Source: The Associated Press
Federal grants meant to help monitor teens’ sexual behaviors and try to lower rates of teen pregnancy and STDs are now being rejected by state and county agencies as sex education in America is under attack from Republicans.
According to the Associated Press, at least a dozen state or county agencies rejected tens of thousands of dollars in federal grants. This comes as many states with Republican-led legislatures have new laws that strictly regulate when and what students learn about their bodies.
These new laws are part of a broad push to enforce so-called “parents’ rights” and to take LGBTQ+ content out of schools. In North Carolina, this has led to legislation requiring teachers and school administrators to “out” students to their parents and it bans lessons about gender identity and sexual orientation.
Experts are worried that with all the different standards and laws regarding sex education, students as a whole won’t all be given reliable information about adolescence, safe sex or domestic violence. These topics are now especially important since sexually transmitted diseases jumped after the COVID-19 pandemic and access to abortion is being severely restricted in large swaths of the country.
Fewer teens are sexually active, according to a 2021 government survey, but federal data that year also suggest teens and young adults made up half of all people with STDs.
In North Carolina and Indiana, Republican lawmakers passed bans on teaching about human sexuality – such as gender identity, sexual activity, or sexuality – in grades kindergarten through fourth grade. In Arkansas, teaching about sexual reproduction or sexual intercourse is banned before fifth grade. In Kentucky, students can’t learn about sexuality or STDs before sixth grade; even then, parents still need to consent. Some states require parents to opt their child into instruction instead of opting out.
In Florida, any lessons about reproductive health, human sexuality and STDs for any grade must be approved by state officials.
These restrictions in early education could end up preventing kids “from getting age-appropriate foundational knowledge that they build on each year,” Alison Macklin, director of policy and advocacy at the progressive sex education organization SIECUS, told the AP.
“You were never going to teach a first grader a trigonometry lesson, right?” she said. “But they have to have foundational knowledge in first grade to be able to get to that in high school.”
“Sex education is exactly the same,” Macklin continued, suggesting young people aren’t prepared for puberty if they haven’t already learned “foundational things like correct terminology for body parts.”