State Sex Education Policies and Requirements at a Glance
Sex education is not currently mandated in Colorado, but schools that do must teach sex education that is comprehensive and medically accurate. As Colorado schools are not required to provide sex education to students, school districts are left to decide what, if any, type of sex education they provide to youth.
- Colorado schools are not required to teach sex education.
- If sex education is offered, then the curriculum must be comprehensive as defined by the law.
- If sex education is offered, curriculum must “not emphasize sexual abstinence as the primary or sole acceptable preventative method available to students.”
- If sex education is offered, curriculum must not exclude the health needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex individuals.
- If sex education is offered, curriculum must include instruction on consent.
- If pregnancy options are taught, abortion must be included as an option for pregnancy.
- Parents or guardians can remove their children from sex education instruction with written notification. This is referred to as an “opt-out” policy.
- If sex education is offered, the curriculum must be medically accurate.
- Parents/caregivers have the opportunity to review curricula prior to instruction.
Colorado state law does not require schools to provide sex or HIV instruction; however, it refers to “medically and scientifically accurate information” as a “right” of youth in Colorado statute §22-1-128. Statute mandates that all school districts that offer human sexuality instruction must provide comprehensive and medically accurate information. This constitutes an “if/then” policy which means that IF sex education is taught in schools, then it must meet state specified requirements according to law. However, because it does not mandate sex education, local jurisdictions are still able to decide whether to provide sex education at all. In Colorado, curricula must include medically accurate, culturally sensitive information about methods to prevent unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV/AIDS, and must include information about abstinence, all FDA approved forms of contraception, and be taught in a “cohesive, integrated, objective manner” so that youth are empowered to make decisions based on their “individual needs, beliefs, and values.”
Additional requirements state that the instruction must promote the development of healthy relationships through providing instruction on:
- How to communicate consent, recognize the withdrawal of consent, and understand the age of consent
- How to avoid making unwanted sexual advances or assuming a person’s supposed sexual intentions based on a person’s appearance or sexual history
- Age appropriate information on “Safe Haven Laws” relating to the safe abandonment of newborn children
- All pregnancy outcomes, including abortion, if the school district opts to provide instruction on pregnancy outcome options
In addition, sex education instruction must not:
- Explicitly or implicitly teach or endorse religious ideology
- Use shame-based or stigmatizing language or instructional tools
- Emphasize abstinence as the primary or sole preventative method
- Rely on gender stereotypes
- Exclude the health needs of intersex individuals or LGBT individuals
Parents or guardians must be notified if a sex education course is taught, and they must be given an opportunity to review the curriculum. They may remove their children from sex education or STI/HIV education classes by sending written notice to the school. This is referred to as an “opt-out” policy.
Per Colorado statute §22-25-104, the Colorado Department of Education is responsible for providing guidelines as to the length of courses, the subjects included, and the manner in which these subjects are addressed.
In 2013, the state legislature established a grant program for comprehensive human sex education, via Colorado statute §25-44-102. Schools that accept this funding must use curricula that are age appropriate, culturally relevant, medically accurate, and are based in science. In 2019, the state legislature amended the statute to ensure that the grant program’s oversight entity is made up of a diverse population of community members. The amendment also instructed that rural public schools and schools that do not currently offer sex education take priority during the grant recipient selection process.
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/colorado-state-profile-23/