History + Timeline
Abstinence has been the name of the game to sway young people from pregnancy, STDs, and AIDS since the 1980s (Thanks Reagan!). In 2017, Indiana Code 20-30-5-13 became the official document outlining the state’s rules for teaching sex education. More on this below. First, a brief timeline for ya.
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. (10)
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.
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. (10)
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. (10)
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 Indiana…
1980’s: Indiana’s single teen pregnancy rate increased by 26% which was more than double the national increase.
1996: Social Health Association received a grant from the newly created Indiana Project Respect for community programs and training in abstinence-based education.
2011: The Youth Risk Behavior Survey, a statewide report, was published, concluding that abstinence-plus education was important. The pregnancy prevention program “Making a Difference!” was created soon after this report was released. It is also abstincence education.
2017: Indiana Code 20-3-5-13 on “Instruction of human sexuality or sexually transmitted diseases” was created. This code says that in the instruction, “the best way to avoid sexually transmitted diseases and other associated health problems is to establish a mutually faithful monogamous relationship in the context of marriage.”
2018: Senate Enrolled Act 65, the “opt-out” law was put into effect. Meaning, parents could opt their kids out of sex ed.
According to the Indiana Department of Education, in July of 2018, Senate Enrolled Act 65 (the “opt-out” law) took effect, requiring schools to ask parents for consent before teaching their children about human sexuality. There are a lot of mixed feelings on this new law as some say it’s unnecessary while others see it as a way for parents to be involved in their child’s education. Indiana Senator Dennise Kruse, a facilitator in this law, acknowledged that it has no effect on the actual material being taught, but instead just makes it so parents are aware.
In a student news article, a member of Carmel High School in Indiana said that she doesn’t see any benefit in the law because the material in which people can opt-out isn’t comprehensive. She sees no point in opting out of a class that doesn’t teach relevant sex ed in the first place. While this could be a step in the right direction, it may also allow parents to see sex-ed as a waste of precious school time, deciding instead to just look everything up on the internet when the time comes.
Tell us more about the sex-ed requirements (or lack there of)
In Indiana, it is not a state requirement to teach sex ed. Instead, it is up to each school district to decide. That means the almost 300 different districts could be teaching almost 300 different versions of sex-ed (or none at all!). The only instruction that is required by Indiana is regarding HIV/AIDS. For schools that decide to include sex-ed in their curriculum, abstinence is what students will be taught. The information does not necessarily have to be medically accurate or reviewed. As of recently, if schools do teach sex-ed, students and parents can now opt-out of these classes.
What the kids are actually learning...
According to the Indiana Department of Education, accredited schools are required to teach abstinence outside of marriage, including the notion that abstaining from sex is the only way to prevent unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases or infections. HIV/AIDS and STIs are addressed in an abstinence-only fashion, because, under that logic, if you don’t have sex, you can’t get a sex-related infection. These expectations may seem wildly unrealistic, but much of the United States doesn’t acknowledge the importance of comprehensive sex education, as you are likely learning if you are reading through all the states here on allbodies.
According to the Indiana Department of Education, Indiana Code 20-30-5-12 (listed above) outlines three rules for teaching sex-ed if a school decides to do so. First, teachers must stress abstinence as this is the expectation of all school-aged children. Second, they must teach abstinence as the only sure way to prevent pregnancy, AIDS, and STDs. Lastly, they must teach that the best way to avoid all sexually transmitted diseases is to be in a mutually faithful monogamous relationship within marriage.
According to the CDC, however, in 2017 teachers in Indiana schools tried to get the word out about sex. They wanted to increase their students’ knowledge about sex-related topics. For human sexuality, STIs, and HIV/AIDS prevention, the CDC reports that about 80-90% of Indiana schools attempted to increase their student population’s knowledge of these topics. While as a state Indiana seems rooted in its ideas about sex-ed, educators and those who can make a difference might actually be looking to create some changes.
Any interesting programs/initiatives/legislation in the works or currently running?
Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky supports young people through comprehensive sex education. Sara and Albert Reuben Partners in Health Education are Planned Parenthood’s education program. It provides families, schools, and community groups with comprehensive sex ed classes. You can find out more here or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Indiana University Health Center has a program called “Sexploration: Promoting Safe, Responsible Sexual and Reproductive Health.” Through this program, young people can join events or make appointments to talk about their sexuality, safe sex, and other sex-related topics. The program works closely with the Sexual Health Advocacy Group (SHAG) which is a student-run group aimed to promote sexual and reproductive wellness. The program’s main goal is to promote an inclusive, engaging environment that allows young people a chance to explore their sexuality.
Under Indiana University’s Center for Sexual Health Promotion, Bloomington’s Sex Salon offers people monthly gatherings where speakers talk all about sex research, advocacy, and education. The group is most active on their Facebook Page.
The same center also hosts The Bisexual Research Collaborative on Health (BiRCH) which is dedicated to research on the health needs of bisexual individuals and those in similar communities. They also have a Facebook page.
Written by: Clare McCammon
Edited by: Teri Bradford
Have info to add? Please get in touch!
(1) “Adolescent and School Health.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, November 1, 2019. https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/.
(2) “Analysis of State Health Education Laws: Indiana Summary Report.” PDF File. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, December 2017. https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/about/pdf/summary_report_factsheets/Indiana.pdf
(3) “Education & Training.” Center for Sexual Health Promotion. Accessed November 10, 2019. https://sexualhealth.indiana.edu/education-training/index.html.
(4) Indiana General Assembly. “Indiana General Assembly.” Indiana Code 2018 – Indiana General Assembly, 2019 Session. Accessed November 8, 2019. https://iga.in.gov/legislative/laws/2018/ic/titles/020/#20-30-5-13.
(5) “Indiana University Bloomington.” Sexploration: IU Health Center. Accessed November 7, 2019. https://healthcenter.indiana.edu/wellness/sexploration.shtml.
(6) Rekhter, Misha, and Raiha Zainab. “Let’s Talk About Sex. . . Education: With New Sexual Education Laws in Indiana, CHS Students, Staff Debate State of Sex Ed at Our School.” HiLite. Accessed November 10, 2019. https://hilite.org/60112/recent-updates/lets-talk-about-sex-education-with-new-sexual-education-laws-in-indiana-chs-students-staff-debate-state-of-sex-ed-at-our-school/.
(7) “The History of Teen Pregnancy Prevention.” Lifesmart Youth. Accessed November 8, 2019. https://lifesmartyouth.org/resources/pregnancy-std-prevention-resources/the-history-of-teen-pregnancy-prevention/.
(8) Cornblatt, Johannah. “A Brief History of Sex Ed in America.” Newsweek, March 13, 2010. https://www.newsweek.com/brief-history-sex-ed-america-81001.