US

CDC: Sex-ed programs on the decline, 46 percent of US high schoolers sexually active

Meghann Myers Contributor

Only 39 percent of Alaskan public high schools provide students with information about condom use, which might explain why Levi Johnston’s latest girlfriend is unexpectedly pregnant.

In a report released Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention crunched numbers from 2008 to 2010 on the percentage of public middle and high schools in 45 states that require comprehensive sex-education programs for students.

The resulting report showed that 46 percent of American high school students are sexually active. But fewer American adolescents are learning about ways to avoid pregnancy and contracting sexually transmitted diseases than in previous years.

Eleven states reported teaching less about eleven sex-education topics in middle schools. For the eight high school topics, the percentages didn’t budge much from the CDC’s previous report two years ago.

The CDC recommends comprehensive sex education programs that minimize the risks of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases that go hand-in-hand with sexual activity.

“Previous data show that despite progress in reducing adolescent sexual risk behaviors over time, risk among this population remains far too high and may be plateauing,” said CDC spokeswoman Jennifer Horvath.

The CDC compiles these School Health Profiles every two years by asking principals and health education teachers to report whether their curricula include coverage of a range of “essential topics.”

“Although the exact recommended topics differ for middle and high schools, they generally include basic information on [disease] transmission and diagnosis, communication and decision-making skills, and for high school students, condom use,” Horvath said.

Alaska’s high school curriculum scored a 45 percent rating overall, the lowest score on the list. Delaware (93 percent), Maryland (92 percent) and New York (92 percent) were the top three, but blue states weren’t the only ones to earn high marks. Kentucky and West Virginia scored 90 and 91 percent, respectively.

Only Nevada and Delaware showed any significant improvement in their high school programs since 2010. Because survey responses are voluntary, states that do not consistently return their surveys from year to year are not included in the study. This year Colorado, Georgia, Louisiana, New Mexico and Illinois fit into that category.

“Previous data show that despite progress in reducing adolescent sexual risk behaviors over time, risk among this population remains far too high and may be plateauing,” Horvath said.

Though sexual education programs are created and regulated by state education departments, the federal government provides some funding.

The George W. Bush administration observed a strict policy of funding only programs that focused on abstinence as a sex-education program. In 2010, however, Congress eliminated two abstinence-only funding programs and created two new ones to promote a more comprehensive curriculum.

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