Missouri leaves a lot of room for interpretation in its state statutes around sexual health education. There is no mandate that schools to provide sex education and is amenable to both Teen Pregnancy Prevention and Abstinence Only programs, as well as anywhere in between. Decisions about the depth of sex education that students receive is left up to the school board. In practice, this means that students across the state get wildly different education.
We wanted to see what this looks like in the St. Louis area. TPPP recently produced a report on current sex education policy in the St. Louis-area public school districts, which includes results from a survey with youth about their experiences with sex education. The report, St Louis-Area Sex Education: Policies Practices Experiences (which can be downloaded here [insert link]) will help TPPP in providing highly relevant professional development programming, and support efforts for advocacy around evidence-based and medically accurate sex education.
This survey was given to 55 students in the St. Louis region. These teens were disappointed with the sex education they received in school. They don’t feel that sex education gets enough time during the school day. This means that there isn’t time dedicated to the topics that teens report wanting more education on: LGBTQ+ topics, consent, and healthy relationships.
All St. Louis-area schools surveyed failed to meet NSES guidelines and only 1/3 of them met MSEP guidelines. Students at the schools with more comprehensive education policies reported learning about more than their peers without those policies. These results remind us that, although the teen pregnancy rate continues to decline, sex education is an essential part of teen’s education experience. It is essential that we continue to work with our stakeholders and partners to advocate for Missouri teens.