State Sex Education Policies and Requirements at a Glance
Sex education is not currently mandated in Arkansas, but if offered, it must stress abstinence. If instruction on dating violence is taught, it must be evidence-based.
- Arkansas schools are not required to teach sex education or instruction on HIV or STIs.
- If sex education is offered, the curriculum must stress abstinence.
- If sex education is offered, curriculum is not required to include instruction on consent.
- If sex education is offered, curriculum is not required to include instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity.
- Arkansas has no standard regarding the ability of parents and guardians to remove their children from sex education instruction.
- Arkansas has no standard regarding medically accurate sex education instruction. However, instruction on dating violence must be based on scientific research.
- Students are required to complete 0.5 units of health and safety in order to graduate.
Arkansas law does not require schools to teach sex education, HIV, or other STIs instruction. If a school offers a sex education or AIDS prevention program, Arkansas Code § 6-18-703 states that abstinence must be stressed, as “it is the policy of the State of Arkansas to discourage … sexual activity by students.” Furthermore, every public school sex education and AIDS prevention education program must “emphasize premarital abstinence as the only sure means of avoiding pregnancy and the sexual contraction of [AIDS] and other [STDs].”
In order to be accredited by the Arkansas Board of Education, education standards require public schools to offer health and safety education, and students are required to complete 0.5 units of health and safety in order to graduate high school. In 2015, Arkansas Code § 6-16-1004 was amended to include dating violence awareness as a mandatory component of health and safety education for students in grades 7-12. Materials must be age-appropriate and based on scientific research.
Local school boards are empowered to establish school-based health clinics, which may provide sex education. Such education must include instruction on abstinence. School-based health clinics may also prescribe and distribute contraceptives with written parental consent. However, no state funds may be used to purchase condoms or contraceptives. Whether or not a school-based health clinic teaches sex education or distributes contraceptives is left to the discretion of the school board. Clinics cannot provide abortion referrals.
Arkansas statutes do not require parental permission for students to participate in sex education or HIV/AIDS instruction, nor do they indicate whether parents or guardians may remove their children from such classes.
In 2023, SB 294 was enacted into law as an amendment to Arkansas Code. § 6-16-157 and states the following:
"Before grade five (5), a public school teacher shall not provide classroom instruction on the following topics:
- Sexually explicit materials;
- Sexual reproduction;
- Sexual intercourse;
- Gender identity; or
- Sexual orientation."
State Profiles provided by SIECUS: Sex Ed for Social Change. For more information regarding your state’s sex ed policy, visit https://siecus.org/state_profile/arkansas-state-profile-23/