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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
MISSISSIPPI: School Systems Ponder Sex Education Options

February 17, 2012
Associated Press (02.17.12) - Friday, February 17, 2012

Mississippi law requires school districts to decide by June 30 how to incorporate either abstinence-only or abstinence-plus sex education classes into the curriculum for the 2012-13 school year. Abstinence-only programs can include discussion about condoms and contraceptives only in the context of their failure and risk rates. Abstinence-plus programs will have more leeway in discussing these topics, but will still address risk and failure rates. Boys and girls will receive the optional lessons separately in high school.

Among districts across the state: *Hattiesburg School Superintendent James Bacchus said he will present data at the March school board meeting to help its members make a decision, which is expected in April.

*In Greenwood, the school board intends to discuss options and take a vote in April. Board President George Ellis said he is still reviewing information on the issue.

*Starkville schools in north Mississippi decided on an abstinence-plus curriculum.

*School boards in Columbus and Oktibbeha and Lowndes counties are still studying the issue.

In Columbus, an advisory committee comprising parents, teachers, principals, counselors, and nurses has recommended an abstinence-plus program.

"We feel this is what's best for our district," said Janet Lewis, a spokesperson for Columbus schools. The school board delayed a vote on the issue this week.

"We have a little while left to pass this, but we want to be able to apply for grant money to offset the cost of the program," Lewis said, noting the state Department of Health has $2 million in grants to help districts implement sex education programs. "If we receive the grant money, it will pay for all of the materials and it will pay for instructional costs ... it could mean the program could be at no cost to the district."