On March 15th, SIECUS (Sexual Information and Education Council of the United States) released the latest edition of Alabama’s State Profile of Sex Ed. The document includes up-to-date information on current sex ed policy in Alabama, recent and upcoming legislation that impacts access to sexual health resources and education, data from the CDC on school health programs/practices, and the latest results from Alabama’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS).
We recommend reading through the entire profile for a deeper understanding of the current political landscape surrounding sexual health education in our state. That being said, we also wanted to give you some highlights:
Regarding Current State Law:
- Sexual Health education is NOT mandated in the state of Alabama
- If schools teach sexual health, then they must emphasize abstinence and introduce the latest medical information regarding contraceptives
- If a school teaches about LGBTQ+ identities, the law states that it cannot provide false nor stigmatizing information
- In addition to this policy, Alabama State Code Section 16-40A-2 sets minimum requirements for what must be taught in sexual health education courses:
- Course materials and instruction that relates to sexual education or STDs should be age appropriate and medically accurate.
- Course materials and instruction must emphasize the importance of self control pertaining to sexual behavior,
- Course materials and instruction must include statistics based on the latest medical information indicating the reliability and unreliability of various forms of contraception
- Parents/Guardians may remove their children from instruction pertaining to “disease, its symptoms, development and treatment” if the content is in conflict with their religious belief
This particular state policy, though lackluster, allows for ambitious and passionate teachers or community educators to teach comprehensive sexual health education in schools. Yet, without a mandate, there is little to no funding for professional development nor resources to teach inclusive curriculum. Qualitative research from the Human Rights Watch, illuminates what this policy looks like in practice: students receiving either abstinence-only curriculum, which is often cloaked in fear and shame, or students receiving no instruction at all.
Unfortunately, this legislative session has brought bills that would threaten the possibility of delivering inclusive, age-appropriate comprehensive sex ed in schools. House Bill 7 prohibits public entities from promoting certain “divisive concepts related to race, sex, or religion.” The bill also allows for the discipline or termination of employees who violate the act. House Bill 6 would add to existing parental rights law that there is the “fundamental right of fit parents to direct the education, upbringing, care, custody and control of their children.” These bills are NOT signed into law, they are still being discussed and voted on by the state legislature. To watch their movement or take action on these bills, you can sign up for our legislative updates, call your legislators, and/or figure out what is being taught at your school and engage with your local school board.
Finally, SIECUS’s state profile details the impacts of the current policy on young people across Alabama by providing data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey results from 2021 and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s School Health Profiles from 2020.