Teaching Sex: An Interculturally Competent Approach to Sex Education in the United States


  • Chelsea Cohen, Public Policy, University of Delaware

Faculty Mentor(s)

  • Elizabeth Fournier, Biden School of Public Policy, University of Delaware


High rates of teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection (STI) rates are not new developments for the United States, in fact for years the US has ranked higher than both developing and industrialized countries. During the research process, I sought to categorize and assess the types of sex education prevalent in the US and compare their effectiveness to determine which tier of comprehension is most effective, and for whom. According to the Center for Disease Control, folks with marginalized racial and economic identities are more likely to experience higher rates of teenage pregnancy and STI rates. This paper analyzes the existing sex education curriculums in relation to their effectiveness at improving teenage sexual health, measured by a decrease in teenage pregnancy and STI rates. In response to a gap in the literature, I developed the Intercullutrally Competent Sex Education Framework, a tiered system of sex education that standardizes existing and future research on sex education. This framework also contributes an important factor to the topic, the lens through which sex education topics are approached. This analysis demonstrates a need for sex education standardization on a federal level to produce not only a minimum level of sex education that includes contraception usage, STIs, and LGBTQ+ to all high school-aged teens, but an inclusive and equitable approach to these topics. A more holistic and statistical-based approach is necessary to draw a clearer picture of how effective each tier of sex education is at curbing teen pregnancy and STIs, particularly for members of marginalized gender, sexuality, educational, racial, and economic groups.