February 16, 2012 10:58:00 AM
For too long, sex education has been a four-letter word in the state of Mississippi.
The reality is, teenagers are having sex. In an ideal world, they'd wait until adulthood; better yet, they'd wait until marriage. However, wishing something doesn't make it so.
We've rattled off these statistics before: The state's rate of teenage mothers is 110 out of every 1,000, according to the 2011 Kids Count Data Book. The national rate is 73 out of every 1,000. According to the Mississippi State Department of Health, 9,955 children ages 10-19 contracted an STD in 2008.
Legislation passed in October requires every district in the state to adopt some form of sex education by June 30. Lawmakers are finally starting to deal with the problem on a level that makes sense.
Many have argued that the subject should be taught in the home, and in a perfect world it would be. That simply isn't happening.
Before 2011, legislation to mandate sex education died routinely every time it was introduced. And by law, if a district taught sex education at all, it had to be geared completely toward abstinence.
School districts throughout the state, left to decide for themselves whether or not to implement it, took the road most traveled and kept sex education out of the classroom. It avoids the controversy over who should teach children about the birds and the bees, and it's cheaper. But with this new law, we are taking the proactive route for a change.
The Starkville school board has already chosen to adopt a program that teaches about contraception in addition to encouraging abstinence. A committee of educators, parents, nurses and community members has recommended Columbus schools do the same.
Let's not call ourselves enlightened just yet. We still don't want to say the S-word. We're calling it abstinence-plus or abstinence-only instead.
Whatever you call it, we need comprehensive sex education in Mississippi classrooms. And as school districts decide on the abstinence-only or abstinence-plus curriculum, we'd like to see them realize what the rest of us already have: Simply preaching abstinence isn't working.