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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
LOUISIANA: Sex-Ed Mandate Fails to Pass House Panel
Will Sentell, Capitol News Bureau
May 10, 2012
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 bill.