Lawmakers are looking to make serious change to the way kids learn about reproductive health and sexuality. Previously, many sex education programs in the United States focused solely on heterosexual relationships and abstinence-only curriculum. But, over the past few months, more than 30 states and the District of Columbia have introduced a whopping 79 sex education bills, and the vast majority of them aim at supporting young people’s sexual wellness, inclusivity, and consent, according to a new policy analysis. Indeed, all of this new legislation supporting reproductive health and rights is a refreshing and much-needed development.
Amid concerns surrounding anti-choice bills being introduced and passed across the nation, the Guttmacher Institute reported this week that lawmakers on the federal and state levels are making moves to “expand the scope of sexual education programs” in schools across the United States to better serve the nation’s young people. Several states have introduced related bills and most of which support the sexual and reproductive health and rights of the American youth, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
Three important focuses of many of these bills, according to the research organization, include sexual consent, healthy, violence-free relationships, and LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum.
Currently, according to the Guttmacher Institute’s policy analysis published on May 13, 12 states and Washington, D.C. have introduced bills that would require sex education to cover sexual consent. For example, according to News 12 New Jersey, New Jersey schools, as of February, are now “required to teach students about consent for sexual activity.” In 2018, according to CNN, only eight states in the entire country had such requirements in place.
The Guttmacher Institute also noted in its report that 55 bills have been introduced in 32 states and D.C. that would require sex education classes to cover healthy relationships and/or violence prevention. Additionally, a total of 18 bills have so far been introduced in 11 states that “would require sex education to be inclusive of the needs of LGBTQ+ student,” the Guttmacher Institute stated in its analysis.
California recently made headlines for overhauling its guidance for teaching sex education in public schools, encouraging teachers to touch on topics like gender identity with kids as young as kindergarten-aged, according to CBS News and The Washington Post. Teachers are also being trained to better support LGBTQ teens, according to the Sacramento Bee, and provide advice on how to deal with relationships and implement safe sex practices.
The state’s new sex education guidelines — introduced and approved by the California State Board of Education on May 8, according to CBS News — also includes advice on discussing other topics like nutrition, preventing injury, and alcohol and tobacco consumption and use.
These positive changes and updated guidances are desperately needed as President Donald Trump’s administration has made “repeated” attacks on “comprehensive and inclusive sexual education” programs, according to Teen Vogue, and as women’s reproductive freedoms are being stripped away across the country.
In this current political climate, which isn’t the friendliest to women or the LGBTQ community, it can be hard to feel hopeful. But news of inclusive and progressive bills passing and being introduced that support those groups, and others, is a bright light in dark times.