Step 2: Ensure Policies and Procedures are in Place to Guide and Sustain Sex Education
With a clear institutionalization plan in place, it is time to ensure that the school district’s guiding documents align and uphold the sex education institutionalization plan. Both the formal policies, such as those passed by a school board, and the informal processes that guide instruction, are important aspects of sex education institutionalization. Without embedding sex education into guidance documents, there are significant risks to initial buy-in and long-term sustainability. For example, teachers may not feel they have sufficient assurances that they are allowed to teach sex education, or after staff turnover the historical knowledge about how and when to implement sex education may be lost. Establishing district policies and guidelines that mandate and support sex education can have an enduring impact.
Determine the key guidance documents and frameworks that inform school district instruction and embed sex education within them.
School districts have a wide variety of guidance documents and policies that articulate instructional expectations. For example, there might be a “scope and sequence” or pacing guide template that classes such as English or Math use to document how and when instructional units will be taught. Developing these documents with sex education-specific instructional content puts sex education documentation on par with other courses and creates an instructional map to guide sex education teaching that ensures all sex education lesson plans will be covered. Consider embedding sex education within job descriptions to ensure it is seen as a key responsibility for the role (e.g., PE teacher job description; curriculum director job description). It is also important to look to school frameworks. School frameworks include district-level or school-level improvement plans and/or strategic plans as well as state and local educational standards. Sex education must be nested within these frameworks which specify the key priorities for a particular school districts (e.g., school improvement plans) as well as what students should know and be able to do at the end of a grade (e.g., standards). Also consider including provisions for minimum ongoing professional development requirements.
Establish dedicated time in the school year to incorporate sex education. In order to ensure the sustained provision of sex education, specific time needs to be allocated for it. This way, sex education is not viewed as something that is optional or extra, but rather a planned and required activity built into the academic calendar. For some districts, this may mean including sex education as part of an existing Health or PE class (a common way to integrate sex education) while for others more creativity may be needed.