Review Of School Based Comprehensive Sex Education Shows Little Effectiveness, Finds Increased Sexual Activity

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Mary Margaret Olohan Social Issues Reporter
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  • School based comprehensive sex education shows very little effectiveness, a global research review found. 
  • The review also found that studies of school based sex education found increased sexual activity in some cases.
  • This comes as families across the U.S. protest against explicit sex education programs taught in schools.

A global research review of school based comprehensive sex education programs found very little effectiveness from these programs and instead found increased sexual activity.

The review, conducted by the Institute for Research & Evaluation and published in the Issues in Law and Medicine in January, examined 60 studies of 40 school based comprehensive sex education programs in the U.S. as well as 43 studies of 39 programs in other countries.

The review found “little evidence that [comprehensive sex education] programs are effective at producing positive impact on their participants” and questioned the efficacy of school based comprehensive sex education, according to a press release from the Institute for Research and Evaluation.

“Perhaps of greatest concern, this new analysis found harmful effects on children and youth for roughly one in six school-based comprehensive sex education programs worldwide,” lead author Irene Erickson told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Of the 103 school based comprehensive sex education studies, six studies found evidence of “real effectiveness” at least 12 months after the program without producing other negative effects, the review found. But the review also found no evidence that these six programs increased consistent condom usage or teen abstinence and condom use within the same program. It also found one out of six of these studies was effective at reducing teen pregnancy and one was effective at reducing sexually transmitted diseases.

Conversely, the review found that 16 of the studies showed negative effects on teen sexual behavior and sexual health. This includes 18 increases in teen sexual activity and other risky behaviors.

Negative effects listed in the review include increased pregnancy, increased STDs, increased sexual activity (initiation, frequent or recent sex), decreased condom use, increased oral sex, increased sex partners, an increase in forced or coerced sex, or an increase in paid sex.

“It should also be noted that many factors outside the classroom influence adolescent sexual behavior — factors related to the home, peer, social media, and cultural environments,” the review adds. “Significant and lasting increases in sexual risk avoidance may be amplified by a multi-pronged prevention strategy that addresses these various factors directly.”

The review emphasizes the need for more evidence of effectiveness of school based comprehensive sex education programs, as well as the need for more studies on abstinence only sex education programs.

Comprehensive sex education, according to Planned Parenthood, is a term that refers to K-12 programs covering human development, relationships, personal skills, sexual behavior, sexual health, and society and culture — as opposed to sex education that only focuses on abstinence. Comprehensive sex education examines both sexuality and gender and has come under fire from families nationwide, including in California, Texas, Colorado and Maryland.

“In Virginia, sex education is disguised under the parent-friendly label ‘Family Life Education,'” Family Research Council Director of Human Dignity Cathy Ruse told the DCNF. “As part of the education of eighth graders, one county gives lessons with multiple references to ‘anal sex’ and ‘oral sex.’”

As the review points out, a wide variety of American medical organizations support comprehensive sex education. These organizations include the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and many more, according to the Guttmacher Institute, an institute dedicated to sexual and reproductive health and rights.

The Guttmacher Institute notes that critics of abstinence-only sex education describe it as both scientifically and ethically problematic. Guttmacher also notes that abstinence-only sex education ignores or stigmatizes the needs of some young people and that “strong evidence suggests” that comprehensive sex education helps “to delay sex, and also to have healthy relationships and avoid STDs and unintended pregnancies when they do become sexually active.”

Oksana Kuzmina, Shutterstock.

Oksana Kuzmina, Shutterstock

“High school students get lessons promoting a daily sex drug designed for use by people with multiple sex partners of unknown HIV status,” Ruse said. She was referring to “pre-exposure prophylaxis” (PrEP), a course of drugs taken by HIV-negative people to protect them against HIV infection.

“High school students are also told repeatedly about their right to abortion and about how to get a secret abortion without telling their parents,” Ruse continued. (RELATED: ACLU Told CA Teachers To Help Students Obtain Abortions Without Parental Notification, Video Reveals)

Video footage posted in June 2019 shows the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) instructing teachers on progressive sexual education and gender theory in collaboration with California school districts and Planned Parenthood. The video, released by conservative organization Our Watch and published on June 26, 2019, allegedly depicts ACLU staff attorney Ruth Dawson instructing teachers on how to help students obtain abortions without parental knowledge or consent.

An ACLU spokeswoman confirmed to the DCNF in June 2019 that the ACLU was present at the meeting shown in the video, but maintained that the video was doctored. She did not elaborate on how the video was doctored.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found in October 2019 that sexually transmitted diseases are at an all-time high. Primary and secondary syphilis cases are up by 14% in the U.S., while gonorrhea increased by 5% to more than 580,000 cases, the highest number reported since 1991. Chlamydia rose to more than 1.7 million cases, the most chlamydia cases ever reported by the CDC.

“If the nation’s comprehensive sex education programs were really working, these disease numbers should be trending down,” the president of Family Watch International, a nonprofit pro-family international educational organization, Sharon Slater, told the DCNF.

Slater said that the recent study confirms that President Donald Trump’s administration has “been on the right track” as the administration seeks to decrease funding for sex education programs such as the Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) Program, a national program that funds organizations working to prevent teen pregnancy.

“They’ve attempted to cut funding for comprehensive sex education programs that don’t work and to instead allocate more funding to sexual risk avoidance abstinence programs that do,” Slater said. “Unfortunately, the courts have overruled the administration and Congress just recently also voted to continue funding for [comprehensive sex education].”

“The evidence is in,” Slater said, adding:

“Based on these numbers, we estimate that U.S. taxpayers have wasted over a billion dollars in the past 10 years funding failed [comprehensive sex education] programs. Hopefully this study will help convince Congress that it’s time to pull the funding.”

The Institute for Research & Evaluation is a Utah-based nonprofit research organization that focuses on sex education research, particularly on abstinence education interventions.

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