject may be is even more
titillating when discussing it with teachers than with their parents.
Luckily, all teenagers do not have to hear those words because not all
public schools in the United States teach sexual education. These
lucky students are being denied the education that could prove
pivotal in making life-changing decisions in their lives. The type of
information learned in sexual education programs ranges from
abstinence to contraceptive use to abortion. The state of Pennsylvania
should require comprehensive sexual education programs to be taught
in all public schools.
At this time, only 22 states and the District of Columbia require
public schools to include some sexual education in their curriculum,
and some states even mandate HIV education (NCSL). Yet not even all
of these schools teach a comprehensive sexual education, meaning

that the program would not only teach students how to say no and to
practice abstinence, but it would also teach them about
contraceptives, like condoms and birth control. The most common
program taught focuses only on abstinence, which has been proven to
show no real benefits. According to Advocates for Youth, abstinenceonly programs have shown negative impacts on youths willingness to
use contraception, including condoms, to prevent negative sexual
health outcomes related to sexual intercourse (Advocates for Youth).
According to the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the
United States (SIECUS), these abstinence-only programs do not
result in a decrease of teen pregnancy: the exact issue it is attempting
to prevent. In comparison programs that do include comprehensive
sexual education have resulted in a decrease in teen pregnancy
Pennsylvania is among those states that do not require sexual
education in public schools curriculums (Smothers, Sexual
education provides crucial information for young adults, but the
lessons are often overlooked and undervalued. In Pennsylvania alone,
unintended pregnancies composed of 53% of all pregnancies in 2010.
Looking more specifically to the age range that sexual education would
directly affect, 49 of every 1,000 women in Pennsylvania were
pregnant teenagers aged 15-19 in 2010 (

Not only is teen pregnancy frequent, it costs taxpayers money.

Rebecca Maynard of Mathematica Policy Research in Princeton, New
Jersey conducted a study in 1997; she found that teen childbearing
costs taxpayers more than $7 billion a year or $3,200 a year for each
teenage birth (Sawhill). Moreover, unintended pregnancies in general
cost taxpayers $12.5 billion in 2008 (Wetzstein).
Overall, there have been decreases in teen pregnancy and
unintended pregnancies. The teen birth rate in 1991 was 61.8 births
per 1,000 adolescent females, but in 2014, it decreased to 24.2 births,
according to the Office of Adolescent Health. Kimberly Leonard, a
writer for U.S. News, believes, however, that public schools could
continue to do more because the rates are still higher in the U.S. than
they are in other developed countries (Leonard). While, since 2015,
England and Wales has a rate of 47 teen pregnancies per 1,000 15-19
year-olds, the United States has 57 per 1,000. Countries like
Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Slovenia have extremely low rates:
eight for Switzerland and fourteen for both the Netherlands and
Slovenia (Wind,
Rebecca Wind, the reporter for Guttmatcher Institute who wrote
about the worlds teen pregnancy rates, cited a study done by Gilda
Sedgh. In this study, Sedgh examined pregnancy rates and outcomes
among 15-19 year-old olds and 10- to 14-year-olds in all countries for
which recent information could be obtained and to examine trends

since the mid-1990s (Sedgh, Science Direct). Wind cites Sedgh that
countries like Switzerland have long-established sex education
programs, free family services and low-cost emergency contraception
(Wind). Certainly, sexual education still remains as one of the defining
factors for reducing teen pregnancy.
Comprehensive sexual education programs have various
benefits. It is well documented that they reduce the amount of
unwanted teen pregnancies and the amount of sexually transmitted
infections. The Journal of Adolescent Health conducted a study in 2008,
and they found that although 15-24-year-olds represent only 25% of
the sexually active population, they account for nearly one-half of all
new sexually transmitted infections (Kohler). The Journal of
Adolescent Health concluded that when taught the comprehensive
sexual education program, teenagers were less likely to report teen
pregnancy than those who received no formal sex education (Kohler).
Furthermore, they found that students who were taught abstinenceonly programs did not result in any changes in vaginal intercourse,
but comprehensive sex education was marginally associated with a
lower likelihood of reporting having engaged in vaginal intercourse
(Kohler). According to Advocates for Youth, out of the students that
were taught comprehensive sexual education, forty percent of them

