The Journal of the Unitarian Universalist Association

Americans Support Sexuality Education
By Amy Hoffman
Sidebar to “From Liberation to Health” by Dan Kennedy

September/October 1999

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According to poll released in June by the organizations Sexuality Information and Education Council of the US (SIECUS) and Advocates for Youth, 93 percent of Americans support sexuality education in high schools, while 84 percent support it in middle and junior high schools. In February and March 1999, Hickman-Brown Research, Inc., surveyed 1,050 adults nationwide; research also included four focus groups conducted in April 1999 in Columbia, Maryland, and Charlotte, North Carolina, with parents who live with their school-age children. The poll has a plus or minus three percent sampling error.

“Concern over teenage pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) is transforming the debate over sexuality education in the US to a consensus around public health,” said the press release announcing the poll results.  Nearly three-quarters of the respondents believed that “preventing HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases are public health issues and should be left to scientists and experts not to politicians.”  Seventy percent opposed a federal program, passed as part of the 1996 welfare reform bill, that funds so-called abstinence-only-until-marriage education and prohibits funding for education about the use of condoms and contraception.

Other poll findings include the following:

• Over 80 percent believe young people should be given information about protecting themselves from unplanned pregnancies and STDs as well as about abstinence.

• Over 80 percent reject the idea that educating young people about sexuality encourages sexual activity.

• Support for sexuality education in junior high and high school extends to all groups including conservative Christians.

• Over 60 percent believe that sexual exploration among young people is a natural part of growing up and that the best approach is to provide information and services to help them act responsibly; this includes 44 percent of conservatives.

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