Lawmakers consider changing 'abstinence only' curriculum

By Jon Kalahar - email

JACKSON, MS (WLOX) - With Mississippi's teen pregnancy rate still at or among the highest in the nation, state representatives decided this week to look at making a change to the "abstinence only" program currently taught across the state.

The state Department of Human Services works to promote abstinence as the only 100 percent effective birth control method. And according to their web site, births to teen mothers are down. But the problem still exists.

"We don't have any problem teaching abstinence as a part of this curriculum, but the fact of the matter is it's more to it than that," said Rep. Steve Holland, (D) Plantersville.

House bill 234 creates a pilot program to institute a sex education program in the two schools in the state with the highest teen pregnancy rate. The program will include safe sex methods.

"The part about how to use contraceptives, showing kids how to do it and that's the sort of thing I felt like that was an endorsement of sex outside of marriage," said Rep. Phillip Gunn, (R) Clinton.

Parents must elect for their teen to be a part of the class, and each class will be separated according to gender. Still, Representative Phillip Gunn feels the House is walking a fine line.

"This is a parent issue. Parents need to step up to the plate and teach their kids what they want them to know in this area. And I think when we start putting the schools in that role, we're getting on to dangerous ground," said Gunn.

Unfortunately, the numbers don't lie.

"We've got the highest teen pregnancy in the nation. We've got a lot of issues dealing with public health that need to be resolved in this area. It's to get a little more aggressive in our health education area to make sure kids understand consequences for their behavior," said Holland.

Current state law gives school districts the right to change their program from abstinence only to safe sex initiatives, if the school board votes to make the change.