1800s- pamphlets about venereal diseases, overall good hygiene, and the evils of prostitution and masturbation were widely distributed outside of schools.
1913- Chicago attempts to formally introduce sex-ed into their school systems. The Catholic Church helps shut it down.
1914– The American Hygiene Association was founded to teach soldiers about sexual hygiene throughout the war. They would later be involved in creating school curriculums.
1916– Planned Parenthood is founded in New York.
1919– A report from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Children’s Bureau was released that suggested soldiers would have been better off if they had received sex instruction in school. (5)
1920s– resurgence of interest in getting sex-ed into schools.
Between 20-40% of U.S. school systems had programs in social hygiene and sexuality. (5)
1930s– The U.S. Office of Education began to publish materials and train teachers.
1964– The medical director at Planned Parenthood, Mary Calderone, founded the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) in part to challenge the American Social Hygiene Association.
1968– A pamphlet called “Is the School House the Proper Place to Teach Raw Sex?” is widely distributed by Gordon Drake and James Hargis framing sex ed as a way to indoctrinate children into communism. Thus began the scary rhetoric that sex-ed was teaching students to be homosexuals and that teachers were having sex in front of students. (5)
1980s– The AIDS epidemic takes hold. Religious groups use this public health crisis to push their own agenda and convince school board members and legislative officials that abstinence-only sex education was the only way to keep kids “safe.”
1981– President Regan signed the Adolescent Family Life Act (aka the “Chastity Law” –yikes!). This law allowed federal funding to go to abstinence-only programming. And abstinence-only sexuality education (AOSE) and abstinence-only until marriage (AOUM) programming became the norm in the US.
2004: Study is published showing the harms of abstinence-only-until-marriage (AOUM) programs and the importance of investing in comprehensive sexuality education. There are plenty more studies that have been published since reaffirming the same results. (It’s possible there were studies earlier than this, but this was the earliest one we could find. Know of an earlier one? Please get in touch!)
2018: Under the Trump administration, Abstinence-only until marriage (AOUM) is rebranded to be Sexual Risk Avoidance Education (SRAE) (1). More federal funding goes towards pushing these programs.
And now on to Delaware…
2017: Delaware did not apply for federal funds for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs in 2017.
In FY 2018, Delaware chose not to apply for Title V SRAE funds. There were not SRAE grantees (1).
Delaware Administrative Code Title 14, § 851 requires sexuality education as part of health education for kindergarten through 12th grade (1). Click the link! It gives you a breakdown of teaching requirements per grade from Kindergarden through 12th grade. Don’t wanna read the whole thing? No prob. We summarize some of it for ya below.
Tell us more about the sex-ed requirements (or lack there of)
Delaware mandates sex-ed and HIV education from students from kindergarten to 12th grade (2). The curriculum must be taught by an employee of the school district and is overseen by the District Consolidated Application Planning Committee (1). This committee is made up of teachers, parents, school nurses, community leaders, law enforcement, and other community members “with expertise in the areas of health; family life; and safe and drug-free schools and communities (1).”
Unfortunately, it isn’t surprising that the curriculum taught has to stress abstinence as the primary way to avoid high-risk scenarios. What is surprising is that there is a minimum amount of hours students should get for their sex-ed/health education (1):
- Kindergarten-Grade 4 received 30 hours per grade
- Grades 5 and 6 receive 35 hours per grade with 15 being for drug and alcohol education
- Grades 7 and 8 receive 60 hours per grade with 15 being for drug and alcohol education
- Grades 9 – 12 must earn .5 credits of “comprehensive” sex-ed to graduate
While Delaware does mandate sex-ed, it doesn’t have specific requirements when addressing age-appropriateness, medical accuracy, bias/unbias, or promoting religion. The downfall of no regulation means that education likely varies from school to school, and comprehensiveness is difficult to gauge. That said, according to the Guttmacher Institute’s ongoing Sex and HIV Education report as of December 2019, Deleware stresses abstinence in both sex and HIV education but also talks about other forms of contraception like condoms for reducing risks of pregnancy or infections (2). Guttmacher also says that the sex-ed is inclusive, and doesn’t talk about sex as marriage only activity.
In all grades, there is an opt-out policy for parents who may not agree with the content or need their child to abstain for religious reasons.
What the kids are actually learning
As mentioned above, Delaware’s sex-ed curriculum is unregulated, so there is likely great variety here. What we can say is, sexuality education courses must follow the Department of Education’s standards and the Delaware Health Education Curriculum (1). The goal of what’s taught is to encourage students to think critically and remember their goals.
Any curriculum taught must follow the following (4):
- Inclusion of comprehensive sexuality education and an HIV prevention program that stresses the benefits of abstinence from high-risk behaviors.
- Inclusion of the core concepts of nutrition and family life and sexuality implemented through Family and Consumer Science courses.
- Inclusion of research-based fire safety education in grades kindergarten through grade 6.
- Inclusion of evidence-based tobacco, alcohol, drug, and interpersonal violence prevention program.
- The use of effective instructional methods as demonstrated in sound research in the core concepts and skills inclusive of accessing information, self-management, analyzing internal and external influences, interpersonal communication, decision making, and goal setting and advocacy.
- A description of the method(s) used to implement and evaluate the effectiveness of the program shall be reported upon request of the Department.
Confused by all that language? Us too. LIkely, so is the curriculum being taught.
Any interesting programs/initiatives/legislation in the works or currently running?
In 2011, the Delaware Adolescent Sexual Health State Plan from the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Advisory Board put out a state plan that included input from the Teen Pregnancy Roundtable that occurred the year before (4). The plan introduces a health education program, Making Proud Choices!, which focuses on preteens, ages 11-13, as its audience. This program wants to empower youth and help them prevent pregnancy, or HIV and STI infections. It is currently available “through the Alliance for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention (AAPP). It is administered by Christiana Care Health Services (CCHS) and Planned Parenthood of Delaware (PPDE), who provides train-the-trainer courses on the curriculum.”
(1) SIECUS. “PDF.” Washington, DC. 2018. https://siecus.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Delaware-FY18-Final-1.pdf
(2) “Sex and HIV Education.” Guttmacher Institute. The Guttmacher Institute, December 3, 2019. https://www.guttmacher.org/state-policy/explore/sex-and-hiv-education.
(3) Delaware Health and Social Services Division. “PDF.” Deleware. 2011. https://dhss.delaware.gov/dph/chca/files/deyouthshsp.pdf
(4) Deleware Legislature. “851 K To 12 Comprehensive Health Education Program.” 851 K to 12 Comprehensive Health Education Program. Deleware.gov, 2019. https://regulations.delaware.gov/AdminCode/title14/800/851.shtml.
(5) Cornblatt, Johannah. “A Brief History of Sex Ed in America.” Newsweek, March 13, 2010. https://www.newsweek.com/brief-history-sex-ed-america-81001.