Press Release: Off track and headed in the wrong direction: Fewer U.S. Students Receiving Quality Sex Education

Sex education in this U.S. schools still relies on abstinence and leaves many students unprepared and in the dark, according to new research from the Guttmacher Institute that examines sex education from 2006-2013.

The study, released yesterday from the Guttmacher Institute, examined sex education from 2006-2013 and found that fewer students are learning about how to use and where to get birth control and about HIV and STDs.  Perhaps most worrisome, the percentage of young people learning about condoms or birth control before having sex has declined: 43 percent of adolescent females and 57 percent of adolescent males did not receive information about birth control before they had sex for the first time.




Yet, 75 percent of young people received abstinence-only-until-marriage instruction.


“This makes no sense,” said Debra Hauser, President of Advocates for Youth. “Schools are still relying on abstinence-only lessons, putting young people at risk of HIV, STDs, and unintended pregnancies. It’s a violation of their right to lead healthy lives.”


Notably, young people living in lower-income households were less likely to receive instructions about birth control and condoms. Lower-income young people are also at higher risk of experiencing HIV, STDs, and unintended pregnancies. Failing to provide them with the skills and information they need puts them at an even greater disadvantage and endangers their health.


The National Sexuality Education Standards call for age-appropriate instruction in birth control methods, where to find birth control, and abstinence.  It calls for young people to learn strategies for planning to protect themselves, communicating their decisions, and sticking to their plans. Only 21 states and the District of Columbia require that sex education and HIV education be taught in schools. Eighteen states and DC require that information about contraception be taught, while 37 require lessons on abstinence.


“We are failing young people by continuing to ignore the realities of their lives,” said Hauser.  “We need to right the ship, get back on track, and make sure all students receive quality sex education that prepares them to make informed and healthy decisions.”




Advocates for Youth is a national non-profit that champions programs and advocates for policies that help young people make informed and responsible decisions about their sexual health. Advocates’ Youth Activist Network stands 75,000 strong on 1,000 campuses and in tens of thousands of communities.

For Immediate Release  April 15, 2016

Rachel Cooke