The Main Sex Education Programs Taught in Schools

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There are two basic types of sex education classes, and which is taught depends on what your state or local school district mandates. Your teen will either be learning the Comprehensive Sexuality Education or the Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Program.

These programs represent two completely different schools of thought. You must know what your child is learning so you can be sure that the information is complete, accurate, and reflects your family's values. You want to be sure that you are prepared to answer questions your teen may have.

Comprehensive Sexuality Education

Comprehensive Sexuality Education is a program that starts in early childhood and continues through high school. It teaches that sexuality is a natural, normal part of healthy living and brings up age-appropriate sexuality topics.

Comprehensive Sexuality Education covers the broad spectrum of sex education, including:

Comprehensive Sexuality Education includes accurate medical information on sexually transmitted infections and HIV. And although abstinence is addressed, this curriculum also emphasizes strategies to reduce the risk of unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.

Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Program

Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs emphasize abstinence from all sexual behaviors. It teaches that sexual expression outside of marriage could have harmful psychological, social, and physical consequences.

Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs do not discuss:

  • Contraceptives
  • Sexually transmitted infections
  • Masturbation
  • Abortion

Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs may address using condoms, but they emphasize the failure rates of using them. 

Supplementing Sex Ed at Home

You'll want to fill in any gaps in your teen's knowledge. For example, the school's sex education program may focus on birth control and safe sex without addressing the emotional issues that accompany becoming sexually active. Or, it may not fully address topics of sexuality you want your child to know about.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost half of all teenagers become sexually active between ages 15 and 19.

Almost 20% of teens do not use birth control the first time they engage in sexual intercourse, and this is a statistic that has not changed over time.

The sex education curriculum will give your teen a foundation to form questions and have conversations with you. They will bring examples from class that you may not agree with, or they may share things that their peers have said.

Sex education shouldn't only be about having "the sex talk." Instead, it should be a series of open conversations over the course of many years. As your teen matures, they will have more questions about sex. You may be the source of answers if you make it comfortable for your teen to bring you questions.

3 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Hall KS, McDermott sales J, Komro KA, Santelli J. The state of sex education in the United States. J Adolesc Health. 2016;58(6):595-7. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2016.03.032

  2. ACOG Committee Opinion No. 678: Comprehensive Sexuality Education. Obstet Gynecol. 2016;128(5):e227-e230. doi:10.1097/AOG.0000000000001769

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexual activity and contraceptive use among teenagers aged 15–19 in the United States, 2015–2017.

Additional Reading

By Denise Witmer
Denise Witmer is a freelance writer and mother of three children, who has authored several books and countless articles on parenting teens since 1997.