NewsDenver7 360 | In-Depth reports


When it comes to sex ed, Colorado seeks balance in educating students

Posted at 8:29 PM, Mar 04, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-05 17:39:33-05

Editor's Note: Denver7 360 stories explore multiple sides of the topics that matter most to Coloradans, bringing in different perspectives so you can make up your own mind about the issues. To comment on this or other 360 stories, email us at See more 360 stories here.

DENVER – The birds and the bees can be an awkward conversation to have with your children.

There's even a recent story about one couple offering to pay someone $2,500 to do it for them. 

Even if you don’t address the subject, there’s a good chance your child's school will. 

Most districts in Colorado, like Denver Public Schools, use a comprehensive sex education course that includes teaching about abstinence.

"It covers abstinence, but also other components of sexual activity," said Rose Barcklow, sexual health specialist for DPS.

President Trump's new plan, however, is to fund abstinence-based education in public schools — to the tune of $475 million.

What exactly is abstinence-based education? Dr. Freda Bush, president of the Medical Institute for Sexual Health in Austin, Texas said first thing's first — it's no longer called abstinence-based education. It’s now known as sexual risk avoidance education.

"We avoid the risk of smoking,” Dr. Bush said. “We avoid the risk of alcohol abuse and other risky behaviors, so sex is no different.”

Bush points out risk avoidance Sex Ed now includes teaching about contraception and more.

“We talk about sexually transmitted diseases. We talk about pregnancy," Bush said. “And we further include information on how you can have a healthy relationship without being involved in sexual activity.”

The Colorado Department of Education is in the process of updating its Sex Ed guidelines, something that happens every few years.

It's called Comprehensive Human Sexuality, and so far, the state’s new Sex Ed guidelines are uncontested.

"What we really want is for students in Colorado to be able to make healthy decisions," said James Hurley, health specialist for the CDE.

At least some local parents seem to agree.

“Everything's a Google away anyway,” said one parent. “So, children might as well learn from responsible adults in a school."

It's important to note, no school district in Colorado is required to teach Sex Ed.

"Every school gets to decide if they want to teach Sex Ed," Barcklow said.

And parents make the ultimate call. Schools are required to send permission slips home to parents so they can opt in or out of sex education.

"We encourage parents to have those conversations and at the school we're really just providing that research-based knowledge," Barcklow said.

A recent CDC study shows that students who seemed to be most successful in school were not engaged in sex, drugs and other risky behaviors.

"And those who had lower grades were usually sexually active and had multiple partners," Bush said.

However, many still believe that teaching abstinence is an unrealistic approach.

"Telling somebody they shouldn't screw – that’s not going to work," said one Denver woman, who did not want to be identified.