by Katherine Wroblewski
Mississippi is ranked among the highest states in the nation for both teen birth and sexually transmitted disease rates. In 2012, Mississippi lawmakers moved to require school districts to provide abstinence-only or an abstinence-plus sex education program to students. This law is set to expire in 2016, which has caused public health advocates to start pushing for a stronger education law; one which will require comprehensive education in all classrooms, and to ensure that all school districts are complying with the new mandate.
Currently, 71 of the state’s 151 school districts have chosen to teach the abstinence-plus sex education program. This is a drastic increase compared to previous decades, but still means 80 districts teach abstinence-only. The Los Angeles Times reports that, despite the increase in sex ed options, the quality of education varies greatly. Before a group of parents approached the Oxford school district, the sex education program there taught students that sexually active teen girls are comparable to dirty chocolate that has been passed around among its peers. “They’re using the Peppermint Pattie to show that a girl is no longer clean or valuable after she’s had sex—that she’s been used,” Marie Barnard, a parent and public health worker, told the Times. “That shouldn’t be the lesson we send kids about sex.”
Students must get signed permission slips by parents to participate in the sex education program that is currently in place. The Los Angeles Times notes that condoms are only discussed to highlight their failure rate. “Basically, the law stinks in Mississippi,” Barnard said. “It was exciting to see the state address what is really a serious problem for the state, but they only took a little step forward.”
Mississippi is not the only state failing at delivering a comprehensive sex education. Only 22 states and the District of Columbia require that public schools teach sex education, and only 19 states have laws that actually ensure that the content that is being taught meets the minimum requirements and is medically accurate.