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Illinois Public Schools Sex Education Study

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Submitted by Jill on Tue, 2008-02-05 19:05

I came across an interesting study on the state of sex ed in Illinois today. Illinois, like most states, receives money from the federal government for abstinence-only sex ed. Some highlights of the study include:

Only 65 percent of teachers who responded to the survey covered the four basic topics required to be rated "comprehensive:" abstinence until marriage or older, HIV/AIDS, other sexually transmitted diseases, and contraception. When the researchers added a widely recommended fifth topic--where to get condoms, birth control and health related services—only 42 percent of sex education teachers passed the comprehensiveness test.

The survey also found that 30 percent of the State's sex-education teachers had never received sex-education training, well above the national average of 18 percent. Although most teachers with training reported that they felt, "very comfortable" teaching adolescents about sex, only 56 percent of those who lacked such training said they felt as comfortable.

The most frequently taught topics, covered by 96 percent of teachers, were HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. Almost 90 percent of teachers covered abstinence. Among those who taught abstinence, 57 percent emphasized that it was the "best alternative," 39 percent said it was the "only alternative," and four percent described it as "one alternative."

Practical skills--such as contraception, condom use, decision-making and communicating with a partner--and morally debated topics, such as abortion or sexual orientation, were among the least frequently taught. Teachers who had not received sex-education training were less likely to spend time on practical or morally debated topics.

Of the 17 topics, emergency contraception was mentioned least, taught by only 30 percent of teachers. Only 32 percent of teachers brought up homosexuality or sexual orientation, 34 percent taught how to use condoms, 37 percent taught how to use other forms of birth control, 39 percent discussed abortion and 47 percent taught students where to access contraception and sexual-health services.

The most common reason for omitting a topic was "not part of the curriculum." Those who omitted condom use, however, most often cited "school or district policy."

I find it especially interesting that emergency contraception was the topic receiving the least coverage. While it's vital to engage in safer sex practices, including contraception, it's also important to know what to do when things don't go as planned. The numbers in this study tell me how important it is to be proactive about educating yourself; it's obvious that schools are leaving out some necessary information.

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