Guidelines for the Sexual Health Education Component of Comprehensive Health Education


In this section:

boy and girl smiling at school

The purpose of the Guidelines for the Sexual Health Education Component of Comprehensive Health Education (CT Guidelines) is to provide a framework to promote the sexual health and wellbeing of Connecticut’s children and youth within a comprehensive health education program. The CT Guidelines offer guidance to local school districts for the development and implementation of sexual health education that reflects the values and norms of the local community. Sexual health education programs include age-appropriate, medically accurate information on a broad set of topics related to sexuality, including human development, relationships, decision-making, abstinence, contraception, and disease prevention (SIECUS, 2010). These developmentally appropriate programs start in prekindergarten and continue through Grade 12. The overall goal of sexual health education is to provide young people with the knowledge and skills to promote their health and well-being as they mature into sexually healthy adults (SIECUS, Guidelines, 2004).

The CT Guidelines contain information and resources to assist administrators, teachers and parents/guardians in:

  • making the connection between sexual health and student health and education outcomes; 
  • implementing district and school policies that support medically accurate sexual health education programs that address the health needs of all students; 
  • identifying desired curriculum goals, objectives and student outcomes; 
  • developing an effective PK-12 sexual health education program using developmentally-appropriate, medically-accurate and evidence-informed curricula and resources; 
  • implementing a sexual health education program using evidence-informed curricula, effective teaching strategies, and student assessments delivered by certified health education teachers appropriately trained in sexual health education; and 
  • evaluating the implementation of program goals, objectives and student outcomes.

The CT Guidelines provide direction for implementing sexual health education. These CT Guidelines are aligned with the content standards and performance indicators identified in the State Board of Education’s Healthy and Balanced Living Curriculum Framework and arebased on the  National Health Education Standards and the National Sexuality Education Standards. In addition, the CT Guidelines are supported by several state-level documents, including the Department of Public Health (DPH) Adolescent Health State Strategic Plan and the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) Guidelines for a Coordinated Approach to School Health ( CSH Guidelines).

Health and the Impact on Student Success

As educators have long realized, students’ overall health and well-being contributes directly to their ability to learn. “Research studies over the past decade have consistently concluded that student health status and student achievement are directly connected and, in fact, that student health is one of the most significant influences on learning and achievement” (CSBE, 2009).

Addressing health and well-being is crucial in providing a foundation for Connecticut’s children and youth to be fit, healthy and ready to learn. Reducing the disparities in education and health remains one of the major challenges facing the education and public health communities in Connecticut. Prominent health concerns are contributing factors in loss of instructional time among Connecticut students. This loss of instructional time results from absenteeism, dropout rates and chronic illness. Sexual health education provides students with the opportunity to acquire knowledge and develop skills that support a healthy lifestyle and encourage healthy and informed behaviors. The following national and state data reinforce the importance of implementing a sexual health education program:  

  • Students who reported receiving mostly Cs, Ds, or Fs were more likely to participate in higher risk behaviors, including alcohol use, tobacco use and sexual intercourse. These data reinforce the need to jointly address health and educational disparities (Connecticut School Health Survey 2009). 
  • High school students who received mostly As in the past year are signifi¬≠cantly less likely than those who received mostly Bs, mostly Cs, or mostly Ds or Fs to have been absent from school for three or more days in the past six months (40.7 percent, 57.8 percent, 75 percent, 77.9 percent, respectively) (Connecticut School Health Survey 2009). 
  • Though African Americans only make up approximately 13 percent of the population in the United States, they make up 51 percent of all new HIV cases. Among ages 13-24, African Americans account for 61 percent of HIV infections (CDC, 2008).  In Connecticut, Hispanics and African Americans are disportionately infected with HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) (DPH, 2009). 
  • Approximately 750,000 women ages 15-19 in the United States become pregnant each year. Eighty-two percent of teen pregnancies are unplanned (Guttmacher Institute, 2010). Approximately 1 in 4 sexually active young adults (ages 15-24) contract an STD each year (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2006). 
  • Connecticut youth ages 15 to 19 make up 33 percent of the reported cases of chlamydia and 25 percent of the reported cases of gonorrhea (DPH STD Control Program, 2009). 
  • Research on school connectedness has demonstrated that school involvement, academic/athletic performance and attachment to school provide the protective buffers against risk-taking behaviors, including sexual misconduct (McNeely, C., & Falci, C. (2004); McNeely, C., Nonnemaker, J., & Blum, R. (2002); Thompson, D., Iachan, R., Overpeck, M., Ross, J., & Gross, L. (2006). 
  • About 1 in 10 high school students report experiencing dating violence at some point during the 12 months before the survey (Connecticut School Health Survey 2009). 
  • An estimated 7,000 Connecticut high school students (4.6 percent) had sexual intercourse for the first time before age 13: 4,800 high school boys (6.1 percent) and 2,200 high school girls (2.8 percent) (Connecticut School Health Survey 2009). 
  • High school boys and girls who said they had been harassed on school property in the past 12 months about their perceived sexual orientation are significantly more likely than students who did not report being bullied for this reason to have felt sad or hopeless for two weeks or more in a row, to have seriously considered attempting suicide, and to have actually attempted suicide in the past year (Connecticut School Health Survey 2009). 

How to use the Guidelines for the Sexual Health Education Component of Comprehensive Health Education

The CT Guidelines includes five sections that provide information and resources needed for planning and implementing sexual health education in Connecticut classrooms and is organized into the following sections: 


This section outlines for local school districts the purpose and rationale for inclusion of sexual health education within the context of comprehensive school health education. The introduction also provides critical data that reinforce the link between health and student success. 

Section 1. Overview of Sexual Health Education
This section describes the general principles and approaches for an effective sexual health education program. Section 1 includes an overview of sexual health education through a discussion of relevant research, including health and impact on student success, implementation approaches and program efficacy of sexual health education, the status of sexual health education, and state legislative mandates.  

Section 2. Components of Sexual Health Education 
This section provides in-depth guidance about the sexual health education development process for local school districts. Section 2 defines sexual health education; explains characteristics and fundamental principles of effective sexual health education; identifies evidenced-based programs; outlines program evaluation; provides policy recommendations; and provides strategies for building community support. 

Section 3. Sexual Health Education Curriculum Framework 
This section outlines recommended sexual health education concepts and skills that are developmentally appropriate and are aligned with the CSDE's Healthy and Balanced Living Curriculum Framework. Section 3 includes a narrative of the eight identified content standards; accompanying essential questions; curricular outcomes; and learner outcomes in a PK-Grade 12 continuum.

Section 4. Resources
This section identifies a sample of national and state resources that support the implementation of sexual health education.

Section 5. Appendices
References and resources are also listed at the end of each section.