October 9, 2010 9:20:00 PM
Mississippi leads the nation in teenage pregnancy. Our Legislature is also a leader -- in keeping comprehensive sex education out of public schools.
There seems to be a connection here.
According to the nonprofit Kids Count Data Book, Mississippi had nearly 10,000 pregnancies among girls ages 15-19 in 2008, the last year records are available. Of course, it seems to be ever more common for girls under 15 to become pregnant -- ask any middle school teacher.
Even more teens contracted a sexually transmitted diseases.
Yet, remarkably, the only sex ed in Mississippi schools is a unit in health class, either nonexistent or optional until ninth grade. And the focus is on abstinence, not prevention or -- dare we say it -- contraception. Frankly, many of the teens most at risk for pregnancy and disease are already having sex by ninth grade. A few have children.
Educators we''ve spoken with in casual conversation say middle school isn''t early enough to begin educating children about what causes babies. Knowledge is power. Children are having children, in some cases, before they know what causes them.
Legislation that would bolster sex education in Mississippi schools routinely dies in the Legislature each year.
Some argue that sex education shouldn''t be taught in schools at all -- that this education belongs in the home. In principle that may be a good idea; in practice it''s simply not happening.
Some argue that we should only teach abstinence. Let''s be realistic. The sad truth is that children are having sex at an age before they fully understand the consequences. We have a duty to protect them, in this case, through education.
We need comprehensive sex education in Mississippi. It should be mandatory, and it needs to start in at least the seventh grade.
This is an ethical problem, a health problem and an economic problem. Obviously, it''s a problem that''s not going to solve itself. It''s only going to get worse, until our legislators empower our educators to help reverse this debilitating trend.