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Comprehensive Sexuality Education

We can deliver our prevention messages about healthy sexuality to many audiences but one of the most common is to youth in schools. When taking this approach there are a few things to consider -- What guidelines are out there to guide the work? How do we get buy-in from schools? What tools will you use?

The Healthy Youth Act

In Washington State we are fortunate to have a few tricks up our sleeves when it comes to promoting healthy sexuality. Public schools that choose to offer sexual health education must assure that all information and curricula are in compliance with the Guidelines for Sexual Health and Disease (2005) and the Healthy Youth Act (2007).

  • There are several aspects of the state guidance that will align naturally with our sexual violence prevention work:
  • Appropriate for all students regardless of age, culture, gender, race, disability status, or sexual orientation
  • Encourage and improve communication
  • Address the impact of media and peer messages
  • Promote the development of intrapersonal and interpersonal skills including a sense of dignity and self-worth, communication, decision-making, assertiveness, and refusal skills
  • Recognize and respect people with differing personal and family values
  • Encourage the development of healthy relationships and avoid exploitive or manipulative relationships
  • Promote healthy self-esteem, positive body image, good self-care, respect for others, caring for family and friends, and responsibility to community

Understanding Sex Ed

For most of us, sexual health may not be our primary focus area but we need to learn the lingo and the approaches in order to integrate this into our healthy sexuality and violence prevention work.

Below are two helpful tools from SIECUS (Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States) to learn more about the terminology and core concepts of comprehensive sexuality education:

  • Guidelines for Comprehensive Sexuality Education: Kindergarten- 12th Grade is a thorough document that provides insight on the goals of sexuality education, qualities of effective programming, and suggested content areas to focus on. Additionally, the messages are labeled in the guide by developmental levels. The guide identifies key concepts of comprehensive sexuality education: Human Development; Relationships; Personal Skills; Sexual Behavior; Sexual Health; and Society and Culture. Within each key concept there are about half a dozen topic areas (see page 18 for a listing) and one of these topic areas is specifically on sexual violence. In fact, the prevention of sexual violence is woven throughout the guide.
  • The Community Action Kit is a valuable tool to consult when starting to learn about healthy sexuality strategies. In the toolkit there is information on the basics of sexual education, research around effectiveness of programming, how to debunk common sexuality myths, working with school boards & policy makers, templates for engaging the media, and much more.

Choosing a Healthy Sexuality Curriculum

WCSAP’s Curricula Guide can be a good place to start looking for curricula to use. You may use a curriculum in entirety or pull from several sources to make a custom approach. Either way, it’s important to assess whatever tools you choose to make sure they are a good fit for your community.

While there are evidence-based sex education curricula available, many do not necessarily connect directly to sexual violence. However, there are some that are more compatible with the healthy sexuality approach to sexual violence prevention. One of the promising curricula of this type is FLASH (Family Life and Sexual Health).

The FLASH series of comprehensive sexuality education curricula were created right here in Washington State! Lesson plans are provided for youth in grades 4-6, Middle School, High School, and youth ages 11-21 in Special Education classrooms. Several of the lessons are free to download. These curricula comply with the Healthy Youth Act and address established root causes of sexual violence.

Related Content

The Fall 2009 of PISC, WCSAP's prevention publication, is dedicated to working with schools and the Healthy Youth Act!

Additional Resources

Check out the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance's Healthy Sexuality for Sexual Violence Prevention: A Report on Promising Curriculum-Based Approaches for an in-depth review of several healthy sexuality curricula.




Reviewed: February 7th, 2018