Education Standards

The World Health Organization defines sexual health as “a state of physical, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality. It requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence.” At HYRI, we use this model as well. For our coalition, sexual health needs to be addressed in a comprehensive, holistic fashion that doesn’t just focus on teen pregnancy prevention, but addresses ALL the pieces that lead to full sexual well-being. To this end, we find it important to be up to date with local and national standards around sexuality education. If you have a resource to add or want to suggest a correction, please contact us!

SIECUS Guidelines for Comprehensive Sexuality Education

Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) is a lobbying organization and advocacy group dedicated to sex and sexuality education, sexual health, and sexual rights. SIECUS believes that comprehensive school-based sexuality education should be part of the education program at every grade. Such programs should be appropriate to the age, developmental level, and cultural background of students and respect the diversity of values and beliefs represented in the community. Comprehensive school-based sexuality education complements and augments the sexuality education children receive from their families, religious and community groups, and health care professionals. The Guidelines are modeled after the landmark School Health Education Study (SHES) published in the late 1960s. SHES developed an innovative approach to structuring health knowledge by identifying broad concepts and related subconcepts and then arranging these in a hierarchy for students.

National Standards for Sexuality Education

From the Future of Sex Education website: “The goal of the National Sexuality Education Standards: Core Content and Skills, K–12 is to provide clear, consistent and straightforward guidance on the essential minimum, core content for sexuality education that is age-appropriate for students in grades K–12.” These are presented both by topics/areas and grade level.

Click here to download the National Sexuality Education Standards PDF.

On a related note, here are the National Teacher Preparation Standards for Sexuality Education (read: standards for who should be TEACHING sexuality education). At that link, there are also many more tools for implementation.

Rhode-Island Specific Standards

thrive, Rhode Island’s Coordinated School Health Program (CSHP) was developed in 1994 with funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and designed to prevent serious health problems and to improve educational outcomes. The RI Department of Education and the Department of Health collaborate on this initiative to “help create safe, healthy, and nurturing schools that reduce barriers to learning.” Please click the following links to visit their pages on HIV, Sexuality, and Health Education, which include information about what’s going on in Rhode Island, as well as fact-sheets and many other relevant resources. Some of the following text is copied directly from the thrive website.

Health Education

Health education teaches about physical, mental, emotional and social health. It builds students’ knowledge, skills, and positive attitudes about health. Health education motivates students to improve and maintain their health, prevent disease, and reduce risky behaviors. In addition, health education promotes learning in other subjects. One study showed that reading and math scores of third and fourth grade students who received comprehensive health education were significantly higher than those who did not. In general, healthy students learn better. Numerous studies have shown that healthier students tend to do better in school; they have higher attendance, have better grades, and perform better on tests.

Requirements and outcomes: Health Education is required for all students in grades 1-12 according to RI General Laws. Students should receive an average of 100 minutes per week of health and physical education. This does not include recess, free play, or after-school activities. Specific requirements for health education are outlined in Sections 3, 4 and 5 of the Rules and Regulations for School Health Programs, and you can find the general framework for health education by clicking here.

Sexuality Education

Sexuality education is a component of RI’s health education plan and it includes human growth and development; personal skills; relationships; disease control and prevention; sexual health and behavior; family life; and societal and cultural issues. RI standards seek to address the complexity of sexuality, which encompasses emotional, physical and social changes and factors. It includes gender, gender identity, body image, and sexual orientation. Sexuality and family life is one of seven content areas presented in the RI Comprehensive Health Instructional Outcomes (PDF).

Requirements and outcomes: Of the aforementioned PDF, pages 34-38 address family life and sexuality education outcomes. Pages 39 to 48 cover diseases and their prevention, and the content includes sexually transmitted infections.

Freedom from Discrimination, Bullying, Dating Violence, Etc.

The Rhode Island Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education Basic Education Program Regulations addresses the need for supportive and nurturing school community in section G-14-2. This section includes safety of both adults and students, and requires the appropriate prevention and response to threats of harm (both actual and implied), as well as all incidents of bullying, hazing, teen dating violence, sexual violence, and any other relevant issue. This document, in section G-13-1 addresses the health literacy requirements for comprehensive health instruction. In 2008, the same board published a guide to preventing bullying, teen dating violence, and sexual violence in RI schools, accessible here.


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