Health Education

  • Health Education

    Boston Public Schools (BPS) requires health education from pre-kindergarten through grade 12. Health education directly contributes to students’ ability to practice behaviors that protect and promote health and avoid or reduce health risks. Healthy students are better able to learn! Providing students time to understand, practice and master health skills helps them achieve academic success, develop healthy lifestyle habits, make healthy and informed decisions, and improve health literacy throughout their lives. It is important to begin teaching this information early in a child’s life. 

    Our comprehensive pre-K through grade 12 Health Education program is medically-accurate, age, and developmentally appropriate, culturally and linguistically sustaining, and implemented in safe and supportive learning environments where ALL students feel valued. Classes are taught by qualified, trained teachers. The curriculum addresses a variety of topics, including:

    • personal health, physical activity, and disease prevention
    • mental health, stress management, social and emotional learning
    • healthy relationships with self and others, communication skills 
    • substance abuse prevention including alcohol, marijuana, tobacco, and other drugs
    • healthy eating/nutrition
    • goal setting, decision making, and refusal skills
    • accessing valid information, products and services to enhance health
    • analyzing the influences of family, peers, media, and technology on health behaviors
    • safety and injury prevention including bullying/cyberbullying and violence prevention 
    • sexual health education.

    Learn more about the BPS health education curriculum or call 617-635-6643.

    Sexual Health Education

    Sexual health education is an important part of the BPS Comprehensive Health Education program for pre-kindergarten through grade 12. Classes are taught by qualified, trained teachers and address the physical, mental, emotional, and social aspects of human sexuality at a level appropriate to the age of the students. The curriculum includes education about sexual and gender identity and is inclusive of all, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) students. The program is designed to help students maintain sexual health by developing healthy relationships, delaying sexual activity, preventing disease and pregnancy, and reducing risky sexual behaviors. 

    The lessons may include these topics:

    • Adolescent growth and development, including the changes throughout puberty
    • How to cultivate and maintain healthy relationships
    • How communicable diseases (including HIV/AIDS) spread and how to prevent their spread
    • Responsible decision making, including reducing sexual health-related risk behaviors
    • Resisting negative peer pressure
    • Behaviors which pose risks to good health and effective ways to say “no” to risky behaviors
    • Respecting the right to privacy of self and others.

    Materials for health classes include Michigan Model for Health or Health Smart for comprehensive health education; Healthy and Safe Body Unit (BPS Health & Wellness); Rights, Respect, Responsibility; Making Proud Choices; and Get Real for sexual health education. We encourage you to review these materials at your child’s school. 

    BPS recognizes the role of families as the primary health educators of their children. Families can and should have a strong influence on their children’s health decisions. The Boston Public Schools conducts parent workshops to help you talk to your child about sensitive health issues. Please contact Cheryl Todisco, Director of Health Education, (617) 635-8709, or for more information.

    While parents do not have to give permission for their children to take sexual health education classes, parents do have the right to exempt their children only from sexual health classes.  

    *If you DO NOT want your child to participate in sexual health education classes, please contact the principal of your child’s school in writing to let him/her know of your decision. Students who are exempted will not be penalized academically. 


    Health Resource Centers

    The Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) has Health Resource Centers (HRC) in some Boston high schools. HRC staff are at these schools two days per week. HRCs offer information to students on decision-making, healthy relationships, and preventing sexually transmitted infections (STI), HIV, and unplanned pregnancies. HRC staff provide classroom education, as well as individual health education counseling, referrals, condoms, and family planning information upon student request. 

    These high schools have Health Resource Centers:

    • Another Course to College
    • Boston Arts Academy
    • Community Academy of Science & Health (CASH)
    • English High School
    • Excel High School
    • Fenway High School
    • O’Bryant School of Mathematics & Science

    For more information, contact Vanessa Centeio, Program Manager at 617-534-2289 or

    Wellness Policy 

    The federal government requires all school systems receive funding for the National School Meals Program to have a District Wellness Policy. Under this policy, every school in the district must have a School Wellness Council, which creates an annual Wellness Action Plan. The plan should include steps to promote health and physical education, health services, a safe and supportive climate, a healthy physical environment, healthy food and drinks, and physical activity. We encourage parents to learn about and be part of the wellness activities at their child’s school. Ask the Principal or School Wellness Council how your school is implementing the Wellness Policy. 

    For more information, contact the BPS Health and Wellness Department at 617-635-6643

    The District Wellness Council

    The District Wellness Council consists of members of our school community, appointed by the superintendent, who work together to ensure that the Boston Public Schools becomes one of the healthiest districts in the country. Council members review wellness-related policies and advise the school district on policies that address student wellness in order to promote healthy lifestyles and sustainable wellness practices in the school community. Meetings are open to the public, and community members are welcome to attend. For more information about the meeting schedule or to learn how you can participate, visit

    Physical Education

    Physical activity is beneficial for health and learning. Increased physical activity and fitness have a positive effect on concentration and academics. Boston Public Schools is working to improve both the quantity and quality of physical education and physical activity for all students in grades PreK-12 to promote their healthy development and readiness to learn. 

    Massachusetts State law says that physical education will be taught as a required subject in all grades for all students. All schools should provide opportunities for physical activity for all students in all grades.

    Physical Education Requirements and Recommendations

    Pre-kindergarten-Grade 8:

    • 150 minutes of physical activity per week 
    • 20 minutes of daily recess
    • At least 45 minutes per week of physical education
    • Aim for 80 minutes per week of physical education

    Grades 9-12:

    • One semester (equivalent to a half school year) each year of physical education for all students in grades 9-12

    Boston Public Schools policy also states the importance of athletics and after school physical activities.

    Each year, students in grades 4 through 9 will complete a series of physical exercises to measure their health-related fitness. The results of this assessment called a “Fitnessgram,” can help schools set health and fitness goals for their students, improve physical fitness programs, and help families develop healthy, active lifestyles.

    To learn more about the BPS physical education curriculum, visit or call 617-635-6643.

    Health Program Surveys

    In a number of middle schools and high schools, we may ask students to complete surveys about risk behaviors and other related topics to help determine the need for and effectiveness of health education programming. These surveys help us to understand whether what we teach is making a difference in student behaviors and health outcomes. 

    The surveys, such as the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, are confidential and protect each student’s privacy. No individual student responses will ever be reported. If you have any questions about these surveys, you may contact the principal/Head of School of your child’s school for more information. If you DO NOT want your son/daughter to participate in health program surveys, please contact the principal of your child’s school to let him/her know of your decision. The principal may ask you to sign an exemption form. Students who are exempted will not be penalized academically.