Beyond the Birds and the Bees

This is not your mother’s sex ed

California’s new Healthy Youth Act sex education law is giving educators the legal backing to teach what some believe the state should have been doing all along.

Health educator Leticia Jenkins says that the state should provide sex ed that:


  • Is medically accurate and current

  • Is unbiased

  • Does not promote religion

  • And is inclusive of all sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions

Where you go to school dictates what kind of sex ed you get. Today, only about half of US states require it to be taught.

Guttmacher Institute

When sex ed is taught, more than a third of states require instruction that stresses abstinence.

Guttmacher Institute

Jenkins believes that California’s law, which is more exception than norm, empowers young people to talk honestly and openly about a subject that is often considered taboo.

CNN Digital

The new curriculum must also include:

  • Contraceptives

  • Teen pregnancy and STD prevention

  • Consent, sexual harassment and relationship abuse

Today, the percentage of never-married teens who report having become sexually active is lower than in previous generations.

Still, two out of every five high school students will become sexually active by the time they graduate.

CNN Digital

Teen pregnancy rates are at a record low, but significant racial/ethnic, income and geographical disparities exist.

National Center for Health Statistics/Rates per 1,000 women aged 15–19

For Jenkins, sex education should ultimately not only include what young people need to know to make healthy decisions, but take seriously what young people want to know.