11/11/2015Sexuality Education in Fifth and Sixth Grades in U.S. Public Schools, 19991/11DATA CENTERMEDIA CENTERSTATE CENTERPUBLICATIONSABOUTFamily Planning PerspectivesVolume 32, Number 5, September/October 2000Sexuality Education in Fifth and Sixth Grades in U.S.Public Schools, 1999By David J. Landry, Susheela Singh and Jacqueline E. DarrochContext: While policymakers, educators and parents recognize the need for familylife and sexuality education during children's formative years and beforeadolescence, there is little nationally representative information on the timing andcontent of such instruction in elementary schools.Methods: In 1999, data were gathered from 1,789 fifth and sixthgrade teachersas part of a nationally representative survey of 5,543 public school teachers ingrades 512. Based on the responses of 617 fifth and sixthgrade teachers whosaid they teach sexuality education, analyses were carried out on the topics andskills sexuality education teachers taught, the grades in which they taught them,their teaching approaches, the pressures they experienced, whether they receivedsupport from parents, the community and school administrators, and their needs.Results: Seventytwo percent of fifth and sixthgrade teachers report that sexualityeducation is taught in their schools at one or both grades. Fiftysix percent ofteachers say that the subject is taught in grade five and 64% in grade six. Morethan 75% of teachers who teach sexuality education in these grades cover puberty,HIV and AIDS transmission and issues such as how alcohol and drugs affectbehavior and how to stick with a decision. However, when schools that do notprovide sexuality education are taken into account, even most of these topics aretaught in only a little more than half of fifth and sixthgrade classrooms. All othertopics are much less likely to be covered. Teaching of all topics is less prevalent atthese grades than teachers think it should be. Gaps between what teachers saythey are teaching and teachers' recommendations for what should be taught andby what grade are especially large for such topics as sexual abuse, sexualorientation, abortion, birth control and condom use for STD prevention. Asubstantial proportion of teachers recommend that these topics be taught at gradesix or earlier. More than half (57%) of fifth and sixthgrade sexuality educationteachers cover the topic of abstinence from intercourse—17% as the only option forprotection against pregnancy and STDs and 40% as the best alternative or oneoption for such protection. Fortysix percent of teachers report that one of their topthree problems in teaching sexuality education is pressure, whether from thecommunity, parents or school administrators. More than 40% of teachers report aneed for some type of assistance with materials, factual information or teachingstrategies.