State Sex Education Policies and Requirements at a Glance
- Tennessee schools are not required to teach sex education. However, schools are required to teach a family life education program if their county pregnancy rate exceeds 19.5 pregnancies per every 1,000 females ages 15-17.
- Curriculum is not required to be comprehensive.
- Curriculum must stress abstinence.
- Tennessee statute does not require curriculum to include instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity.
- Curriculum must include instruction on the age of consent.
- Parents and guardians are able to remove their children from sex education instruction upon written request. This is referred to as an “opt-out” policy.
- Curriculum must be medically accurate.
Tennessee law (§ 49-6-1302, 49-6-1304, and 49-6-1305) requires local education agencies in counties whose pregnancy rate exceeds 19.5 pregnancies per 1,000 females ages 15–17 to develop and implement a family life education program. These programs must promote “sexual risk avoidance” as their primary goal, and instruction that promotes “gateway sexual activity” is prohibited. Statute § 49-6-1304 was recently amended to include “provid[ing] instruction on the detection, intervention, prevention, and treatment of child sexual abuse, including such abuse that may occur in the home” as a required topic in family life curricula.
If such family life education programs are provided, they must:
- Emphatically promote sexual risk avoidance through abstinence, regardless of a student’s current or prior sexual experience;
- Encourage sexual health by helping students understand how sexual activity affects the whole person, including the physical, social, emotional, psychological, economic, and educational consequences of non-marital sexual activity;
- Teach the positive results of avoiding sexual activity, the skills needed to make healthy decisions, the advantages of and skills for student success in pursuing educational and life goals, the components of healthy relationships, and the social science research supporting the benefits of reserving the expression of human sexual activity for marriage;
- Provide factually and medically accurate information;
- Teach students how to form pro-social habits that enable students to develop healthy relationships, create strong marriages, and form safe and stable future families;
- Encourage students to communicate with a parent, guardian, or other trusted adult about sex or other risk behaviors;
- Assist students in learning and practicing refusal skills that will help them resist sexual activity;
- Address the benefits of raising children within the context of a marital relationship and the unique challenges that single teen parents encounter in relation to educational, psychological, physical, social, legal, and financial factors;
- Discuss the interrelationship between teen sexual activity and exposure to other risk behaviors such as smoking, underage drinking, drug use, criminal activity, dating violence, and sexual aggression;
- Educate students on the age of consent, puberty, pregnancy, childbirth, sexually transmitted diseases [STDs], including but not limited to human immunodeficiency virus [HIV]/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome [AIDS], and the financial and emotional responsibility of raising a child;
- Teach students how to identify and form healthy relationships, and how to identify and avoid unhealthy relationships;
- Inform students, in all [schools], concerning the process of adoption and its benefits; and
- Provide instruction on the detection, intervention, prevention, and treatment of child sexual abuse, including such abuse that may occur in the home.
Tennessee Code allows students to be removed from sex education classes upon written request from their parent or guardian. 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/tennesse-state-profile/