Does Sex Education in the United States need a renewal? 

Sex Education has been a hot topic since its introduction to schools in 1920. Many oppose the teaching of certain sex-related subjects in schools, some going as far as to rebuke sex education entirely. 

Each decade, increasingly comprehensive sex-ed has been provided to most middle-high school students. Depending on where you live, however, your knowledge of topics like STD prevention, pregnancy, and human anatomy can be very limited. These topics are essential in teaching sexual health and should be a higher priority within the U.S. Education system. Students also receive education from a primarily hetero-normative perspective. With this lack of inclusivity, the information that does end up being shared can only help to serve heterosexual students, leaving LGBTQ+ students feeling out of place and lacking in comprehensive sex education. By making sex less stigmatized in schools and being more inclusive to LGBTQ+ students, people could learn how to respond to sexual experiences in a mature, educated manner. 

designed by Anna Pattison

It’s been apparent for years that there is a problem with the way sex is taught to most students, but its important to acknowledge the specific reasons for why sex education isn’t comprehensive enough. One of the main issues is that 37 states require that abstinence be taught within sex education, 26 of those states requiring that it be given heavier focus as opposed to topics like contraceptive options. This raises red flags, for us, and many others. Though abstinence should be taught, it should not be expected that students remain abstinent. By teaching high schoolers that sex is not normal or healthy, which ultimately happens when encouraging abstinence, you are teaching students to be fearful of sexual expression, making it seem unnatural. With lesser focus on the use of contraceptives, students are more-often-than-not left wondering what the best options for them are. 

Along with the seemingly-exclusive promotion of abstinence, students are often taught sex education through a hetero-normative lense. In these same lessons, students are taught about sex with the implication that every student is heterosexual, denoting it as the “normal” sexual experience. This leaves many feeling alienated, often having to rely on outside sources to make educated decisions revolving around sex. When searching for this information on their own, teenagers are prone to being misled through the use of unreliable resources as a way to garner knowledge. Most states do not require or even encourage education around sexual health for the LGBTQ+ community, some going so far as to discourage gay relationships or sexual experiences. Luckily, schools across the country are constantly working on making improvements to all aspects of sex-ed.

The Beaverton School District has worked on improving its sexual health curriculum, which includes our very own Mountainside High School. MHS was the first to pilot SARC’s (Sexual Assault Resource Center), which is used in Health 2. This brings to the forefront issues around gender & sexuality, oppression, bystander intervention, and other important issues.  Even with its constant improvements throughout the years, our sex education can feel quite exclusive to specific groups of students. BSD has a Summary of the Comprehensive Sexuality Education within the district. 

The summary covers several required topics and resources the district provides – and approves of – as well as a statement regarding the importance of inclusivity within each and every schools’ Sex Education program. “The BSD Health Education Program is designed to offer information that results in inclusive spaces and learning environments for all of our students. It is not designed nor intended to exclude anyone. Rather, it offers information that affirms the identities and experiences of all of our students.”

We interviewed a variety of people from Mountainside, including a few students, one of our very own health teachers, and the GSA Club (Gay Straight Alliance) to see how they felt not only about Mountainside’s Sex-Ed program, but health education and Sex-Ed in general and how they feel it could be more inclusive. 

Mrs. Hicks is not only a PE/Health teacher at MHS but she also has been working as the Secondary Health TOSA (teacher on special assignment) these past four years. She has made it one of her goals to improve health education within the Beaverton School District, by facilitating the adoption of new health education standards/learning targets and curriculum. But even with her accomplishments and titles she still recognizes that there could be changes made to the curriculum. 

While our school covers important topics, she mentioned how there was only so much time to provide adequate information and resources. “Our Health 2 course does not spend much time on the reproductive systems. However, we do incorporate a review on contraception. Again, due to time, we focus most of our sexual health unit on SARC’s curriculum.” 

We asked Hicks what changes she would make to the health curriculum, if viable. “More time! I wish Health was a class that students take each year. So many changes from a student’s freshman to senior year. We are trying through our Advisory model to provide more lessons linked to Health (Erin’s Law, Adi’s Act, and Alcohol/Drug Prevention) so that students are getting updated information every year.”

Rebecca Fries and Anna Miller are both juniors who consistently advocate for there to be a show of diversity and unity in their community. We interviewed the both of them to see how they felt about the sex-education program at Mountainside and how they feel like it could be improved. We asked Miller if she felt that our sex-ed program properly covers LGBTQ+ identities, behaviors, and experiences, and while she believes our program is rather inclusive, she also believes there is a definite need for improvement.

“While I think our curriculum is more inclusive than others, we are still lacking. The information is brief and incredibly clinical. Sexuality is a spectrum and a lot of the resources are black and white. For students who are in the closet or questioning – who may not have a community to answer their questions – the curriculum does not provide enough info about healthy sexual practices. In addition, there is not enough talk about the mental health impacts to LGBTQ+ students.” 

We asked Fries a similar but more broad question: Does Mountainside cover enough of a variety in the sex-ed program? “I don’t think our school covers enough about sex education. It seems as though a lot of the time they brush over certain topics and repeatedly preach abstinence. It’s not an education that’s very representative of what happens in life. By broadening the curriculum, more students will feel represented, be understanding of different situations, and students will go out into the world more prepared.” 

There is a common connection between both of their answers. While our program is inclusive, it could still be polished and made more beneficial to students of all identities.

GSA, also known as Gay Straight Alliance, is a club that celebrates the LGBTQ+ community within MHS. We asked them about the representation of all identities within our sex-education. “I do not believe that our school district’s health curriculum covers LGBTQ+ topics. In most health classes, the topic of LGBTQ+ health is usually not covered. The lack of education LGBTQ+ students receive from their schools plays a large part in them testing positive for HIV or AIDS. When teaching sex-education, representation is key. Every person is different, so teaching from one perspective (male and female) concludes without helping most people in the long run. I think sex-education curriculums should be updated to better represent all students.” 

As stated, students who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community are often left out of many parts of the sexual health curriculum. This is why it’s important to highlight what protection and healthy relationships look like for people of all genders, sexualities, and identities. The CDC conducted a National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS) f

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or those who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community and these were the results: “44% of lesbians and 61% of bisexual women experience rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner, compared to 35% of straight women. And 26% of gay men and 37% of bisexual men experience rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner, compared to 29% of straight men.” This is why it is extremely important to provide valuable information to students with different identities. 

A significant amount of students, teachers, and faculty members at Mountainside have all reached a consensus that our sex education needs to be improved. With more information regarding all aspects of sexual health coming to light, the ways in which all school districts can enhance their teaching is endless. Sexual health is vital to all students, whether one chooses to remain abstinent or not. It’s healthy to want to learn more about what sexual expression means to you, especially if your school does not teach sexual health for LGBTQ+ teens. Having a conversation that is comfortable for any and all students will help us to make giant strides in the world of sex-education, working with teachers to change outdated curriculum over time. 



Blanton, Natalie. “Why Sex Education in the United States Needs an Update and How to Do It.” Scholars Strategy Network,  

“‘No Promo Homo’ Laws.” GLSEN,

Stenson, Alyssa. “Why LGBTQ Youth Need Sex Education.”, 14 Feb. 2020,

Villarreal, Alexandra. “’It’s Time to Catch up’: How Ideological Sex Education Fails Texas Students.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 22 Oct. 2020,