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Teens School Sex

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, nonbinary or otherwise gender non-conforming (LGBTQI+) youth and those perceived as LGBTQI+ are at an increased risk of being bullied. Results from the 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) show that, nationwide, more U.S. high school students who self-identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB) report having been bullied on school property (32%) and cyberbullied (26.6%) in the past year than their straight peers (17.1% and 14.1%, respectively). The study also showed that more LGB students (13.5%) than straight students (7.5%) reported not going to school because of safety concerns. Students who identified as "not sure" of their sexual orientation also reported being bullied on school property (26.9%), being cyberbullied (19.4%), and not going to school because of safety concerns (15.5%).

teens school sex

There are important and unique considerations for strategies to prevent and address bullying of LGBTQI+ youth. While some strategies are specifically for LGBTQI+ youth, most, if adopted by schools and communities, make environments safer for all students.

It is important to build a safe environment for all LGBTQI+ youth. Parents, schools, and communities can all play a role in preventing bullying and helping LGBTQI+ youth feel physically and emotionally safe.

Students who believe they have faced discrimination at school based on sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or because they do not conform with sex stereotypes, or for another reason may file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) or submit a report with the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division.

Teen sexual health outcomes over the past decade have been mixed. On one hand, teen pregnancy and birth rates have fallen dramatically, reaching record lows. On the other hand, rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among teens and young adults have been on the rise. Many schools and community groups have adopted programming that incorporates abstinence from sexual activity as an approach to reduce teen pregnancy and STI rates. The content of these programs, however, can vary considerably, from those that stress abstinence as the only option for youth, to those that address abstinence along with medically accurate information about safer sexual practices including the use of contraceptives and condoms. Early action from the Trump administration has signaled renewed support for abstinence-only programming. This fact sheet reviews the types of sex education models and state policies surrounding them, the major sources of federal funding for both abstinence and safer sex education, and summarizes the research on impact of these programs on teen sexual behavior.

The type of sex education model used can vary by school district, and even by school. Some states have enacted laws that offer broad guidelines around sex education, though most have no requirement that sex education be taught at all. Only 24 states and DC require that sex education be taught in schools (Text Box 1). More often, states enact laws that dictate the type of information included in sex education if it is taught, leaving up to school districts, and sometimes the individual school, whether to require sex education and which curriculum to use.

In 2007, a nine-year congressionally mandated study that followed four of the programs during the implementation of the Title V AOUM program found that abstinence-only education had no effect on the sexual behavior of youth.7 Teens in abstinence-only education programs were no more likely to abstain from sex than teens that were not enrolled in these programs. Among those who did have sex, there was no difference in the mean age at first sexual encounter or the number of sexual partners between the two groups. The study also found that youth that participated in the programs were no more likely to engage in unprotected sex than youth who did not participate. While teens who participated in these programs could identify types of STIs at slightly higher rates than those who did not, program youth were less likely to correctly report that condoms are effective at preventing STIs. A more recent review also suggests that these programs are ineffective in delaying sexual initiation and influencing other sexual activity.8 Studies conducted in individual states found similar results.9,10 One study found that states with policies that require sex education to stress abstinence, have higher rates of teenage pregnancy and births, even after accounting for other factors such as socioeconomic status, education, and race.11

There is, however, considerable evidence that comprehensive sex education programs can be effective in delaying sexual initiation among teens, and increasing use of contraceptives, including condoms. One study found that youth who received information about contraceptives in their sex education programs were at 50% lower risk of teen pregnancy than those in abstinence-only programs.14 It also found that teens in these more comprehensive programs were no more likely than those receiving abstinence-only education to engage in sexual intercourse, as some critics argue. Another study found that over 40% of programs that addressed both abstinence and contraception delayed the initiation of sex and reduced the number of sexual partners, and more than 60% of the programs reduced the incidence of unprotected sex.15,16,17 Despite this growing evidence, in 2014, roughly three-fourths of high schools and half of middle schools taught abstinence as the most effective method to avoid pregnancy, HIV, and other STDs, just under two-thirds of high schools taught about the efficacy of contraceptives, and about one-third of high schools taught students how to correctly use a condom (Figure 2).

The Trump administration continues to shift the focus towards abstinence-only education, revamping the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program and increasing federal funding for sexual risk avoidance programs. Despite the large body of evidence suggesting that abstinence-only programs are ineffective at delaying sexual activity and reducing the number of sexual partners of teens, many states continue to seek funding for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs and mandate an emphasis on abstinence when sex education is taught in school. There will likely be continued debate about the effectiveness of these programs and ongoing attention to the level of federal investment in sex education programs that prioritize abstinence-only approaches over those that are more comprehensive and based on medical information.

Same-sex marriage policies were associated with a 7% reduction in the proportion of high school students reporting suicide attempts. The association was concentrated among students who were sexual minorities, who attempt suicide at a rate four times higher than heterosexual teenagers, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Far too many LGBTQ youth are sitting in classrooms where their teachers and textbooks fail to appropriately address their identities, behaviors and experiences. Nowhere is this absence more clear, and potentially more damaging, than in sex education.Sex education can be one of the few sources of reliable information on sexuality and sexual health for youth. Hundreds of studies have shown that well-designed and well-implemented sex education can reduce risk behavior and support positive sexual health outcomes among teens, such as reducing teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection rates.1 For LGBTQ youth to experience comparable health benefits to their non-LGBTQ peers, sex education programs must be LGBTQ-inclusive. Inclusive programs are those that help youth understand gender identity and sexual orientation with age-appropriate and medically accurate information; incorporate positive examples of LGBTQ individuals, romantic relationships and families; emphasize the need for protection during sex for people of all identities; and dispel common myths and stereotypes about behavior and identity.Whether legally barred or simply ignored, LGBTQ-inclusive sex education is not available for most youth. The GLSEN 2013 National School Climate Survey found that fewer than five percent of LGBT students had health classes that included positive representations of LGBT-related topics.2 Among Millenials surveyed in 2015, only 12 percent said their sex education classes covered same-sex relationships.3In qualitative research conducted by Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation, LGBTQ youth reported either not having any sex education in their schools or having limited sex education that was primarily or exclusively focused on heterosexual relationships between cisgender people (people whose gender identity matches their sex assigned at birth), and pregnancy prevention within those relationships.The research also showed that LGBTQ youth have a limited number of trusted adults they feel comfortable talking with about sexual health, so they frequently seek information online or from peers. Much of the sexual health information online is neither age-appropriate nor medically accurate, and peers may be misinformed.Sex education ought to help close this gap. Both public health organizations and the vast majority of parents agree and support LGBTQ-inclusive sex education. Eighty-five percent of parents surveyed supported discussion of sexual orientation as part of sex education in high school and 78 percent supported it in middle school.4 Sex education is a logical venue to help all youth learn about sexual orientation and gender identity, and to encourage acceptance for LGBTQ people and families. When sex education is another area where LGBTQ youth are overlooked or actively stigmatized, however, it contributes to hostile school environments and places LGBTQ youth at increased risk for negative sexual health outcomes. 041b061a72


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