Co-Ed Sex Education: Good for ALL Students

Speech on comprehensive sex education given by Marianne Burke to the Fairfax County Public School Board, May 26, 2022. Text slightly changed to be more widely applied. Original speech is available upon request.



After reviewing decades of research on the subject, adolescent psychologists have concluded that co-ed (comprehensive) sex education is beneficial to students. Nevertheless, the decision to separate students by gender in Family Life Education is often made by school systems without considering the trade-offs of doing so. This instruction separated by gender conveys to students that bodies that are different from their own should remain mysterious. The effect is to make students uncomfortable with and to stigmatize bodies that are different.


When Family Life Education classes are separated by gender, students don’t have the guided experience of discussing potentially sensitive topics with peers whose bodies and gender differ from their own. This is a key skill they will need to go through life as they enter into relationships, including friendships, romantic partnerships, and parenting. With instructions integrated by gender, students can hear firsthand about the diversity of experiences individuals have. Otherwise, they can miss out on opportunities to build knowledge and develop empathy across differences.


By denying our students these opportunities they may

  • be less prepared for important interactions,

  • Carry stereotypes into adulthood.

  • Be limited in honest communication with potential romantic partners, which is a critical component of health.

  • may come to believe that some topics should not be discussed with people who are different

  • can miss out on critical information as they get older and are faced with issues such as consent, pregnancy prevention, and sexually transmitted infections, and

  • May be forced to feel excluded because they have been placed in a space that does not reflect who they are.


It is important that school boards in Virginia support comprehensive Family Life Education because our students deserve to reap the many benefits provided by comprehensive education.


View the School Board meeting below. Marianne's remarks start at 1:01.