Depending on how you define sex education or sexuality education, you will probably find all sorts of information at even the youngest level. Our community does a "bad touch" program (likely without ever mentioning sex, sexual abuse etc) to Kindergarteners and younger primary grades and to me this definitely falls into the category of sexuality education. Another type of well-received sexuality education is the basic 5th grade "how your body is changing" presentation that is given to lots of 5th grade boys (body changes including nocturnal emission & hygiene) and girls (menstruation) everywhere. Planned Parenthood often does programs that teach parents to discuss sexuality with their pre-adolescents and adolescents and these are wonderful programs that make sure parents have the right, accurate information while promoting the kind of linkages that parents should have with their kids. Our state board of ed mandated an AIDS ed course that has some sexuality ed content. Many, many Family and Consumer Sciences teacher (home ec teachers) will teach contraceptive information, STD info as part of their curriculum. Two nurses in KS (my state) collaborated to create a program that parents take with their kids, again to promote sexuality info exchange and discussion. These programs let parents convey (correct) info with values and are an opportunity that every concerned parent should be interested in taking advantage of. As a public health nurse I have done methods of contraception, STD's, HIV etc presentations to kids in the 8th grade up through high school. All too often some of the class participants were also teen parents. I will never forget going to talk to a class of kids about STD's and AIDs with an AIDS educator who was flabbergasted to learn minutes before our presentation that she couldn't talk about condoms. Not all kids need this info but the new cases epidemiology data shows us that some most definitely do.
Data from ed classes show that knowledge alone is not sufficient to change behavior. I am fond of saying that basic sex ed info is necessary but not sufficient to help kids know how to keep themselves safe in a sexual world.
Kids would tell you that they "know it all already" but I will tell you that there are still girls and guys buying and selling the same old, old lines. (From you can't get pregnant standing up to I know I can't father/have a baby, I'm sterile to vinegar douches prevent STD's). It is no accident that 25% of all people treated for STD's are teens. (This is disproportionate since teens DO NOT represent 25% of the population that has sex. However these numbers come largely from reporting clinics and may not accurately represent the population at large. They still give us an important glimpse of the problem.)
My observation is that kids need knowledge, need values about how to use the knowledge [which they will get in an implicit and explicit way from parents, sibs, friends], and then they need support to apply the knowledge for their own safety. (Chastity is a choice that keeps student safe, but no matter how hard we'd like it to be true, not all students will choose chastitiy.) There are lots of kids that have sex because they believe they are receiving love and the best disease prevention programs struggle to tap that group.
Great topic and good luck.
[This message has been edited by MollyJ (edited August 28, 1999).]