showed a decrease in sexual partner, or [an increase of] of condom or

contraceptive use (Advocates for youth).
The Obama administration was the first to contribute federal
funding towards comprehensive sexual education programs around the
country compared to the more than $1.5 billion given by the federal
government to schools for abstinence-only programs. Specifically,
Obama retracted $10 billion in federal funding that was allocated to
abstinence-only programs across the country, and he increased
funding by $4 million to the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program and
maintained funding for other health organizations. This additional
funding would create programs for communities to support the sexual
health of our nations youth (Boyer by Stone). Seeing that Obamas
second term is shortly coming to a close, however, and Congress has
the ability to debate his budget until October 1st of 2017 (Stone).
Obamas implementation of federal funding shows that if the
government, even at a state level, took action the programs would be
beneficial, and with the backing of the multiple studies mentioned
previously, there is solid evidence that a comprehensive sexual
education would create positive results. It is crucial that the state
government creates legislation that makes comprehensive sexual
education a requirement, so that the United States can further combat
teen pregnancy and sexual transmitted infections. Once Pennsylvania
passes this legislation, public schools would receive the funding to

teach these programs, so it would not create a financial strain on the

schools. Yet, if Congress repeals Obamas budget plan by October
2017, the funding could possibly disappear.
The United States has already begun making progress in the
direction of implementing comprehensive sexual education in multiple
states. To reiterate, as of January 2015, twenty-two states and the
District of Columbia require sexual education programs in public
schools; thirty-three states and the District of Columbia require
students to receive instruction about HIV/AIDS; nineteen states require
that if provided, sexual education must be medically, or factually or
technically accurate (NCSL). Some states have taught inaccurate
information or simply refrained from sharing crucial information that
makes sexual education beneficial. Many schools teaching abstinenceonly programs deny the numbers that indicate comprehensive sexual
education is in fact what prevents teen pregnancy.
Just this October, Jane Adams reported on EdSource that
California is now teaching sexual health education to students in
grades 7-12 in all public schools beginning January 1st, 2016 (Adams).
Their comprehensive sexual education program will combine
education on HIV prevention [] with sexual education [] into a
single, mandatory course of instruction with updated curriculum
(Adams). The new California state law provides for state
reimbursement to the schools for costs that the program entails. If

legislation similar to Californias is enacted in Pennsylvania, the

legislation can require government reimbursement for the public
schools as well. California sets an excellent example for Pennsylvanias
government because it displays that the programs are financially
The most prominent concession of teaching comprehensive
sexual education in public schools is parental consent. Parents feel that
schools could corrupt their children in topics like sexual intercourse,
pregnancy, and other topics possibly included under sexual education.
From a religious perspective, American Life Leagues Stopp
International, believes that schools should not have the right to teach
their children sexual education because you are not going to ask the
schools to teach your religion (Stopp).
Although these are legitimate concerns, the law would have an
exception that allows parents who are uncomfortable with their child
learning comprehensive sexual education in school to opt their child
out. To ease parental concerns, numerous states today require some
sort of involvement for children to participate in their sexual education
programs. For example, thirty-seven states and tshe District of
Columbia require parental involvement in sexual education. Only
three states require each student to gain consent from their parents
prior to teaching the program, and thirty-five states and the District of
Columbia have an option for parents to opt their child out of learning

the program (NCSL). Californias new law also includes an exception for
parental opposition.

Policy Recommendation
Pennsylvania is one of the few states that does not require public
schools to teach any sort of sexual education, let alone a
comprehensive sexual education. The state government needs to
adopt legislation that would require its public schools to do so within
their curriculum. It must be a comprehensive sexual education that
includes contraceptive education because, as previously discussed,
abstinence-only programs are not successful at decreasing the rates
of teen pregnancy or the contraction of sexually transmitted infections.
Pennsylvania government should realize that such legislation
would benefit young people and all taxpayers across the state because
research has shown the marked improvements and benefit
experienced by other states and countries once they have
implemented similar programs. Particularly in light of the fact that the
United States has the highest rate of teen pregnancy in the world, the
importance of sexual education can no longer be denied.
In summary, implementing a comprehensive sexual education in
Pennsylvania would create a safer present and future for students
because it would provide them with the information necessary to make

smarter decisions and consequently reduce teenage sexual activity,

sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancy. With no
uniformly required comprehensive sexual education programs few
teens, the United States has the largest amount of teen pregnancies in
the world. In contrast, countries that have extremely low rates of teen
pregnancies all provide sexual education programs in their schools. It is
obvious that if the United States follows other countries models, it
would begin seeing similar results. The implementation of
comprehensive sexual education programs would affect teen
pregnancy, but it would also have an impact on the amount of money
that taxpayers and government would spend on teenage births. With
comprehensive sexual education programs, teenagers show less active
sexual lives and more condom usage, which corresponds to few
pregnancies and fewer sexually transmitted diseases, necessitating
less funding from taxpayers and other government-funded programs.