The Advocate (Baton Rouge) (05.09.12) - Thursday, May 10,
In a 9-9 vote, a bill to require sex education in Louisiana
public schools failed Tuesday in the state House Education
Committee. Three Republicans joined six Democrats in voting
for HB 820, which had previously failed to clear the committee
in an 8-8 vote on April 25.
The bill would have required age-appropriate abstinence-based
sex education in schools, including instruction about STDs and
the correct use, benefits, and risks of contraceptives.
Parents could have opted their children out of the lessons.
Currently, sex education is not required by the state.
The committee's chair, Rep. Steve Carter (R-Baton Rouge), cast
the final vote this round, switching from his April "yes" vote
to a "no" vote. Rep. Patricia Smith (D-Baton Rouge) said later
that Carter had been pressured by Gov. Bobby Jindal's office,
which Carter denied.
Smith had earlier distributed information showing East Baton
Rouge ranked first in the state in 2009 for births to mothers
under age 20. It also ranked third that year in chlamydia and
gonorrhea cases among females ages 15-19. "We have children as
young as nine and 10 years old having babies in the state of
Louisiana," she said in closing comments.
MarkAlain Dery, a doctor and HIV/AIDS specialist with the
Tulane School of Medicine, urged the committee to pass the
bill. He said most 18-year-olds with HIV with whom he has
spoken said they had received either no sex education or
abstinence-only instruction. "This is a totally preventable
disease," he said. "We just need to educate our young people."
The issue needs more study, including about the curricula
currently being taught in health classes, said Russell
Armstrong, Jindal's education policy advisor. The state Board
of Elementary and Secondary Education, the Louisiana Baptist
Convention, and the Louisiana Family Forum all opposed the