Our Model & History

When we debuted in 1998, around a year after the 20th century abstinence⁠ -only mandates in the United States began, there wasn't any other extensive or interactive sex⁠ education for young people, online or offline, we could look to in building our model. We had to start from scratch.

Scarleteen was created out⁠ of an expressed need from young people themselves. Through a sexuality website Heather had created for adults⁠ — one of the only sources of sexuality content online at the time — they began writing in, asking for sexuality information and support. Because there wasn’t anywhere online Heather could refer them to, they used their existing teaching and writing skills, sexuality knowledge and research, design, HTML-coding abilities and heart to provide young people with the help they were asking for.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Once answers to some of those letters were published online, more and more kept coming in, and so Heather, with the help of a few colleagues, built and started running Scarleteen to provide a dedicated, safe source of sex and relationships information and support for young people that’s served around 90 million people since.

Our educational model and philosophy has always been learner-centered, guided by unschooling and the Montessori method, both educational philosophies Heather had felt a strong affinity with and worked in before founding Scarleteen. While our content and approach is original and strongly youth-driven it is also in alignment with current guidelines for comprehensive sexuality education for adolescents such as those suggested by UNESCO (International), the National Health Education Standards (US), SIECUS (US), and Sex and Relationships Education (UK). We also meet the standards suggested in the new American School Health Association's National Sexuality Education Standards: Core Content and Skills, K-12. It is in alignment with the core of most current, quality comprehensive sex education curricula, such as Our Whole Lives, Advocates for Youth's Life Planning Education program, F.L.A.S.H., and the It's All One curriculum, developed by the International Sexuality and HIV⁠ Curriculum Working Group.

You can find out more about our history and model at the links below: