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. (5)
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. (5)
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. (5)
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. (5)
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 Nevada…
1987: Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS) 389.065 is the bill that mandates sex-ed!
2017: In March 2017, Nevada Assembly Bill 348 (BDR 34-285) was introduced, but declared exempt. AB 348 was meant to revise “…provisions governing a course or unit of a course of instruction concerning acquired immune deficiency syndrome, the human reproductive system, related communicable diseases, and sexual responsibility.” (BDR 34-285) (1).
2019: In June, the Washoe County School District’s Board of Trustees approved a revised sex education curriculum for high school students. The revised curriculum uses scientific information to update its sex education program. The School District also hosts Parent Evenings so that parents/legal guardians can see what their children will be learning in their S.H.A.R.E. program (4).
Tell us more about the sex-ed requirements (or lack there of)
Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS) 389.065: In 1987 replaces NRS 389.036. This update to the state law mandated that HIV/AIDS and sex education be taught in schools across Nevada, and redefined the requirement of the sex and HIV/AIDS curriculum advisory board (2).
Nevada Assembly Bill 348 (BDR 34-285): In March 2017, Nevada Assembly Bill 348 (BDR 34-285) was introduced, but was vetoed by Governor Brownback. AB 348 was meant to revise “…provisions governing a course or unit of a course of instruction concerning acquired immune deficiency syndrome, the human reproductive system, related communicable diseases, and sexual responsibility.” (BDR 34-285) (1).
Tell us more about the sex-ed requirements (or lack there of)
Both sex education and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) education are required in the State of Nevada. Nevada’s Department of Education provides Health Education Standards to guide curriculum development (3). Core topics that must be addressed are:
- Sexual Health Education;
- HIV Prevention; and
- Sexually transmitted disease (STD) Prevention.
Each school district’s Board of Trustees appoints an Advisory Committee to guide the creation of course content and instructional materials and to recommend the ages of students who will be offered the course. These Committees are made up of five school district parents and four community representatives (selected based on their professional or occupational sectors). In addition to approving the course content recommendations from their Advisory Committees, the Boards of Trustees will also pre-approve the qualifications of the teacher or nurse teaching the courses (2).
Sex education content in Nevada must be age-appropriate, but there are no requirements for it to be evidence-based or medically accurate (3). Topics such as abstinence, contraception, prohibiting abortion, and promoting marriage do not have to be included; however, healthy relationships instruction, covering communication and decision-making skills, must be provided. There are no requirements that sex education must be inclusive or neutral toward LGBTQ+ people (3).
While sex education in Nevada is required, the state has an opt-in policy for students to participate. That means that parents/legal guardians need to give written consent (usually via a signed form) so that their child may attend the course(s). If a school does not receive written consent then the child cannot participate in the course, nor can it affect their academic standing (2). Instructional materials must also be available to parents/legal guardians (3).
What the kids are actually learning
Washoe County School District’s high school has lesson plans for their Sexuality, Health and Responsibility Education (S.H.A.R.E.) program. The lesson plans are available in both English and Spanish, and cover the topics (4):
- Understanding Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
- Making Informed Decisions
- Responsible Use of Technology
- Know Your Options
- Sexually Transmitted Diseases & HIV
- Consent and the Law
Any interesting programs/initiatives/legislation in the works or currently running?
The Nevada Teen Health and Safety Coalition (NTHSC) is a group of organizations, parents, teens, educators, communities of color, healthcare communities and communities of faith who are pushing for age-appropriate, medically accurate, and comprehensive education legislation.
Planned Parenthood Nevada has three locations: Las Vegas West Charleston, Las Vegas East Flamingo, and Fifth Street Health Center in Reno. PP is an accessible, nonjudgmental space that offers sexual and reproductive health resources. The locations offer several resources like these in West Charleston:
- Abortion Services
- Birth Control
- General Health Care
- HIV Testing
- Men’s Health Care
- Morning-After Pill (Emergency Contraception)
- Pregnancy Testing & Services
- STD Testing, Treatment & Vaccines
- Women’s Health Care
Written by: Lindsay Jones Singh
Edited by: Teri Bradford
Have info to add? Please get in touch!
(1) Nevada Assembly Bill No. 348 https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/NELIS/REL/79th2017/Bill/5353/Overview
(2) Nev. Rev. Stat. § 389.036, https://www.leg.state.nv.us/NRS/NRS-389.html#NRS389Sec036
(3) The SIECUS State Profiles: A Portrait of Sex Education in the States, Fiscal Year 2018 Edition, https://siecus.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Nevada-FY18-Final.pdf
(4) “Welcome to Sexuality Health And Responsibility Education (S.H.A.R.E.)” (Washoe County School District) https://www.washoeschools.net/Domain/483
(5) Cornblatt, Johannah. “A Brief History of Sex Ed in America.” Newsweek, March 13, 2010. https://www.newsweek.com/brief-history-sex-ed-america-81001.