It’s such a damn shame the U.S. is so religious. Otherwise, who knows, maybe mandatory sex ed would be a nationwide reality like it is several European countries and, more proximate to American readers, the Canadian province of Quebec. That’s the sentiment conveyed by Daily Beast writer Samantha Allen in her September 3 story Later in her piece, Allen lamented how “in the United States, which is a far more religious nation than even the UK, compulsory nationwide sex education would present a challenge. Even some of the most ardent U.S. advocates for comprehensive sex education stop short of challenging parental opt-out laws and policies.” Of course, Allen then examined an angle of attack which she hinted could help turn the tide of public opinion against parental opt-outs in the future.
Other critics, however, have taken direct aim at parental opt-outs. Writing for The Daily Dot, S.E. Smith argues that a parent opting a child out of sex education is “an action that is functionally equivalent to vaccine refusal,” given the rate of STIs among teenagers and young adults. Just as parents who don’t vaccinate their children compromise herd immunity, Smith says that “parents who opt out of sexual education are also creating public health risks” and that there should be “mandatory comprehensive sexual education.”
The vaccine analogy is a compelling attempt to prioritize public health over parental rights but it may not persuade American parents.
The ongoing controversy surrounding states’ attempts to mandate the HPV vaccine, for example, proves that the balance between public health and parental rights is especially difficult for lawmakers to find when sex is involved. Only two states and the District of Columbia currently have school requirements for the HPV vaccine, although the vast majority of states have introduced legislation to educate children about the virus.