Sexual education classes are a critical component of health education, but the content and quality of these curriculums vary widely from state to state. For example, only 22 US states actually require schools to teach sex education. In Alabama, curriculums in much of the state emphasize abstinence-only education and take an outdated approach to LGBTQ topics. Fortunately, new legislation now requires that schools in the state remove inaccurate and stigmatizing language about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from their curriculums.
Previous legislation in Alabama was discriminatory towards LGBTQ individuals and required that curriculums emphasize “that homosexuality is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public” and “homosexual conduct is a criminal offense under the laws of the state.” This previous information was not only biased and unjust but also untrue as the US Supreme Court ruled in 2003 that bans on same-sex activity are unconstitutional and cannot be enforced.
Sexual education courses that condemn LGBTQ people increase bullying rates against students who identify as LGBTQ and damage public health efforts by not offering comprehensive information about serious health risks such as the human papillomavirus (HPV) and related cancers.
This new bill, signed into law by Governor Kay Ivey, is the first step towards establishing accurate and just sexual education curriculums in the state, but teachers and medical professionals alike agree it does not go far enough. As summarized by Human Rights Watch, “Lawmakers should continue to develop and implement comprehensive sexuality education that is age-appropriate, scientifically and medically accurate, and responsive to the needs of all young people.”