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3 March 2008

USA: Sex education in Illinois

This study set out to identify predictors of comprehensive sex education in public schools.

Using a three-stage design, 335 sex education teachers from a probability sample of 201 schools in 112 Illinois school districts were surveyed regarding the 2003-2004 school year. Coverage of at least all of the following topics constituted ‘comprehensiveness’: abstinence, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and contraception. A logistic regression model identified predictors of comprehensiveness.

Representing 91.3% of sampled schools, the teacher survey response rate was 62.4%. The most frequently taught topics included HIV/AIDS (97%), STDs (96%), and abstinence-until-marriage (89%). The least frequently taught topics were emergency contraception (31%), sexual orientation (33%), condom (34%) and other contraceptive (37%) use, and abortion (39%). Abstinence-only curricula were used by 74% of teachers, but 33% of these teachers supplemented with ‘other’ curricula. Overall, two thirds met comprehensiveness criteria based on topics taught. Curricular material availability was most commonly cited as having a ‘great deal’ of influence on topics taught. Thirty percent had no training in sex education; training was the only significant predictor of providing comprehensive sex education in multivariable analysis.

The authors concluded that Illinois public school-based sex education emphasises abstinence and STDs and is heavily influenced by the available curricular materials. Nearly one in three sex education teachers were not trained. Obstetrician-gynecologists caring for adolescents may need to fill gaps in adolescent knowledge and skills due to deficits in content, quality, and teacher training in sex education

Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois 60637, USA. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

What schools teach our patients about sex: content, quality, and influences on sex education. Lindau ST, Tetteh AS, Kasza K, Gilliam M. Obstetrics and Gynecology. 2008 Feb;111(2 Pt 1):256-66.

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