One of the most controversial elements of the public school curriculum is that of sex education. Parents, religious groups, teachers, and teens all have varying opinions about the need for such instruction, along with the content of any program approaching this subject. This is no less controversial in the Commonwealth of Virginia, where the state Board of Education standards suggest-but do not mandate-age and grade-appropriate presentations that promote marriage, postponing sexual activity, adoption in the event of an unwanted pregnancy, and other topics of human sexuality and human relationships (SIECUS, 2010). Despite this state-level support, local school boards have the authority to determine all decisions on school curricula on human sexuality as long as they develop such programs with community involvement from parents, medical professionals, and religious groups (Virginia Department of Education, 2011). This paper takes the position that providing high quality sex education in the public schools results in greater likelihood of meeting the state standards specified above, and provides substantial benefits for teens in terms of reduced sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and reduced teenage pregnancy rates. .
As noted above, the Commonwealth of Virginia has suggested several goals for sex education programs developed by local school boards. These goals include reducing teen pregnancy, reducing STD rates in teens, and postponing sexual activity. Can sex education programs achieve such goals in general? The evidence in the scientific literature indicates that the answer to that question is yes. For example, a 2006 study of Texas middle school students participating in a sex education program designed by medical school professionals found that these students expressed an intention to delay sexual activity until after high school (Sulak et al.) In this case, the local school board wanted to develop a sex education curriculum and turned to the obstetrics/gynecology department of an academic medical center for help in designing the program.