A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows enormous differences in school health practices between and within states—particularly for practices key to the well-being of LGBTQ students.
HRC, in partnership with Planned Parenthood, SEICUS, ANSWER, Advocates for Youth and GLSEN, recently issued a call to action highlighting the exclusion of LGBTQ experiences from sex education. The report cited research showing that LGBTQ youth in schools with inclusive sex education curricula were more likely to feel safe at school and less likely to be harassed for their gender or sexual orientation. Moreover, inclusive sex education has been shown to reduce risk behavior and improve sexual health outcomes among students.
The CDC data, collected in 2014, offer further evidence of the need for inclusive sex education. In San Francisco, more than eighty-five percent of secondary schools report having sexual health curricula, or supplementary materials, that are LGBTQ-inclusive. Unfortunately, no other metro area studied tallied over seventy percent. In the worst-performing area—DeKalb County, Georgia—under six percent of schools have inclusive curricula. Statewide, New York ranked highest, but just fifty-six percent of schools there are inclusive.
LGBTQ students aren’t the only ones put at risk by inadequate sex education. The CDC measures sixteen topics that make up a comprehensive curriculum, from condom use instruction to strategies for healthy relationships. In California, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and Vermont, at least seventy percent of high schools offer fully comprehensive (though not necessarily LGBTQ-inclusive) lessons. All other states fare worse, down to only twenty-one percent in Arizona.
School health goes far beyond sex education, and includes creating safe and supportive communities. The CDC tracks several practices that make schools safer for LGBTQ students, such as whether the school is linked with healthcare providers that serve LGBTQ youth and whether it encourages professional development on LGBTQ topics. In one heartening change, the median proportion of each state’s schools that foster a “safe space,” such as an LGBTQ student group, has increased to sixty-one percent—improving on the 2012 median of fifty-four percent.

For more information on the need for LGBTQ-inclusive sex education, visit hrc.org/sex-ed.

Filed under: Health & Aging

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