When it comes to the state of sex education in Mississippi and across the country, there’s much work to be done if we want to see real results—more contraceptive use, less young people living with HIV, higher numbers of teens getting information to make informed decisions for their life and health. But how did we get here? Let’s dive into four sex education stats that help explain the limits and opportunities of sexual and reproductive health classes in our schools.
Sex Education Stats You Should Know
High school teachers provide 6.2 hours of sex education on average.
The School Health Policies and Practices Study by the Centers for Disease Control found that high school courses involving human sexuality are severely lacking. On average, there are also less than four hours on pregnancy prevention and sexually transmitted infections. It’s not nearly enough time to build the knowledge that teens need to navigate sexual health.
28 states require sex education to stress abstinence.
As we’ve seen in Mississippi and other states, abstinence-only education limits the factual information that teens receive about pregnancy and disease prevention as well as healthy behaviors. The Sex Education Collaborative also reports that only 17 of 50 states require medically accurate sex education. If we’re not giving a full and true picture of sexual wellness, the cycle continues.
19 states require instruction on the importance of engaging in sexual activity only within marriage.
Looking at the content requirements for sex education, the Guttmacher Institute reports troubling sex ed statistics when it comes to requiring medically accurate, culturally appropriate, and inclusive information—including life skills for healthy teen relationships. By failing to educate youth about setting boundaries, consent, and sexual health outside of marriage, we’re not giving them effective tools to make informed decisions right now.
Fewer than 7% of queer students ages 13–21 report school health classes with positive representations of LGBTQ-related topics.
This statistic from the National School Climate Survey reflects how far we have to go to make sure sex education is inclusive of all students. Today, according to the Guttmacher Institute, “6 states require only negative information to be provided on homosexuality and/or positive emphasis on heterosexuality.” Just like LGBTQ-friendly healthcare, making sex education LGBTQ-friendly is another step toward doing better for teens, especially when it comes to mental health and bullying.
And the Results…
How does the current state of sex education impact youth? Take a look:
21% of new HIV diagnoses are among 13–24 year-olds (Centers for Disease Control)
Young people aged 15–24 make up half of the 20 million new cases of STIs in the U.S. every year (Centers for Disease Control)
75% of pregnancies among 15-19-year-olds are unplanned (Guttmacher Institute)
Sexually active LGBTQ students are twice as likely to become pregnant or get someone pregnant (Reuters)
48% of Mississippi high school students say they’ve had sex, and of those, 44.2% didn’t use a condom the last time they had sex (Youth Risk Behavior Study)
Mississippi has the 2nd highest teen birth rate in the nation (National Center for Health Statistics)
Based on these outcomes, and what we already know about the benefits of comprehensive sex education, it’s past time for a change.
What We Can Do In Mississippi
Pregnancies and rates of STIs and HIV in Mississippi show that we still have an uphill battle for teen health. But not all hope is lost! We can all do better, and we’re here to fight alongside you by:
- Offering training to teachers, healthcare providers, parents, and other youth-serving adults so that teens receive factual and comprehensive sex education
- Advocating for accurate and high-quality sex education through state-level policy
- Working with youth in reaching out to and educating their peers so that sex education is inclusive and meets the needs of diverse students
- Helping teens find youth-friendly and affordable healthcare options
- Making it easy for teens to find and access birth control and STI prevention methods that are right for them
- Directing teens to factual sexual and reproductive health resources that they can access independently
Get Involved Nationwide
If these sex education stats show us anything, it’s that there’s critical work to be done on teen sexual health across the country, in addition to what we’re working on in Mississippi. Want to help?
- Spread the word about the state of sex education in the U.S. during national Sex Ed for All Month every May (and anytime!)
- Learn about sex education policies where you live and reach out to officials, including your local school board, to voice your concerns and what you’d like to see change
- As a parent, bridge the gap by using resources for talking to your children about sexual health, their bodies, and relationships
Despite the challenges and obstacles to providing high-quality sex education in schools, we’re encouraged by the teens, organizations, and officials who are stepping up to voice their concerns. What stats do you want people to know about sex ed for youth? And will you join us?