Health Education in Colorado

Health Education in Colorado

  • Colorado is one of the rare states that does not require health education for middle and high school students.
  • Due to the lack of state requirements, it is likely many Colorado students are not receiving any sexual health education, let alone CSHE.

Colorado House Bill 13-1081

  • In 2013, Colorado established a grant program for comprehensive sexual health education programming (CSHE).
  • Comprehensive sexual health education is defined as “a program that is evidence based, culturally sensitive, includes positive youth development principles, comprehensive, and is medically accurate.”
  • Required that CSHE include resources and information targeted toward people with disabilities, the LGBT+ community, and people who have experienced sexual trauma.
  • Prohibits schools from using federal funds for abstinence-only education.
  • This is an unfunded mandate, which means if schools want to provide CSHE, they have to apply for federal grants through the Title V State Abstinence Education Grant Program.
  • Full text of the law is available here.
  • To date, no school district has received grant funding to provide CSHE.
  • As a result, some school districts are teaching CSHE while others are teaching non-comprehensive sexual health education.
  • Bottom line: Colorado has mandated CSHE but does not provide the funding to guarantee CSHE can be implemented in schools. It is up to Colorado activists to ensure CSHE is implemented in their local schools.

Title V State Abstinence Education Grant Program

  • Due to Colorado home rule, the Title V program is designed to support local control. The program’s implementation plan “is designed to support local efforts in ways that individual communities deem appropriate to provide comprehensive sexual health services to their students and citizens.”
  • Nonprofit organizations, after-school programs, and community organizations are eligible to apply for Title V funding. Schools districts are ineligible to apply.
  • Applicants have to prove their curriculum discusses the benefits of abstinence combined with information about contraception.
  • In 2017, Colorado was awarded $818,713, with programming reaching 5,490 youth ages 10 to 20 annually.
  • Funding went to four sub-grantees: Boys & Girls Club SLV Center, Colorado UpLift, Center for Relationship Education, and FRIENDS FIRST, Inc.
  • Through this program, Colorado uses an opt-in model for sexual health education.

Colorado and Home Rule

  • Colorado is a local control state, which means there is no statutorial mandate to provide something like CSHE.
  • School districts and district school boards have control over curriculum choices and implementation, including applying for funding under the Title V State Abstinence Education Grant Program.
  • Even if a statewide law is passed like HB1081, school districts still get to control if it applies for federal grants or not.
  • In Colorado, advocacy for CSHE must happen on the district level. Leaders must take the initiative to bring CSHE into their schools due to the lack of a state mandate.


Colorado Department of Education. (2016). Colorado Title V State Abstinence Education Grant Program. Retrieved from:

Colorado Department of Education. (2018). Title V Abstinence Education. Retrieved from:

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). School Health Profiles 2014: Characteristics of Health Programs Among Secondary Schools. Retrieved from:

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Family and Youth Services Bureau. (August 7, 2017). Title V State Abstinence Education Program Grantee Profiles. Retrieved from: