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 Missouri…
2018: Missouri enacts HB 1606, which added the requirement that sex education must include instruction on sexual harassment, sexual violence, and consent.
HB 1606: As shared above, enacted in 2018, this bill added a requirement that sex education must include instruction on sexual harassment, sexual violence, and consent.
HB 2234: Also in 2018, this bill was introduced (and then later dropped, and it’s still currently not on a House calendar) which “requires course materials and instruction relating to human sexuality and sexually transmitted disease to contain information about sexual harassment, sexual violence and consent” (3).
HB 1905: Introduced in 2019, this bill would amend sex-ed laws and add that curricula must be age-appropriate and based on peer review in addition to the current requirements of being medically and factually accurate. It would add certain topics that would help students develop critical thinking and decision making as well. Status? Failed- Adjourned (5). Womp, womp.
SB 713: This bill was introduced in 2019 and would create the Teen Dating Violence Prevention Education Act and provide students the tools needed to prevent and respond to teen dating violence. This content would be added to current sed-ed programming in grades 7-12. Status? Failed- Adjourned (5).
Tell us more about the sex-ed requirements (or lack there of)
Despite being known as the “Show-Me-State,” Missouri’s history of sex isn’t fully transparent. Or shall we say, comprehensive. Here’s the low-down.
Sex education is NOT mandated or required by the state (1). This means it’s optional for public schools to implement sex ed classes. But, HIV education is required (1). Ok, cool. If schools do provide sex ed and/or HIV education, they are legally obligated to meet some requirements, namely: the information must be medically accurate and age appropriate (1). The catch: the information taught is not required to be culturally appropriate and unbiased (say what?!) and is free to promote religion.
Parents are required to be notified that their child will be given sex education, and they can choose to opt-out their child if so desired. Everyone gets their own right to choose, we suppose…
Abstinence must be stressed when it comes to both sex and HIV education (which, school districts can opt to teach abstinence-only. We’re not sure how this also meets the “medically accurate” requirement) Oh, and the importance of sex only within marriage must be included. This means school districts can opt to teach abstinence-only-until-marriage programs (2) Yikes! Also, sex ed must talk about the negative outcomes of teen sex (like pregnancy, for one).
So, as you can tell, it’s all pretty nuanced, and very confusing. But at least in Missouri there is a push to enforce knowledge around consent, and sexual violence and harassment. Missouri’s sex education is required to provide lessons around sexual decision-making and self-discipline, as well as refusal skills and personal boundaries.
What the kids are actually learning
As mentioned above, Missouri mandates that schools teach medically accurate sex-ed and HIV/AIDS prevention education. This education begins in elementary school. If a school chooses to provide additional sex education, Missouri law mandates that it follow these rules (4):
- Be medically and factually accurate
- Present abstinence from sexual activity as the preferred choice of behavior in relation to all sexual activity for unmarried pupils.
- Advise students that teenage sexual activity places them at a higher risk of dropping out of school because of the consequences of sexually transmitted diseases [STDs] and unplanned pregnancy.
- Stress that [STDs] are serious, possible, health hazards of sexual activity and provide updated medical info about exposure to HIV, AIDS, HPV, and other STDS
- Present students with accurate and complete info about side effects and health benefits of all contraception, and the effectiveness for pregnancy and STD prevention
- Alternatively to the above point, schools can present students with info that aligns with the state law.
- Include a discussion of the possible emotional and psychological consequences of preadolescent and adolescent sexual activity and the consequences of adolescent pregnancy.
In 2015, sex-ed rules were amended and now students are taught “the dangers of sexual predators, including online predators when using electronic communication methods” and “the consequences, both personal and legal, of inappropriate text messaging (4).”
Though these are the outlines,it’s hard to say what students are specifically learning because the school board of each school district/charter school determines what the young minds of Missouri learn. One thing that the kiddos won’t be learning? Abortion and anything related to it (4).
Any interesting programs/initiatives/legislation in the works or currently running?
Me too Springfield played a big role in getting consent added to Missouri sex-ed curriculum. Along with their legislative activism, Me Too Springfield also aims to empower people with tools such as comprehensive sex-ed courses and consent training.
Planned Parenthood Missouri has several locations nationwide and continues the work of their national organization by providing non-judgmental sexual and reproductive resources to the community, youths included.
Written by: Kristina Samulewski
Edited by: Teri Bradford
Have info to add? Please get in touch!
(1) “Sex and HIV Education.” Guttmacher Institute, December 3, 2019. https://www.guttmacher.org/state-policy/explore/sex-and-hiv-education?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIxdvtqoGz5gIVFmKGCh2iLAU2EAAYASAAEgL4-PD_BwE.
(2) Parenthood, Planned. “SB 788, HB 2234, HB 2285 Fact Sheet.” Planned Parenthood Advocates in Missouri. https://www.plannedparenthoodaction.org/planned-parenthood-advocates-missouri/issues-legislation/past-session-archive/sb-788-hb-2234-hb-2285-fact-sheet-2018.
(3) “Bill Information.” Missouri House of Representatives – Bill Information for HB2234. https://house.mo.gov/bill.aspx?bill=HB2234&year=2018&code=R.
(4) SIECUS. “PDF.” Washington, DC, 2019. https://siecus.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Missouri-FY18-Final.pdf
(5) 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.
(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.