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. (6)
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. (6)
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. (6)
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. (6)
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 Maine…
2017: Maine receives $67,500 for its Division of Adolescent and School Health funds and Personal Responsibility Education Program funds totaling $250,000 (1).
2018: Under the Trump administration, Abstinence-only until marriage (AOUM) is rebranded to be Sexual Risk Avoidance Education (SRAE) (1). The Office of Administrative Hearings refuses to fund Teen Pregnancy Prevention Programs that are Tier 1 (evidence-based, medically accurate, and age-appropriate).
Makes a lot of sense, no?
Maine Revised Statutes Annotated Title 22, §§ 1902 and 1910: the standing law in Maine that mandates that the state’s Department of Health and Human Services “undertake initiatives to implement effective, comprehensive family life education services (1).”
Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 22 § 1902: Introduced in 2019, this amendment to the current sex-ed bill (listed above) defines comprehensive family life education as “education from kindergarten to grade 12 regarding human development and sexuality, including education on family planning and sexually transmitted diseases, that is medically accurate and age-appropriate (2).”
Tell us more about the sex-ed requirements (or lack there of)
The state of Maine mandates sex-ed and HIV education for grades K-12 that is medically accurate and age-appropriate (3). There are no guidelines requiring the curriculum to be culturally sensitive, unbiased, or taught without promoting religion (3). There is also no emphasis on being LGBT+ inclusive (boo!), so we aren’t seeing a full comprehensive sex-ed here. However, getting medically accurate sex-ed is no easy job, so we have high hopes for Maine to have full comprehensive sex-ed in the future! At the current moment, parents can opt their children out of sex-ed courses if needed or desired (3).
Part of Maine’s move towards comprehensive education is getting the state to a place where it can support such teachings. Through current laws, the state is required to provide (1):
1) “Training for teachers, parents, and community members in the development and implementation of comprehensive family life education curriculum;”
2) “Resource staff persons to provide expert training, curriculum development, and implementation and evaluation services on a statewide basis;”
3) “Funding to promote and coordinate community youth forums in communities identified as having high needs for comprehensive family life education;”
4) “Funding for issue management and policy development training for school boards, superintendents, principals, and administrators; and “
5) “Funding for grants to school-based comprehensive family life education programs to recognize outstanding performance and share strategies for success.”
What the kids are actually learning
According to the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the US (SIECUS) report from 2018, Maine has no specific curriculum that each school district has to follow (1). If every school district is teaching something different, how are we to know how comprehensive the sex education truly is? That’s the downfall of lacking consistency in sex-ed across the state and the nation.
While the curriculum itself is not mandated, SIECUS reports that the programs must teach “abstinence, healthy relationships, contraception and family planning, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and conflict resolution (1).”
While developing the curriculum, school districts use Maine’s Health Education Standards guide, which is based on the National Health Education Standards (1). Using this guide, sex-ed programs establish their performance indicators. It should be noted that these standards were established in 2007, and have not been updated since. The indicators for grades 9-12 are the following (4):
A. Health Concepts
- Healthy Behaviors and Personal Health
- Dimensions of Health
- Diseases/Other Health Problems
- Environment and Personal Health
- Growth and Development
- Basic Health Concepts
B. Health Information, Products, and Services
- Validity of Resources
- Locating Health Resources
C. Health Promotion and Risk Reduction
- Healthy Practices and Behaviors
- Avoiding/Reducing Health Risks
D. Influences on Health
- Influences on Health Practices/Behaviors
- Technology and Health
- Compound Effect of Risky Behavior
E. Communication and Advocacy Skills
- Interpersonal Communication Skills
- Advocacy Skills
F. Decision-Making and Goal-Setting Skills
- Long-Term Health Plan
G. Movement/Motor Skills and Knowledge
- Stability and Force
- Movement Skills
- Skill-Related Fitness Components
- Skill Improvement
- Physical Fitness Activities and Knowledge
- Fitness Assessment
- Health-Related Fitness Plan
- Fitness Activity
- Physical Activity Benefits
- Personal and Social Skills and Knowledge
- Cooperative Skills
- Responsible Behavior
- Safety Rules and Rules of Play
Any interesting programs/initiatives/legislation in the works or currently running?
Maine Family Planning is the long-running family services organization in Maine. They began in 1971 as the Family Planning Association of Maine, and over time developed into the amazing resource it is today (5). It’s education department specifically works on delivering high-quality sexual and reproductive education, and offers resources such as LGBTQ+ healthcare tools(5). Maine Family Planning offers training, workshops, and even contact info if you have a question you’d feel better having answered by a human (5). All in the name of reproductive freedom!
Written by: Teri Bradford
Have info to add? Please get in touch!
(1) SIECUS. “PDF.” Washington, DC, 2018. https://siecus.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Maine-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 Legislatures, 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) Maine Department of Education. “RTF.” Augusta, ME, 2007. https://www.maine.gov/doe/sites/maine.gov.doe/files/inline-files/HE%20%26%20PE%202007%20on%20standards%20on%20website.rtf
(5) “About Us.” Maine Family Planning. Maine Family Planning, 2019. https://mainefamilyplanning.org/about-us/.
(6) Cornblatt, Johannah. “A Brief History of Sex Ed in America.” Newsweek, March 13, 2010. https://www.newsweek.com/brief-history-sex-ed-america-81001.