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. (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. (10)
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.
What did Louisiana decide to do about sex ed?
Well, nothing really. Like many states that haven’t touched sex-ed since that 1981 bill signing, Louisiana has never required that sex ed be taught in schools. Louisiana legislators seem to have more restrictions on what cannot be talked about in schools rather than what should be talked about.
In 1991 a Louisiana statute was created as an adolescent school health initiative. It would establish health centers in schools. But the statute also prohibited these health centers from discussing abortion options or referring any students to any abortion centers. It also prohibited any contraceptive distribution (2).
It wasn’t until 1993 that Louisiana “passed a law establishing rules for providing instruction in sex education (2).” This piece of legislation is the sex-ed roadmap for Louisiana schools and teachers.
Democratic Representative Pat Smith tried and failed to pass a bill that would have replaced this 1993 statute. Smith’s bill would have made comprehensive sex education a requirement for Louisiana schools (3). The bill was introduced in March of 2018 and was shot down a month later in the committee.
Louisiana does not require that sex ed be taught in its schools. However, there is legislation that defines and restricts what is allowed to be taught regarding sexual health education.
The Louisiana Public Health Institute has a resource showing that sexual health education cannot include the following (4):
- Religious beliefs, practices in human sexuality, nor the subjective moral and ethical judgments of the instructor or other persons.
- Test, quiz, or survey students about their personal or family beliefs or practices in sex, morality, or religion.
- Distribute any contraceptive or abortifacient drug, device, or other similar product at any public school.
- Utilize any sexually explicit materials depicting male or female homosexual activity.
- In any way counsel or advocate abortion
Louisiana also has laws “that prohibit organizations who provide abortions from providing sex education in schools (5).” This means organizations like Planned Parenthood cannot be apart of the conversation or inform students about any other options they might have.
Tell us more about the sex-ed requirements (or lack there of)
Sex education is not a requirement in Louisiana. But it is allowed to be taught in grades 7-12 (4). Parents are allowed to opt their child out if they want. If sex ed is taught, then it does have to be medically accurate.
Sex education in Louisiana only takes into account heteronormative relationships. Louisiana’s sexual health education emphasizes abstinence-only methods until marriage. It does not have to be inclusive of LGBTQ perspectives (1). As stated in the 1993 statute, classes are not allowed to use any materials depicting homosexual activity.
What the kids are actually learning...
According to the 2011 version of the Louisiana Health Education Handbook, the academic standards that are currently being taught in Louisiana include (6):
– 1-H-1.4 Justify why sexual abstinence is the safest, most effective risk avoidance method of protection from HIV, STDs/STIs, and pregnancy.
– 6-H-2.6 Make or renew a personal commitment to remain sexually abstinent.
Abstinence, abstinence, abstinence. That’s what Louisiana youth are being taught is the most effective way to avoid pregnancy and disease. There is little to no space in the classroom to allow any other conversation regarding prevention or methods that are not abstinence-only. Schools are not allowed to distribute any form of contraceptive or counsel abortion.
Any interesting programs/initiatives/legislation in the works or currently running?
The STOP CSE program is a program intended to stop all comprehensive sexual health education programs. According to STOP CSE, they want to “warn parents and policymakers of the serious harms of explicit comprehensive sexuality education programs (7).”
Stop CSE has a 35-minute film titled The War On Children: Exposing the Comprehensive Sexuality Education Agenda. You can watch the film on the Stop CSE website (right here!) and sign their international petition trying to stop comprehensive sex education from spreading worldwide. The film highlights Planned Parenthood as the main culprit harming children with comprehensive sex education.
Then there’s the other side of the coin. The Institute of Women & Ethnic Studies has been hard at work trying to prepare teachers and students with comprehensive sex education.
Creating a Future Together (CrAFT) is one of their initiatives that “addresses gaps and shifting policy in sexual and reproductive health in New Orleans (8).”
They also have the Working to Institutionalize Sex Ed (WISE) initiative which is “a national initiative implemented across 13 states working to develop sex education programming that is high quality and sustainable (8).” This organization has used its initiatives to train teachers and health educators in Louisiana and across the nation on how to best implement comprehensive sex education in the classroom.
Written by: Elizabeth Bergstrom
Edited by: Teri Bradford
Have info to add? Please get in touch!
(1) “Sex and HIV Education.” Guttmacher Institute, November 1, 2019. https://www.guttmacher.org/state-policy/explore/sex-and-hiv-education.
(2) “Sexual Health Education: Lift Louisiana.” Sexual Health Education | Lift Louisiana, 2019. https://liftlouisiana.org/issues/sexual-health-education.
(3) Bill Info – HB499, 2018. https://www.legis.la.gov/legis/ViewDocument.aspx?d=1072286
(4) “Sexual Health Education in Louisiana.” Louisiana Public Health Institute, 2016. https://lphi.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/SHC_Sex-Education-in-LA_Law-13004.pdf.
(5) “Sex Education Laws and State Attacks.” Planned Parenthood Action Fund, 2019. https://www.plannedparenthoodaction.org/issues/sex-education/sex-education-laws-and-state-attacks.
(6) “Health Education Handbook.” Louisiana Believes. Louisiana Department of Education, July 2011. https://www.louisianabelieves.com/docs/academic-standards/health-handbook.pdf?sfvrsn=3.
(7) “Protect Our Children!” StopCSE.org, 2019. https://www.comprehensivesexualityeducation.org/.
(8) “Creating A Future Together (CrAFT).” Institute of Women & Ethnic Studies. Accessed November 2, 2019. https://www.iwesnola.org/craft.
(9) “Louisiana State Profile.” StopCSE.org. Family Watch International, 2019. https://www.comprehensivesexualityeducation.org/wp-content/uploads/LOUISIANA_9.21.18.pdf.
(10) Cornblatt, Johannah. “A Brief History of Sex Ed in America.” Newsweek, March 13, 2010. https://www.newsweek.com/brief-history-sex-ed-america-81001.