Times-Picayune (New Orleans) (05.24.12) - Thursday, May 24,
The state Senate Education Committee on Wednesday rejected a
bill that would have allowed Louisiana to survey students
about sexual risk behaviors. Currently, state law outlaws such
surveying, which would typically be conducted to inform public
health policy. A top advisor to Gov. Bobby Jindal joined
social conservatives in testifying against the bill, which
already had cleared the House.
Louisiana had the nation's highest rate of syphilis and the
third-highest rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea in 2009, and
the state teen pregnancy rate is higher than the nation's.
"If you don't fix this problem, Louisiana is going to get
worse," testified Rep. Pat Smith, the bill's author. Her
measure authorized surveying by the state Department of
Education; parents would retain the right to opt their
children out of the process.
The bill is "too broad" and might lead to inquiries that "are
inappropriate to be in statute," Stafford Olivia Palmieri,
Jindal's chief of staff, told senators. Smith said the surveys
would be modeled after those distributed by CDC; Kathleen
Benefield of the American Family Association of New Orleans
testified that such surveys are part of the "pornification of
"We already have the data," Sen. Mike Walsworth (R-West
Monroe) said to Smith, as he waved printed state disease
statistics. "It seems like you're saying, 'let's just keep
studying, keep studying,'" he added.
"We know the [disease] data. But how do they get to this
point?" replied Smith. "The statistics in Southern states show
that we have the biggest problems. It's in these states where
we listen to the religious right," she said.