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Sex Ed Saves, a curriculum

Sex Ed Saves, a curriculum

ICAH's youth leaders published a new comprehensive sexuality education curriculum for grades 6-12 that aligns with the National Sexuality Education Standards. It's the first curriculum of its kind.

Sex Ed Saves: Amplifying Youth Voice through Sex-Positive Education addresses youth's needs for sexual health, rights, and identities knowledge through a range of interactive and expressive activities that engage all learning styles. Lessons range from anatomy, pregnancy, and reproduction, to media justice, healthy relationships, and advocacy.

This curriculum stands in stark contrast to the bill passed through the US House as part of No Child Left Behind to prohibit funding for programs or materials “directed at youth, that are designed to promote or encourage sexual activity, or normalize teen sexual activity as an expected behavior, implicitly or explicitly, whether homosexual or heterosexual.” The young people who wrote Sex Ed Saves instead emphasize that sexuality should be medically accurate and shame-free rather than stigmatized. Studies have shown that none of the comprehensive programs hastened the initiation of sex or increased the frequency of sex and instead led to increased condom use and “delayed or reduced sexual activity” (SIECUS).

Countless longitudinal studies have proven that quality sexuality education leads to improved health outcomes and perception of self in young people. To that end, this book aims to improve the landscape of sex ed for the benefit of young people in Illinois. Although Chicago Public Schools are implementing medically accurate, inclusive curriculum across the board, the same is not true in the state of Illinois. Illinois does not mandate sexual education at all. When it is taught, according to the Illinois School Code, “honor and respect for monogamous heterosexual marriage” must be taught. This strategy does not work for young people who identify as queer or trans, who are parenting, or who are not monogamous. These challenges inspired the youth leaders who wrote this curriculum to take an inclusive approach, opposing shaming sex ed practices that create a discriminatory school environment.

As one of ICAH’s youth educators and creators of the comprehensive curriculum put it: “Peer Education has the power to create or discover a leader in each youth.” If all Illinois schools taught this innovative curriculum, we’d be another step closer to ensuring all youth are safe, affirmed, and healthy.

What are the National Sexual Education Standards?

What are the National Sexual Education Standards?

On January 9, 2012, four leading health organizations released the first-ever national standards for sexuality education in schools. Published in the Journal of School Health, the ground-breaking National Sexuality Education Standards: Core Content and Skills, K-12 provide clear, consistent, and straightforward guidance on the essential minimum, core content for sexuality education that is developmentally and age-appropriate for students in grades Kindergarten through grade 12.

The standards focus on seven topics:

  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Puberty and Adolescent Development
  • Identity, Pregnancy, and Reproduction
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases and HIV
  • Healthy Relationships
  • Personal Safety

The National Sexuality Education Standards are not a mandate and they are not a sexuality education curriculum. Topics are presented using performance indicators—what students should know and should be able to do by the end of grades 2, 5, 8, and 12—and are based on the National Health Education Standards.

Download the National Sexuality Education Standards now!


The standards are the result of a cooperative effort by the American Association of Health Education, the American School Health Association, the National Education Association Health Information Network, and the Society of State Leaders of Health and Physical Education, in coordination with the Future of Sex Education Initiative. Nearly 40 stakeholders including content experts, medical and public health professionals, teachers, sexuality educators, and young people developed the standards in a two-year process.

The National Sexuality Education Standards were developed to address the inconsistent implementation of sexuality education nationwide and the limited time allocated to teaching the topic. General health education is given very little time in the school curriculum. Even less time is dedicated to sexuality education. According to the School Health Policies and Practices Study, a national survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Adolescent School Health, a median total of 17.2 hours is devoted to instruction in HIV, pregnancy and STD prevention: 3.1 hours in elementary, 6 hours in middle and 8.1 hours in high school. Studies have repeatedly found that health programs in school can help young people succeed academically and programs that included health education have a positive effect on overall academic outcomes, including reading and math scores.


ICAH’s training and education reflect our approach to sexuality education that is medically accurate, developmentally- & age-appropriate, culturally sensitive, trauma-informed, and inclusive of youth with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning identities.

We use the National Sexuality Education Standards to develop the curriculum used in our Peer Education and Adult & Professional Development initiatives. ICAH also uses the National Sexuality Education Standards to inform the support and technical assistance we give to school districts on their sexual health education policies. In February 2013, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) updated its sexual health education policy, based on the National Sexuality Education Standards and developed with the guidance of ICAH and other community partners.


Visit the Future of Sex Ed Initiative website.

Read the American School Health Association post.

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