History + Timeline
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. (8)
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. (8)
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. (8)
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. (8)
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 Kansas…
2010: Kansas begins receiving funding for Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP), a federally designed, evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention effort. Kansas receives nearly $500,000 in PREP grant funding until 2016 (4).
2014: Controversy erupts over a poster titled “How do people express their sexual feelings?” that list activities such as “talking,” “oral sex,” “grinding,” and “vaginal intercourse (5).” Senate Bill 401 is introduced in an attempt to be able to persecute teachers who “recklessly” display material that is “harmful to minors,” amongst other things. More on this below.
2016: Though Kansas’s teen pregnancy rates were declining, they joined seven other states in declining funding for fiscal year (FY) 2016. This would leave PREP programs in the state-funded only until 2017 before they would have to go into a state of limbo (4).
In FY 2018, Kansas doesn’t apply for Title V SRAE funding.
SB 401 was introduced in 2014. This bill was an immediate response to a leaked photo of a poster used in a Kansas middle’s sex-ed program. It was titled “How do people express their sexual feelings?”, and lists 17 activities ranging from talking and handholding to grinding and vaginal intercourse. This bill would amend a current state law that protects approved learning materials, by removing that protection, adding some censorship, then sprinkling in a scare tactic that would allow teachers to possibly be held accountable for any materials they teach. If that sounds ludicrous to you, you’re not alone. The bill failed to come to fruition (5). RIP unlawful censorship. Status: Died in committee in May 2014.
HB 2199 this bill was introduced in 2015 and would change parents’ rights in the sex education of their child. The legislation would require parents to consent to any sex-ed and they would be able to review any materials. The school board would be able to withhold materials from students whose parents didn’t consent. Status: Failed- Adjourned (2).
Tell us more about the sex-ed requirements (or lack there of)
The state of Kansas mandates that sex-ed be taught in its schools, and that’s about all there is to it (3). Really though, Kansas doesn’t mandate HIV education and doesn’t regulate the sex or HIV education when it is taught. That means that, though KS makes sure “physical education, which shall include instruction in health and human sexuality” is taught in elementary school and beyond, the content doesn’t have to be age-appropriate, medically accurate, culturally appropriate, unbiased, or refraining from promoting religion (1). Kansas is also not one of the four (really, ONLY four) states that require LGBT+ inclusive sex education (3). On theme with this laissez-faire approach, Kansas “does not require parental permission for students to participate in health and human sexuality instruction (1).”
Is there anything that Kansas regulates for sex-ed? Well, by the time students graduate from high school, they should know that abstinence is the most important and best way to avoid pregnancy as well as a sprinking of STI info (1). Also, to stay accredited, schools do have to meet minimum “performance and quality criteria” that are decided on by the Kansas State Board of Education (1).
What the kids are actually learning?
Kansas follows the Kansas Model Curricular Standards for Health Education, which “outlines basic competency requirements for public schools (1).” It should be noted that, when they say basic, they mean it. These standards hold benchmarks for what students should learn by Grade 4 (elementary school), Grade 8 (middle school), and Grade 12 (high school).
By 4th grade, students should have gotten some form of “family life and sexuality” education (1). By the end of 8th grade, students should know ways to “reduce risks related to adolescent growth and development,” the low down about male* and female* reproductive organs, and they risks and prevention methods of STIs (1). By 12th grade, students don’t need to know about HIV/AIDS, but do need to know about how important abstinence and abstinent behavior is in reducing “risks” (1).
For more curriculum, we can look at the FY 2018 SRAE programming grant recipient for the state: Kansas State University (KSU). KSU received $414,302 to serve students in grades 7-9 in the Greary County/Junction City area using the “modified SRAE version” of Relationship Smarts PLUS, which is an evidence-based relationships and romance curriculum for youth. This curriculum covers:
- Sexual consent
- Online pornography
- Sexual assault
- Drugs and alcohol – and their impact on relationships
They use the following learning strategies (6):
- A realistic, relevant context for learning.
- An appeal to personal aspirations for love, intimacy, and successful relationships.
- New motivations for behavioral change.
- Empowerment through self-awareness, relationship knowledge, and practical skills
The learning outcomes of the Relationship Smarts PLUS (6):
- Self-awareness: Personal strengths/weaknesses, past influences, goal setting, friendship, peer pressure, maturity, clarifying values, self-regulation.
- Developing healthy relationships: Attraction, building blocks of positive relationships, how to assess relationships, realistic love, low-risk dating, “deciding vs. sliding.”
- Problems, warnings, and dangerous relationships: Break-ups and broken hearts, unhealthy and abusive behaviors, ways to exit safely, boundaries, dating violence, sexual assault.
- Communication and conflict: Danger signs, time outs, anger regulation, the Speaker-Listener Technique, problem-solving.
- Intimacy and sexual decisions: Pacing relationships, what intimacy means, sex in the context of relationships, boundaries, myths of pregnancy, risky situations, and sexual consent, refusal skills, how unplanned pregnancy affects a child.
- Updates to the Success Sequence: how the order of school, commitment, and babies impacts your future
- Social media: The impact of “constant connection,” sexting realities and risks, online porn, personal policies on using social media.
Any interesting programs/initiatives/legislation in the works or currently running?
The national organization Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity (URGE ) has groups in Kansas. In fact, in 2017, Kansas’s URGE group took advantage of an advocacy day at the Kansas State Capitol to propose “LGBT inclusive, medically accurate and appropriate for kids K-12 (7).”
Let’s Talk, Inc. is an inclusive comprehensive sexuality education and outreach organization that provides accessible information to the Kansas community. They have a “Let’s Talk Growing Up” that’s geared towards 5th and 6th graders and their parents. They also give communities in Wichita, Topeka, and Lawrence the opportunity to text in anonymous questions to a nonjudgmental space.
Planned Parenthood has branches all over the nation, including in Kansas. PP has two locations, one in Overland Park and one in Wichita. They offer services including:
– Abortion Services
– Birth Control
– Morning-After Pill (Emergency Contraception)
– Pregnancy Testing & Services
(1) SIECUS. “PDF.” Washington, DC, 2018. https://siecus.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Kansas-FY18-Final.pdf
(2) Blackman, Kate, and Samantha Scotti. “Why Is Sexual Education Taught in Schools?” State Policies on Sex Education in Schools. National Conference of State Legislators, March 21, 2019. https://www.ncsl.org/research/health/state-policies-on-sex-education-in-schools.aspx.
(3) “Sex and HIV Education.” Guttmacher Institute. The Guttmacher Institute, December 3, 2019. https://www.guttmacher.org/state-policy/explore/sex-and-hiv-education.
(4) Marso, Andy. “Kansas Declines Some Federal Sex Education Funds.” Kansas Health Institute. Kansas Health Institute, June 27, 2016. https://www.khi.org/news/article/kansas-declines-some-federal-sex-education-funds.
(5) “Kansas Lawmakers Consider Bill That Would Enable Prosecution of Educators for ‘Offensive’ Material.” National Coalition Against Censorship. NCAC, March 7, 2014. https://ncac.org/news/blog/kansas-lawmakers-consider-bill-that-would-enable-prosecution-of-educators-for-offensive-material.
(6)“Relationship Smarts PLUS 4.0 (Classic).” The Dibble Institute. The Dibble Institute, 2019. https://www.dibbleinstitute.org/relationship-smarts-plus-4-0/.
(7) Dattilio, Natalie. “Kansas Group Working to Change Sex Education in Schools.” WIBW. WIBW, February 13, 2017. https://www.wibw.com/content/news/Kansas-group-working-to-change-sex-education-in-schools-413647503.html.
(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.