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Age-appropriate, medically accurate and comprehensive sex education provides young people with the information they need to protect themselves and make healthy life decisions. Comprehensive sex education encourages abstinence while also teaching students the facts about how to prevent unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Research has shown that comprehensive sexual health programs that combine messages about abstinence and contraception are effective. Leading medical and public health organizations support a comprehensive approach to sexual health education, including: the American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Medical Association, among many others.
What is comprehensive sex education?
Comprehensive sex education provides unbiased and medically accurate information about a broad variety of topics including:
- Growth and Development
- STDs/STIs Prevention
- HIV/AIDS Prevention
- Healthy Relationships
- Decision-making and Negotiation Skills
- Sexual orientation
In 2007, the Washington State legislature passed the Healthy Youth Act (HYA), which went into effect September 1, 2008. This state law requires public school districts that are providing sexual health instruction to ensure that the curriculum is comprehensive and medically accurate. Abstinence-only education is no longer compliant under the new state law. Below, you can read more about the Healthy Youth Act, the guidelines set forth by The Department of Health and Office of the Superintendent as well as additional information on abstinence-only education.
Unfortunately, the Healthy Youth Act does not include a mechanism to hold school districts accountable for updating their curriculum. It is up to organizations like NARAL and advocates within the schools, including parents and community members, to ensure that local schools are implementing the law and utilizing a comprehensive and medically-accurate curriculum.
NARAL Pro-Choice Washington has worked to ensure compliance with this state law. In 2008, NARAL, in collaboration with the Healthy Youth Alliance, reached out to school districts across the state to find out which schools are in compliance with the law, which of those school districts are taking steps to improve curricula, and which school districts are not taking steps to improve on or expand current sexual health curricula. See survey results here.
In 2009, the Washington legislature renewed their commitment to comprehensive sex education by passing the Proven Programs Act. This new law provides the Washington State Department of Health and other state agencies the discretion in applying for federal Title V abstinence-only funding to make sure that any federally accepted dollars for sex education only be used for programs that meet the Healthy Youth Actís requirements.