Commercial Appeal (Memphis) (10.02.12)
Memphis City Schools (MCS) have changed their consent policy on sex education, denying access to students who do not have signed permission slips from home. For more than a decade, parents who did not want their children to receive instruction could opt out by signing a refusal form. Under the change, exclusion now will be the default. Only students with signed forms requesting sex education, including HIV/AIDS instruction, will be permitted in classes.
Critics claim the “opt-in” policy creates another hurdle for students, especially African-American students who already face staggering teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease (STD) rates. Teenagers in general have higher rates of STDs, and the rates are particularly high in the South. Memphis is among the top five cities with the highest number of new HIV/AIDS cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Monica Rodriguez, president of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, commented that changing to an opt-in policy puts Memphis in the slim minority of school districts; almost every other district has an opt-out policy.
An MCS administrator who spoke off the record last week said the district had not made a final decision on changing the policy. Three weeks ago, MCS communications staff told The Commercial Appeal (Memphis) that no policy change had been made, but on October 2, MCS spokeswoman Staci Franklin said administrators were meeting October 3 to discuss the issue and that things would probably change after that meeting.