Mississippi Schools Take Baby Steps in Sex Education
September 7, 2012
Mississippi, which is the poorest US state and has the nation's highest teen pregnancy rate, passed a law last year requiring public school districts to offer either abstinence-only or comprehensive sex education. Twenty other states and the District of Columbia also require sex education, the Guttmacher Institute reported.
Most parents in Mississippi support comprehensive school-based sex education, according to a statewide survey in 2011 conducted by the Social Science Research Center at the Mississippi State University. After the law passed, 81 school districts opted for abstinence-only instruction, while 71 chose abstinence-plus, said the state Department of Education.
In the state's northeast, the Lee County School District chose abstinence-only. Health classes had previously touched on sex education, but the district now will offer a dedicated sex education class, said Superintendent Jimmy Weeks. The school board's choice reflects that "We don't want to come across as saying 'Hey, premarital sex is OK; let us show you how you do it without getting a disease,'" he said.
Teen births accounted for 16 percent of all Lee County births in 2010, according to the Mississippi Department of Health, and for 16.5 percent in neighboring Itawamba County.
The Delta county of Coahoma had one of the highest proportions of teen births in the state: 23 percent. After four years of teaching abstinence-only, that district recently switched to an abstinence-plus program, said Pauline Rhodes, its superintendent.
"I've seen first-hand the devastation of children having children, and I have seen students on their way to a promising career have to drop out," Rhodes said. "I've always felt that until we can get a handle on teen pregnancies, we will not be able to get a handle on juvenile delinquencies."
08.26.2012; Emily Le Coz
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.
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