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National News

Texas Teaches Abstinence, With Mixed Grades

January 22, 2003

Students in Lubbock, Texas, are protesting abstinence-only sex education, taught since 1995 when Gov. George W. Bush signed a bill requiring that Texas schools follow the curriculum. Since then, teen pregnancy and STD rates have stayed high.

In 2000, Texas' statewide teen pregnancy was 33 per 1,000; Lubbock County's rate was 42.4, said Jane Tustin, health services coordinator for the Lubbock Independent School District. The same year, fewer than 150 per 100,000 cases of gonorrhea were reported nationally. Lubbock County reported double that rate, with most cases among those ages 15 to 20.

"The current policies are obviously ineffective," said Corey Nichols, 17, mayor of the Lubbock Youth Commission and a leader of the push for a change. "I think abstinence is wonderful; as a commission we back abstinence. But when you look at the numbers, you see the abstinence curriculum fails."

Teenagers say that with limited teaching from school and parents, they learn from experience. Yet abstinence-only proponents feel teaching youth about birth control constitutes inviting them to have sex.

"Abstinence is the 100 percent effective way of not getting an STD or pregnant, said Vilka Scott, a disease intervention specialist at the Lubbock Health Department. "I strongly encourage abstinence."

But, Scott noted, she also tells young people that delaying the onset of sexual activity, reducing the number of partners and using a condom greatly reduce risk. "I don't think information leads to bad decisions," she said. "I think it empowers individuals to make their own responsible decisions."

Joseph McIlhaney, founder of the Medical Institute for Sexual Health, asserts it is too early to evaluate the effectiveness of abstinence-only programs, but says he has seen instances of teen sexual activity declining after aggressive education on condom failure rates and the dangers of STDs.

Tustin believes abstinence-only does not give teenagers credit for being able to digest nuanced messages. "Parents underestimate the knowledge kids have and the pressure they are under," she said. "They would be horrified if they knew what their kids know about drugs and sex."

Back to other CDC news for January 22, 2003

Previous Updates

Adapted from:
Washington Post
01.21.03; Ceci Connolly

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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.