A new set of sexual education guidelines have been released by a coalition of health and education groups, which says that young elementary school students should use the proper names for body parts and, by the end of fifth grade, know that sexual orientation is "the romantic attraction of an individual to someone of the same gender or a different gender."
The non-binding recommendations by Advocates for Youth to states and school districts are to be used to formulate school curricula for each age level, with the goal of giving schools the opportunity to build a foundation that in the long term will better help teens as they grow into adults, writes Kimberly Hefling at the Associated Press.
One of the reasons why the guidelines were collated was because of the inconsistency in the teaching of sex education in schools.
By the end of second grade, the guidelines say students should use the correct body part names for the male and female anatomy. By fifth grade, the guidelines say students should be able to define sexual harassment and abuse.
When they leave middle school, they should be able to differentiate between gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation, and those leaving eighth grade to also be able to evaluate the effectiveness of abstinence, condoms and other "safer sex methods" and know how emergency contraception works.
Valerie Huber, executive director of the National Education Abstinence Association, said she does not agree with the topics and goals of the standards:
"This should be a program about health, rather than agendas that have nothing to do with optimal sexual health decision-making," Huber said.
"Controversial topics are best reserved for conversations between parent and child, not in the classroom."
This comes after officials announced that Washington D.C. public schools and public charter schools will start administering a 50-question sexual education test to 5th-, 8th-, and 10th-grade students.
Executive director of MetroTeenAIDS, Adam Tenner, welcomed the new test, saying that most health education programs in schools remain seriously deficient.
"We are not preparing teachers or students to get good, high-quality sex and reproductive education," Tenner said.