History, Timeline and Notable Legislation
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. (10)
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.
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 in Oregon…
As a more liberal leaning state, it may not be surprsing to hear that Oregon is one of the 26 states that teaches comprehensive sex ed (CSE)!
Currently, Oregon ranks as the 34th state in teen birth rates, with 57 teen pregnancies out of every 1,000 pregnancies overall (4). The national average is 70/1,000 so comparatively, Oregon isn’t doing too terribly. Hopefully, thanks to Oregon’s comprehensive sex-ed requirements, those teen birth numbers can stay low or eventually go down even lower (4).
Here is some Oregon-specific legislation for you to consider:
2005: ACLU begins to lobby a bill to protect legally those who are transgender, queer, gay, etc, outlawing any form of discrimination or harassment towards LGBTQ+ members.
May 2015 Gov. Kate Brown passed a law prohibiting mental health and social health professionals from practicing conversion therapy if the recipient is under 18 years of age.
June 2015: Gov. Kate Brown passes two bills: one requiring teachers to discuss sexual abuse prevention in grades k-12, and one increasing education on domestic violence in grades k-12 through the Department of Justice.
December 2016: Sex education legislation is passed requiring comprehensive sexual education to be taught in all elementary and secondary schools.
2019: On a federal level, the Trump-Pence administration administered a Gag Rule in which states that received the Title X grant funding would not be able to have clinics talk to patients about abortion options (6). This means that any person going to a clinic would be denied the opportunity to understand all of their medical options. Planned Parenthood is a Title X recipient. Though the state of Oregon was given an ultimatum (call it quits on giveng patients all their options or no money), PP along with some other providers, removed itself from the program. This will likely affect services provided for minors through PP as well, including sex education components (6).
Tell us more about the sex-ed requirements (or lack there of)
Oregon is one of the 26 states that teaches comprehensive sex-ed. Though there technically isn’t proof that every part of Oregon does this, the state does mandate sex-ed and HIV/AIDS education needs to be medically accurate, age-appropriate, and culturally unbiased. There is also an opt-out option for parents, meaning they are notified and can take their children out of a certain lesson.
Topics covered include safe sex, sex risks, STIs risk reduction, healthy relationships, contraception, and abstinence (1,3). They also cover LGBTQ+ content!
Any interesting programs/initiatives/legislation in the works or currently running?
Oregon, like many states, has Planned Parenthood. The trusty, non-judgmental, safe, reproductive health center that offers everything from contraception, STI testings, pregnancy tests, breast exams, cancer screenings, abortions (in some states only or with a time limit), etc. In any state, Planned Parenthood offers volunteer options and even working positions. On a national level, Planned Parenthood Action is a wonderful way to get in touch with what’s going on in the real reproductive rights world.
Reaching out to your local Planned Parenthood can also guide you to more local organizations as well.
(1) Blackman, Kate, and Samantha Scotti. State Policies on Sex Education in Schools. Accessed November 5, 2019. https://www.ncsl.org/research/health/state-policies-on-sex-education-in-schools.aspx.
(2) “LGBTQ Rights.” ACLU of Oregon, June 23, 2017. https://aclu-or.org/en/issues/lgbtq-rights.
(3) Miller, Elizabeth. “Oregon’s New Sex Ed Curriculum Has More Than Just Birds And Bees.” Oregon Public Broadcasting. OPB, June 4, 2019. https://www.opb.org/news/article/oregon-school-sex-education-consent-gender-expression/.
(4)“Oregon.” SIECUS, 2010. https://siecus.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/OREGON-FINAL-2011.pdf.
(5) Parenthood, Planned. “What Is Sex Education?: Sex Ed Definition and QA.” Planned Parenthood. Accessed November 3, 2019. https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/for-educators/what-sex-education
(6) Parenthood, Planned. “What Is the Trump-Pence Administrations ‘Gag Rule?”.” Planned Parenthood Action Fund, March 7, 2019. https://www.plannedparenthoodaction.org/blog/what-is-the-domestic-gag-rule.
(7) “Sex in the States.” Teen rights to sex ed, birth control and more in Oregon – Sex, Etc. Accessed November 2, 2019. https://sexetc.org/states/oregon.
(8) Flaccus, Gillian. “Oregon Breaks 50-Year Tie to Title X Funding in Response to Trump Abortion ‘Gag-Rule.’” The Register Guard. August 27, 2019. https://www.registerguard.com/news/20190827/oregon-breaks-50-year-tie-to-title-x-funding-in-response-to-trump-abortion-gag-rule.
(9) Saul, Rebekah. “Whatever Happened to the Adolescent Family Life Act?” Guttmacher Institute. The Guttmacher Institute , April 1, 1998. https://www.guttmacher.org/gpr/1998/04/whatever-happened-adolescent-family-life-act.
(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.