State Sex Education Policies and Requirements at a Glance
Sex education is mandated in Iowa. Instruction must be age appropriate and research based, but is not required to align with the National Sex Education Standards.
- Iowa schools are required to teach sex education, also known as “human growth and development instruction”.
- Iowa has no standard regarding the inclusion of abstinence in sex education curriculum. However, it permits abstinence-based or abstinence-only materials as long as those materials fall within the parameters of the law.
- Sex education instruction must be free of bias based on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender.
- Curriculum is not required to include instruction on consent.
- Parents or guardians may remove their children from any part of health education courses if the course conflicts with the student’s religious beliefs. This is referred to as an “opt-out” policy.
- Sex education curriculum must be medically accurate.
Iowa Code 256.11 mandates that research-based, age-appropriate health education be taught in grades K–12, and the code details what must be covered in each grade. In grades 1–6, “the health curriculum shall include the characteristics of communicable diseases, including acquired immunodeficiency syndrome [AIDS].” In grades 7–8, health education must include “the characteristics of sexually transmitted diseases [STDs] … and AIDS.” In grades 9–12, students are required to take one unit of health instruction, which must include information on the “prevention and control of disease, including … [STDs] and [AIDS].” Previously, health curricula was required to include information about human papillomavirus (HPV) and the HPV vaccine. This was repealed in 2023, by the enactment of SF 496.
Iowa Code §§ 279.50 mandates that the curriculum use materials that are up-to-date, age-appropriate, and research-based/medically accurate. Furthermore, all information must be free of biases based on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender. School districts shall teach age-appropriate, science-based, sex education as part of the health curriculum, but they may also use abstinence-only materials so long as those materials fall within the parameters of the law.
In 2023, SF 496 was enacted into law and prohibits instruction in human sexuality prior to seventh grade.
Parents or guardians may remove their children from any part of health education courses if the course conflicts with the student’s religious beliefs. This is referred to as an “opt-out” policy.
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/iowa-state-profile-23/