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Tennessee Legislators Discuss "Risk Avoidance" Abstinence Plan

March 26, 2012

A state House subcommittee on Wednesday approved a bill that would require sex education to focus on abstinence, avoiding sex until marriage, and discouraging "gateway sexual activity" short of intercourse. The measure, HB 3621, also would make it harder for the state Board of Education (BOE) to make changes to Tennessee's sex education program.

Under HB 3621, curricula would have to focus on risk avoidance rather than reducing the risk of STDs and pregnancy. Parents would be authorized to seek damages if presenters brought in from outside the school system encouraged students to go beyond abstinence and the abstinence education law. Courts could assess damages, attorney's fees, and a $500 fine for each pupil if the parents won their case. Regular teachers would be exempt.

The bill would make it harder for school districts to tap outside experts for presentations, but otherwise it would not materially change what is taught, said Gary Nixon, BOE's executive director. Currently, students are not taught anything about sexual intercourse until ninth grade.

The bill's intent is to bring clarity to the definition of abstinence in the state's 1989 sex education law, said Rep. Jim Gotto (R-Hermitage). "There are practically no guidelines in there," he said. "There are situations where the program that is being taught is not abstinence-centered, and the reason for that is the lack of definition in the law."

Two years ago, some parents of students at Hillsboro High School in Nashville criticized a lesson that demonstrated proper condom use with a plastic model. Last year, controversy over a Planned Parenthood-led presentation in Knox County Public Schools led outside instruction to be discontinued.

Back to other news for March 2012

Adapted from:
Tennessean (Nashville)
03.22.2012; Chas Sisk

This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
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10 Common Fears About HIV Transmission
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