The teaching of abstinence as an approach to public school sex education will be discussed with regard to the questions what, when, how, and why. Although nine in ten Americans agree that schools should teach kids about sex (Shapiro, 1993, p. 56), concensus ends here. Educators and community leaders must decide how best to answer the above questions if the dialog over sex education is to result in some common ground. If educational leaders cannot agree on how best to approach the abstinence question, the future of sex education as part of a well-rounded health education curriculum is at stake.
States have left the sex education aspect of health education up to local districts in the same manner that the federal government has left it up to the larger community to decide what constitutes pornography. In essence, states have simply followed the lead of the Supreme Court which has left it up to local communities to decide for themselves what is decent and what is not. In a similar fashion, school boards have the power to determine whether or not to offer sex education in local districts. Given that most school boards are exceedingly conservative, sex education is looked upon as a Pandora's Box of trouble for school board incumbents who want a smooth tenure before entering into more powerful political office.
It is into this dangerous fray that educational leaders must tread, often without the support of the nine out of ten citizens who say they are in favor of sex educat