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2018 Abstracts

Evaluating the effectiveness of Comprehensive versus Risk-Avoidance Sexual Education Curriculum in Northern Utah

Alyson Rasmussen; Ellen Seely; Valentina Pastrana, Weber State University

In the United States, there are two approaches to sexual education in publics schools: risk-avoidant curriculums; often referred to as "abstinence-only", and comprehensive sex education (Alford, 2001). Currently, Utah educators must follow a state-mandated curriculum and without special permission, it is illegal for health teachers to deviate from the state-mandated curriculum at all (Steadman, Crookston, Randy, & Hall, 2014). As outlined by the state of Utah, educators are only allowed to discuss contraception with written parental permission. In addition, any discussion that appears to advocate, promote, or teach the logistics of contraception is forbidden and punishable by law (Steadman, et al., 2014). The Institute of Medicine found that abstinence-only programs do not reduce high-risk behaviors that put youth at risk for HIV and other STI infections. However, comprehensive sex education was found to be effective and does not have an impact on a teen's first reported intercourse, frequency of sexual interactions, or number of partners (Starkman, 2002). For the purpose of this study, parental attitudes towards the two sexual education curriculums will be evaluated to determine if there is a discrepancy between what is currently being taught in public schools regarding sexual education and reproductive health; and what parents would prefer to be taught to their children. Working in conjunction with a small, urban city health department, a cross-sectional social survey will be disseminated to parents with children under 17 years old in two, northern-Utah counties. Utilizing a social survey to gather qualitative data, parental preferences towards sexual education curriculums will be assessed to determine what Utahans want to be taught in public schools. The findings may be utilized to advocate for more research to be done and for policy changes that will improve sexual heath education in Utah and other states.