In order to make responsible, healthy decisions, young people need sexuality education that is proven to be effective and will provide the public health information that will keep them safe. Comprehensive sexuality education programs have been found to be effective in delaying the onset of sexual intercourse, reducing the number of sexual partners, and increasing contraception and condom use.
These programs include material that:
is age-appropriate and medically accurate;
does not teach or promote religion;
teaches that abstinence is the only sure way to avoid pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases STDs;
provides comprehensive information about the health benefits and side effects of all contraceptive methods as they relate to both pregnancy and risk reduction for STDs and HIV/AIDS;
encourages family communication about sexuality;
teaches interpersonal negotiation skills for young people; and
teaches young people how alcohol and drug use can affect decision-making;
Over the last decade, the federal government has provided more than $1 billion for abstinence-only-until-marriage sexuality programs in public schools and no money has been earmarked for comprehensive sexuality education programs in such schools. These programs are required to teach only about abstinence and are prohibited from talking about contraceptives—except to talk about their failure rates. Further, they often promote misinformation; ignore the needs of sexually active young people, GLBT students, and HIV positive youth; and use messages about abstinence that are couched in religious rhetoric. On the other hand, comprehensive sexuality education not only teaches about abstinence, but includes: medically accurate information about contraceptives, Information about dating and relationship violence, and respect for all sexual orientations, as part of the curriculum.
A recent congressionally commissioned study found that these programs had no measurable impact on increasing abstinence or delaying sexual initiation. Further, not a single, sound, peer-reviewed study shows that abstinence-only-until-marriage programs have a strong impact on sexual abstinence among young people.
The JCPA believes that public schools have an obligation to provide young people with accurate and effective sexuality education and, therefore, that current, ineffective abstinence-only-until-marriage sexuality programs in public schools should be replaced by comprehensive, medically accurate, age-appropriate sexuality education that does not promote any particular religious viewpoint on sexuality.
The community relations field should support legislation at the state and federal level that provides funding for, and addresses comprehensive sexuality education in the public schools, advocating to have any abstinence only programs broadened to include comprehensive sexuality education.