Clarion Ledger (Jackson) (02.18.10) - Monday, February 22,
Under a bill that passed the House and awaits action in the
Senate, Mississippi school boards would be required to adopt a
sex education policy by June 30, 2011. HB 837 calls for local
boards to select either an abstinence-only or abstinence-plus
curriculum. Current state law does not require schools to have
such a policy.
"We can no longer shy away from a sensitive topic like this
because it's become too important to the future of this
state," said Rep. John Mayo (D-Clarksdale), the measure's lead
A 2009 CDC report showed Mississippi had the highest teen
birth rate in the nation. In 2008, the state had the highest
rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea: Rates for those STDs and
syphilis among the state's youths were nearly double the US
average, according to the Sexuality Information and Education
Council of the United States.
The bill mandates that abstinence be taught in both tracks as
the only sure way to prevent STDs and pregnancies, but it
would allow educators to teach proper use of condoms and
contraceptives to high school students. Parents would need to
sign a permission slip allowing their child to attend the
classes, and students would be separated by gender for the
lessons. Under either track, age-appropriate discussions would
begin as early as kindergarten, said Mayo. The nature of the
lessons would mature along with the students, he explained.
Gov. Haley Barbour said recently he has not seen the bill, but
generally supports "anything that will reduce illegitimacy.
We've got counties where 80 percent of the children are born
out of wedlock, don't have a father, and it's a huge problem,"