WASHINGTON — New sexual education guidelines released Monday by a coalition of health and education groups to states and school districts seek to encourage age-appropriate discussions about sex, bullying and healthy relationships starting as early as second grade.
The nonbinding recommendations say, for example, that by the end of second grade, students should use the correct body part names for the male and female anatomy, and also understand that all living things reproduce and that all people have the right to not be touched if they don't want to be.
The guidelines say that by the end of fifth grade, students should know that sexual orientation is "the romantic attraction of an individual to someone of the same gender or a different gender."
Organizations involved with the guidelines include the American Association of Health Education, the American School Health Association, the National Education Association - Health Information Network, the Society of State Leaders of Health and Physical Education, and the Future of Sex Education Initiative.
It's unclear how much influence the recommendations will have among educators.
Cora Collette Breuner, a pediatrics professor at the University of Washington and Seattle Children's Hospital and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics committee on adolescence who was not involved in the creation of the standards, praised the approach of encouraging discussions at an early age.
"The data points that trying to cover this stuff when kids have already formulated their own opinions and biases by the time they're in middle and high school, it's too late," Breuner said.
Valerie Huber, executive director of the National Education Abstinence Association, said she does not agree with the topics and goals of the standards.
"Controversial topics are best reserved for conversations between parent and child, not in the classroom," Huber said.