Sex Education: To be or not to be, an elective?

High school is a very important time in people’s lives because it sets the foundation and guides what direction a person’s life will go. According to developmental theory, high school is the time where students are trying to understand their placement in society as well as their own individual self. In high school, students gain more freedom to choose which classes to take based on a particular interest. Students take a certain number of mandatory classes and then can fill the rest of their schedule with electives. Mandatory classes are the basic classes like English, history, and math. Students have to take a certain number of math classes and can make their way up to advanced math classes where they learn calculus and beyond. If students can learn calculus, then why can’t students learn sex education?

Sex is something that everyone will most likely experience, yet, many schools around the US there is no class or preparation for how to engage or protect yourself. Sex education should be an elective for high schools students in all schools, and the class should be a guide towards the basic information about safe sex practices, sexuality, orientation, and how to communicate with partners about sexual activity. According to Levesque (2000) “schools must address sexuality as it would any other important subject that prepares youth for their future and for immediate societal participation” (p. 954). If schools  educate teachers on how to educate and communicate with students by giving them skills and tools to help educate, then schools can educate students on how to communicate and develop healthy sexual relationships. Educating high school students about basic information dealing with sexual intercourse, beliefs, and communication skills can ensure that teens are ready and prepared to engage in sex.

In today’s day and age, sex education is not being taught in many schools because of debates among politicians, parents, and school districts. The debate is over teaching sex education or not teaching sex education, and among the people who are for teaching sex education they debate between abstinence only education and comprehensive education. King (2012) stated “sex education has important benefits other than increased knowledge, it results in changes in behavior” (p.184). Students having sex education can help influence a change in teens behavior about safe sex practices as well as educating them on the possible outcome. Educating students on sex can help kids make healthy choices when deciding to engage in sex.

I personally feel teens should be taught comprehensive education because at some point in time, the teen will engage in sexual activity. Finkle and Finkle (1985) stated:

The rationale behind formal instruction in sex education is that increased knowledge about human reproduction, sexual behaviors, and contraception could dispel misconceptions, myths and half-truths while encouraging more informed, responsible decision-making about individual sexual activity and behavior; and it will help to create satisfying interpersonal relationship (p.48).

As an educator and parent, we want our children to have the best education. Why is sex education excluded? As a teenager, some students are in the mindset of setting a foundation for the academic future. Why not educate students on sexuality?  Many teens in the country are interested in learning about sex education. Sex education can guarantee that students are getting accurate information about all aspects of sexuality. If students are interested in taking sex education as an elective, I believe they should have a class as an option.  

Why do students have an option to take chemistry as an elective or join Reserve Officers Training Corporation (ROTC) as an extracurricular activity? High school ROTC programs teach military skills, which can include physical training and gun education and usage. With so many school shooting, why are politicians, parents, and school districts not discussing removing the ROTC programs from school because the training is causing school violence. (I honestly, do not believe ROTC is responsible for school shootings, but it is the same principal.) Something that is potentially harmful to our students is already in the school system and something that can help them is not allowed. It make no sense. The ROTC program is in high schools because it gives high school students a glimpse of what a career in the armed forces is like. The exposure and preparation is the same principal to have sex education class as an elective to high school students, the class will give needed information to students to make positive decisions about sex and it various outcomes.


Finkle, M. & Finkle, S. (1985). Sex education in high school. Society, 23 (1), 48-52.

King, B. M. (2012). The need for school based comprehensive sexuality education: Some reflection after 32 years teaching sexuality to college students. American Journal of Sexuality Education. 7 (3), 181-186. doi 10.1080/15546128.2012.707070

Levesque, R. J. (2000). Sexuality education what adolescents’ educational rights require.  Psychology of Public Policy and Law. 6 (4), 953-988. doi 10.1037//10746-8971.6.4.953

5 responses to “Sex Education: To be or not to be, an elective?

  1. This is an awesome read! I wish parents would stop treating sex education like it’s and realize that it also encompasses other aspects that are not the verb sex. So many young people are trying to learn where they are with their sexuality.

  2. Well I am sold! PREACH! I never thought about sex education as an elective! In taking Sex Ed in the Schools last semester we discussed a lot about abstinence only and comprehensive sex education and how the different sex education mandates vary by state. There is one great gray area, abstinence plus, and some states will allow pieces of comprehensive ed to complement a curriculum that focuses on abstinence but provides some alternatives or at least doesn’t have the shaming or religious language that some abstinence curricula have. Before reading this, I had only considered sex education and all its health and biology factors as the minimum required course all states have – about 12.5 hours in 4 years is the minimum and some states meet that and consider their work done. I think offering an elective is a fantastic idea and a way to reinvigorate the movement towards getting all states to teach comprehensive sex education. Well done!

  3. What an awesome idea! And though it doesn’t guarantee that all students will get the information, at least some will be getting it correctly. I wonder what the difference between getting a course like this approved as an elective would be, vs. getting a 2 week unit in a health class (that covers AIDS and abstinence). I’m on board, let’s start this as a movement! And in many cases, the popularity of the class could lead to districts rethinking their current requirements

  4. Great argument! Al Vernacchio teaches a senior elective at the Friends Central School, and he can go in-depth about many different subject with his students. Former students say that his elective course definitely had a positive and permanent impact on their lives. I think there’s something empowering about making sex education an elective (as opposed to a required year-long or semester-long intensive) because it gets to be the students’ choice. Students behave differently in the classroom when they have elected to be there in the first place.

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