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Community Health: Education, Prevention and Inspiration

Empowering people to make healthy, respectful and responsible choices.

National Sexuality Education Standards for Grades K-12

Posted by Tammi A. Tannura -

Parents are the primary sexuality educators of their children, teaching them their values and beliefs related to sexuality. Yet, research shows that the majority of parents of junior high and high school students believe that it is very important or somewhat important to include sexuality education as part of the school curriculum.(1)  That's where the National Sexuality Education Standards play a role.

National Sexuality Education Standards were released in their final form in January of 2012. The goal of the standards is to provide a clear and consistent guide for school districts and teachers to address the basic, core content for sexuality education that is developmentally and age appropriate for grades K-12.

Content areas include:

  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Puberty and Adolescent Development
  • Identity
  • Pregnancy and Reproduction
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases and HIV
  • Healthy Relationships
  • Personal Safety

Looking at this list, someone might ask, "Are you are going to teach my child about sexually transmitted diseases in 1st grade?" The answer to that is a loud "No". Teaching a 1st grader about sexually transmitted diseases is not age or developmentally appropriate. However, healthy relationships are addressed at this age and include identifying the different types of family structures, and describing characteristics of a friend. Pregnancy and reproduction also are addressed at this age to the extent that children would be able to explain that all living things reproduce. Most people would agree that the mechanics of intercourse would not be age or developmentally appropriate for a 1st grader.

One national survey reported that youth receive an average of 17.2 hours of sexuality education throughout their K-12 educational career–that's 3.1 hours in elementary school, 6 hours in middle school and 8.1 hours in high school. This is the only formal sexuality education students will receive unless they go onto college and enroll in a course. The National Sexuality Education Standards provide guidance on the essential minimum for school aged youth.

For more information and to review the National Sexuality Education Standards, go to: http://www.futureofsexed.org/documents/josh-fose-standards-web.pdf

  1. National Sexuality Education Standards, Special Publication of the Journal of School Health, January 2012.


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