Sex Ed Sucks in Mississippi

Today, The Atlantic published a fascinating report on the despicable state of sex ed in Mississippi. The piece, by Andy Kopsa, outlines the obstacles facing sex ed advocates in a state that is famously the most religious in the nation, and also has the highest teen birth rate in the country. According to The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 58% of high school-aged students in Mississippi have had sex, and 35% did not use protection. These statistics make a lot of sense, considering the fact that Mississippi public schools have only recently been required to provide sex ed. Last year, Mississippi passed House Bill 999, which mandated sex ed in public high schools. However, many sex ed advocates consider this bill a hollow victory. House Bill 999 implements a program of abstinence-based sex ed. While school districts can choose to teach abstinence-plus curriculums, which teach abstinence but also explain how to use contraception, many school districts in Mississippi are holding fast to abstinence-only curriculums. Additionally, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, "A nine-year, $8-million evaluation of federally funded abstinence-only-until-marriage programs found that these programs have no beneficial impact on young people's sexual behavior."

Even the Mississippi school districts that have chosen to pursue abstinence-plus curriculums are facing some major legislative impediments. House Bill 999 restricts any publically funded sex ed curriculum from demonstrating proper condom use. Furthermore, the Board of Education is not required by law to work with the Board of Health in producing sex ed curriculum. Therefore, according to Kopsa, “non-health professionals have worked in a vacuum,” ultimately approving programs that feature erroneous statistics on HIV and contraception. As if Mississippi high schoolers aren’t being lied to enough, Kopsa continues, “HB 999 also allows a school to teach that homosexuality is prohibited by a section of the state legal code titled Unnatural Intercourse, which lists ‘crime against nature, with mankind or beast’ as a Class I felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.”

While House Bill 999 was supposed to be a landmark law in Mississippi, it appears to have ultimately ushered in more of the same. Taxpayers are now funding abstinence-only curriculums that aren't changing anything. Meanwhile, teens are being robbed of contraceptive information that could actually prevent unprotected sex and teen pregnancy. It’s a depressing phenomenon, and one that unfortunately isn’t specific to Mississippi alone.  

Via The Atlantic, Images Via Flickr, Feministe, and The Atlantic

 
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