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About the FLASH curriculum

FLASH is a widely used sexual health education curriculum developed by Public Health – Seattle & King County and designed to prevent teen pregnancy, STDs, and sexual violence, and to increase knowledge about the reproductive system and puberty. FLASH is available for elementary, middle, high school and special education classrooms. High School FLASH has been proven effective by rigorous evaluation.

FLASH is based on the Theory of Planned Behavior

  • Lessons include a variety of strategies designed to create positive attitudes, beliefs and norms and to build skills in order to reduce rates of pregnancy, STDs and sexual violence. See additional details below.

FLASH includes a strong family-involvement component 

  • This helps to further increase protective factors that support students in remaining abstinent, using birth control and condoms, and respecting other's decisions not to have sex.

FLASH supports and respects diverse community values

  • Through its inclusive design, it uses the Values Question Protocol, and through the design of the Family Homework, which encourages discussion about values with family members.

High School FLASH is a proven program

  • It has been rigorously evaluated and found to be an effective, proven program at reducing unintended pregnancy and STDs among teens.

FLASH is unique in many ways. It is a proven, evidence-based sexual health education curriculum designed to prevent pregnancy, STDs and sexual violence. It is deigned to be used in school classrooms, as a part of a health unit, although it can be successfully implemented in a variety of environments. It does not require training, and provides substantial teacher support so that it can be immediately implemented by any school that is ready. It includes a strong family involvement component, creating opportunities for families to talk with their children about important sexual health topics. It is an inclusive curriculum, including examples and activities that will resonate with youth from a variety of geographical regions, racial identities, and sexual orientations. It is highly interactive and is respectful of students with a variety of sexual experiences.

The FLASH curriculum is based on the Theory of Planned Behavior. It is designed to support young people in making healthy choices: abstain from sex, use protection when they do have sex, seek health care when they need it, communicate effectively with their families, and respect other's decisions not to have sex. The curriculum is age appropriate, teaching content and skills that are developmentally appropriate across the grade levels.

The Theory of Planned Behavior posits that the combination of attitudes toward behavior, subjective norms, and self-efficacy shape an individual's behaviors. As such, FLASH includes a variety of strategies designed to create positive attitudes, beliefs and norms and to build skills and self-efficacy in order to reduce rates of pregnancy, STDs and sexual violence.

  • There are activities that focus on building positive attitudes about abstinence, condoms, birth control and puberty
  • There are activities that focus on building positive peer norms about abstinence, condoms, birth control and respecting other's decisions no to have sex
  • There are activities that focus on building self-efficacy, by teaching skills and offering ample and appropriately scaffolded practice, so that students can have the experience of successfully using the new skill

The sexual violence prevention lessons are further based on the Social-Ecological Model and the Confluence Model. The Social Ecological Model addresses factors at the (1) individual, (2) relationship, (3) community and (4) society levels that put people at risk of experiencing violence as a victim or perpetrator. FLASH focuses primarily on the levels 2, 3 and 4. The use of scenarios, introspective work and social norm re-setting addresses these levels. Visit the CDC's Violence Prevention website for more information.

The Confluence Model of Sexual Aggression has long been used to explain sexual violence, but has only recently begun to be applied in the realm of prevention. This model posits that adverse developmental experiences during childhood have a detrimental impact on the ways in which individuals view themselves and others, and their ability to form meaningful and healthy relationships. In particular, these experiences can lead to a rigid, violent and objectifying view of women, which is a significant risk factor for perpetrating sexual violence (CDC). FLASH addresses this risk factor by focusing heavily on increasing respect for all genders and breaking down harmful gender stereotypes.

High School FLASH, 3rd edition has been rigorously evaluated and found to be an effective, proven program at reducing unintended pregnancy and STDs among teens. The evaluation of High School FLASH was funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and was conducted by ETR Associates, an independent outside evaluator (Grant #TP2AH000031). Significant findings include:

  • Increased birth control and condom use among students who hadn't previously had sex
  • Increased confidence to say no to sex
  • Increased confidence to get and use condoms correctly
  • Improved understanding that birth control is effective and that other teens are also successfully using birth control
  • Increased students' confidence to talk with parents and guardians about sex.

The study was a randomized controlled trial involving 9th and 10th graders from 20 schools drawn from 7 school districts in the Midwest and South of the U.S. encompassing urban, rural and suburban communities. Schools were randomly assigned to receive High School FLASH or a standard knowledge-based sexual health curriculum. Approximately 1,500 students from the intervention and comparison condition took part in the baseline survey with over 90% of those students completing the 3 and 12 month follow-up surveys as well. All surveys were voluntary and confidential, and required both parental and student consent.

Finally, FLASH adheres to the Characteristics of an Effective Health Education Curriculum and is aligned to both the CDC's National Health Education Standards for Sexual Health and the National Sexuality Education Standards.

FLASH is a copyrighted curriculum, and therefore cannot be published, distributed or altered without permission. However, educators are welcome to implement FLASH in whatever way meets the needs of their students and community. FLASH can be taught in any setting, and those implementing FLASH can choose to include or omit any lessons as they see fit. Sessions can be shortened, lengthened or combined at the discretion of the teacher or school. The goals of the curriculum are to:

  1. Prevent pregnancy
  2. Prevent HIV and other STDs
  3. Prevent sexual violence
  4. Improve family communication
  5. Improve knowledge of sexual and reproductive health

Training for the FLASH curriculum is recommended but not required. FLASH is designed to be teacher-friendly, including ample scripting, so that schools can implement when they are ready. Because of this, FLASH trainings focus on building teachers' skills, and are not simply an overview of the lessons. Teacher trainings build skills in answering difficult student questions, including questions about values, best practices in the field of sexual health education, and the effective use of key concepts when teaching about sexual health. For more information about scheduling a training, please contact

Each lesson in High School FLASH has a corresponding rationale document, which offers insight into the design of each lesson. Download all rational documents in a single file (687 KB).