A new sex education bill would reward programs that reject gender stereotypes, reach out to LGBT students, and teach a range of birth control methods.
It’s almost as if Congress is doing something right for once.
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) reintroduced the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act on Valentine’s Day. The bill would give grants to state and local education agencies, nonprofit organizations, and universities to fund comprehensive sex education programs — ones that would include information about birth control, LGBT sexuality, emotional health, and other aspects of sex-ed:
The bill requires programs to emphasize emotional skills and the development of “healthy attitudes and values” about issues like body image, gender identity and sexual orientation. All teaching would be “age and developmentally appropriate.”
Strict standards would apply to funded programs. None could “promote gender stereotypes,” be “insensitive and unresponsive” to LGBT students, or “deliberately withhold” information about HIV.
By rewarding more comprehensive programs, the bill would indirectly tackle some of the most crucial gaps in sex education in the United States:
“The bill does a lot of important things — it’s a big bill,” Sarah Audelo, the Domestic Policy Director for Advocates for Youth, explained to ThinkProgress. “There’s a lot to be covered, and a lot of resources that young people need that they’re not currently getting.”…
Right now, sexual education standards vary widely across states. Just 12 states mandate that sexual health curricula must be medically accurate — which means that young people across the country are receiving false information about birth control’s effectiveness, the right way to prevent STDs, and the way that HIV is transmitted.
Some provisions of the curriculum are deliberately aimed at ensuring long-term change in how young people access and use information about sexual health:
One section requires that curricula refer interested students to local clinics for more information about sexual and reproductive health. In practice, those clinics could include Planned Parenthood centers.
Under another section, certain programs would be required to report information about their students’ sex lives to federal health officials, including age of first intercourse, number of sexual partners and contraceptive use.
The bill isn’t without its challengers. On the same day, Illinois Reps. Randy Hultgren (R) and Daniel Lipinski (D) re-introduced the Abstinence Education Reallocation Act, an antagonistic bill that would give greater funding to abstinence-only sex education programs:
“Teens often remark that they wished more adults believed they were capable of making healthy decisions,” said National Abstinence Education Association President Valerie Huber in the press release. “These congressional leaders are sending teens a strong message of their support and the passage of this bill will amplify that support by providing practical skills for them to succeed in achieving optimal sexual health.”
That bill’s sponsors denounced the progressive sex-ed bill, saying that it “provides harmful messaging that puts teens at risk by suggesting that condoms make sex safe.” Right… Because, as we learned from Mean Girls: Don’t have sex. You will get pregnant and die.