Sex Education in Montana Schools: An Assessment of the Needs of Sexual and Gender Minority Youth
Year of Award
Master of Science (MS)
Health and Human Performance (Community Health Option)
Department or School/College
Health and Human Performance
Dr. Annie Sondag
Dr. Laura Dybdal, Cynthia Garthwaite
University of Montana
Education | Mental and Social Health | Public Health | Social Policy | Social Work
Youth are particularly vulnerable to infection from HIV and STIs. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, youth between the ages of 13 and 24 accounted for about 26% of all new HIV transmission cases in the United States in 2010, In young MSM specifically, there was a 22% increase in new infections from 2008 to 2010 (CDC, 2015). Education is one of the factors that plays a role in sexual health practices starting in high schools, yet in Montana there is no clear set of guidelines as to what is covered during sex education classes in the health classroom, especially for topics relating to the sexual and gender minority (LGBTQ+) populations. This study represented one of the first attempts to gather information about the curricula for sexuality education in high schools across the state of Montana. The survey was distributed online via social media sites and through email. Anyone aged 18 to 24 who graduated from high school in Montana was able to participate. Results of this statewide survey revealed that while the majority of respondents perceived all of the topics listed on the survey as very important, many of the topics were only partially covered or not covered at all.. In fact, only 5% of respondents perceived that topics specifically related to LBGTQ+ issues were being fully covered. Fully half of the respondents believed their teachers were uncomfortable teaching sex education and an overwhelming majority believed that their sex education classes were useless. Educators’ apparent discomfort in teaching sex education may contribute to the lack of coverage of many topics and to students’ perceptions that the courses are not helpful. Most importantly, LBGTQ+ respondents reported attempting suicide at more than three times the rate of their heterosexual/cisgender peers when in high school. While not a panacea, it seems reasonable to assume that a sex education curriculum that is comprehensive, inclusive of LGBTQ+ students and taught by teachers who are trained and comfortable talking about the multitude of issues surrounding adolescent sexuality could only enhance the quality of life of students who believe they have no one to whom they can relate and fear others discovering their sexual and/or gender minority status.
The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services and other health care organizations may use this information to create interventions that are tailored to the unique needs of the young sexual and gender minority youth population in Montana.
Redinger, Elizabeth A. and Sondag, Annie, "Sex Education in Montana Schools: An Assessment of the Needs of Sexual and Gender Minority Youth" (2017). Graduate Student Theses, Dissertations, & Professional Papers. 10922.
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© Copyright 2017 Elizabeth A. Redinger and Annie Sondag