Schools wouldn't wait until eighth-grade algebra class to introduce addition and subtraction to students for the first time — so why should sexual education wait until the later grades?

With that analogy in mind, along with a thorough analysis of 30 years' worth of published research, a study out of Montclair State University suggests developmentally appropriate sex-ed concepts should be introduced as early as kindergarten.

"We've always been frustrated that the only thing people talk about when it comes to sex education is how well it prevents pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, when we know that comprehensive sex-ed is designed to do so much more," said Lisa Lieberman, public health professor.

She and her colleague Eva Goldfarb found that it is critical to teach foundational concepts in early grades that will help set the stage for more challenging sex-ed topics in middle school and high school.

"For example, discussions about body integrity — I get to decide who hugs me, you get to decide who hugs you," Goldfarb said. "It's what you would expect to teach — how to be a good friend, how to treat someone with respect, everyone has a right to their own boundaries."

According to their study, sex education at an early age "leads to outcomes that all parents want for their children."

"It leads to healthier relationships, it reduces child sex abuse and dating violence and homophobic bullying, it increases understanding of gender equity, sexual diversity," Lieberman said.

According to the professors, the evidence shows that the early grades may be the best time for conversations about gender roles and expectations, "before stereotypes harden and peer pressure becomes more intense."

Gov. Phil Murphy on March 1 signed legislation into law that requires school districts to include instruction that touches on "gender and sexual orientation," along with other diversity and inclusion topics, in grades kindergarten through 12.

Family Policy Alliance of New Jersey, a pro-family ministry, was urging Murphy to veto the bill.

“This bill would require transgender and sexual orientation lessons be taught to children who are so young they are just learning to tie their shoes," Executive Director Shawn Hyland said in a February news release. "This will only complicate and confuse their understanding of human sexuality."

Contact reporter Dino Flammia at

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