American schools are as bad as you'd expect when it comes to health education

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According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), American schools are not doing a great job teaching students about sex.

In 2013–2014 school year, CDC analysts asked principals and health educators across all states and major urban school districts to answer questions on their respective health education offerings. The results vary but, notably, the report found that a large percentage of schools fall short of CDC recommendations when it comes to teaching middle school students about birth control and sexually transmitted diseases in each state:

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The figure jumps a bit from middle school to high school: From 17.1% of schools per state to 45.5%. When the researchers looked at large urban school districts, the numbers were much better for high school (72% of these schools offered students information on STDs and birth control) but, at 31.6%, still wasn't great at the middle school level. Overall, reported cases of STDs are rising in the U.S.

The report authors point out that failing to educate students on STD risks has serious consequences.

"In 2010, young people aged 13–24 accounted for 26% of all new HIV infections in the United States. Almost half of the nearly 20 million new sexually  transmitted diseases (STDs) reported each year are among people under age 24," the authors say. "When well-planned and implemented, sexual health education is associated with delayed sexual debut, fewer sexual partners, and more widespread and consistent use of condoms." Unfortunately, most school's sex ed curricula are pretty horrifying.

Stephanie Zaza, who oversaw the survey, explained to NPR's Atlanta affiliate WABE that discrepancies between how different schools handle sex ed are often tied to varying rules and legislation.


"Often the reason is because of restrictions that are imposed in terms of what can be taught…" Zaza told the station. "That can happen at the state level, it can happen at the school district level, and it can happen at the school level itself.”

Meanwhile, Google is harvesting STD searches for research. CNN reports:

The nation's leading search engine has quietly begun giving researchers access to its data troves to develop analytical models for tracking infectious diseases in real time or close to it. [The University of Illinois at Chicago] is one of at least four academic institutions that have received access so far, along with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


So at least the CDC will have some sense of how many uneducated children are turning to Google for answers.

Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.

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