Experts Release Updated National Sex Education Standards
The National Sex Education Standards (Second Edition) include updated indicators for consent and healthy relationships, gender identity and sexual orientation, and racial justice and equity.
Today the Future of Sex Education (FoSE) Initiative, a partnership of Advocates for Youth, Answer, and SIECUS: Sex Ed for Social Change, released the second edition of The National Sex Education Standards: Core Content and Skills, K–12 to support educators in providing medically accurate, trauma-informed, inclusive sex education.
The National Sex Education Standards (NSES) outline the foundational knowledge and skills students need to navigate sexual development and grow into sexually healthy adults. The updated NSES reflect advancements in research regarding sexual orientation, gender identity, social, racial, and reproductive justice, and the long-term consequences of stigma and discrimination. Other additions include: advances in medical technology, the emergence of digital technologies, and the growing impact of social and sexually explicit media on relationships.
Inclusive and honest sex education goes beyond delivering information. It provides young people with opportunities to explore their own identities and values along with those of their families and communities. It also allows young people to practice the communication, decision-making, and negotiation skills they need to create healthy relationships—both sexual and nonsexual—throughout their lives.
“Sex education mapped to these standards can help young people delay sexual initiation and use protection when they do become sexually active. It can also help them learn the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships, understand the importance of consent, mutual respect and bodily autonomy, and reduce their risk of sexual violence,” said Deb Hauser, President of Advocates for Youth. “We have the responsibility to ensure curricula are inclusive of diverse gender identities and sexual orientations and that we have honest conversations about cyber bullying, sexting, porn, and being safe online. The National Sex Education Standards provide educators guidance on the core content and skills necessary to effectively educate students on these essential topics.”
“The National Sex Education Standards (Second Edition) provide K–12 teachers and curriculum developers with a dynamic road map for providing young people in schools the essential information they need to become sexually healthy adults,” said Dan Rice, Interim Executive Director of Answer. Discussing contraceptive options and STD transmission, acknowledging young people who identify as LGBTQ, and teaching about consent will result in positive outcomes for young people. When we don’t provide opportunities to have these conversations in safe, affirming, and inclusive environments, we leave young people with an information gap that they often fill with sexually explicit media and pornography. In short, when we don’t provide sex education, we are abdicating our responsibilities to provide young people with the knowledge and skills they deserve.”
“These standards were updated to guide educators in providing sex education that is trauma-informed, inclusive of LGBTQ+ youth, and reflective of principles of reproductive and racial justice. These changes reflect the reality that today’s young people are increasingly diverse and vibrant,” said Christine Soyong Harley, President & CEO of SIECUS: Sex Ed for Social Change. “They deserve information that is not only accurate and up-to-date, but also reflective of their lived experiences. We are thrilled to release this resource, supporting educators everywhere in their efforts to teach sex education that actually works for young people today.”
Advocates for Youth partners with youth leaders, adult allies, and youth-serving organizations to advocate for policies and champion programs that recognize young people’s rights to honest sexual health information; accessible, confidential, and affordable sexual health services; and the resources and opportunities necessary to create sexual health equity for all youth. Advocates for Youth envisions a society that views sexuality as normal and healthy and treats young people with respect. Advocates’ vision is informed by its core values of Rights. Respect. Responsibility.
Answer provides and promotes unfettered access to comprehensive sexuality education for young people and the adults who teach them. Answer envisions a nation in which sexuality is recognized as a normal, healthy part of development and every young person’s right to high-quality sex education is fulfilled. For nearly 40 years, they have helped adults be the best sexuality educators they can be by providing the latest resources, most current information and best practices for reaching and teaching the young people in their lives. Answer is also dedicated to ensuring young people have access to the information they need to be happy, healthy, and safe well into the future.
SIECUS: Sex Ed for Social Change has served as a national voice for sex education for 55 years, asserting that sexuality is a fundamental part of being human, one worthy of dignity and respect. Through policy, advocacy, education, and strategic communications efforts, SIECUS advances sex education as a vehicle for social change—working toward a world where all people can access and enjoy sexual and reproductive freedom as they define it for themselves.