Target: Governor of Mississippi, Phil Bryant
Goal: Cut off state funding for abstinence-only sex education programs
Mississippi has the nation’s second highest rate of teen pregnancy and highest rate of teen birth. In 2012, the state passed a new law that mandated that all public schools in the state start teaching some form of sex education. The law allows individual school districts to choose from an array of curricula and determine which grades should be taught. However, many schools in the state still teach abstinence-only sex education programs.
The 2012 law also imposes strict restrictions on the schools. For example, families can opt out of the sex education, and instructors are not allowed to demonstrate how to properly put on a condom or discuss abortion during the lessons.
Abstinence-only sex education curricula typically do not teach kids information about condoms or contraceptives. The emphasis of these curricula is usually on saving sex until marriage, and one of the existing programs in Mississippi even ends with a mock wedding ceremony. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services only approves sex education programs that include information about contraceptives and condoms. Very few districts in the state have opted to implement HHS-approved programs.
At least ten districts in Mississippi have selected a curriculum created by the Center for Relationship Education called Why Am I Tempted (WAIT). Health professionals and women’s advocates have labeled this curriculum as misogynistic and medically inaccurate, and one of its focuses is to teach young girls that if they have sex before marriage, they’re considered “dirty.”
These abstinence-only programs are not only sexist and damaging towards women and young girls, but they also can be counterproductive to preventing unwanted teen pregnancies. Because some programs over-emphasize a condom’s ability to break, some teens will opt not to use condoms at all. The lack of education about how to properly put on a condom can also lead to condom failure.
Tell Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant that while mandating sex education be taught in all Mississippi schools was a step in the right direction, programs that shame kids about sex or don’t offer complete and accurate information about contraceptives and safe sex are not the solution. Other states have begun to cut funding for these abstinence-only curricula, forcing schools to adopt comprehensive programs that will give teens the resources and education they need to prevent STIs and unwanted pregnancies.
Dear Governor Phil Bryant,
Mississippi’s high teen pregnancy and teen birth rates will not be properly addressed if public schools continue to teach abstinence-only sex education curricula. These programs do not give kids accurate information about condoms and contraceptives and also fail to educate about abortion.
Condoms and other contraceptive methods are hugely important to the prevention of STIs, and improperly putting on a condom can lead to condom failure. Comprehensive sex education programs usually teach kids how to properly put on a condom and also educate about other forms of contraception and STI prevention.
Abstinence-only programs are sex-negative and shame and scare kids. They are counterproductive to attempts to reduce the rate of unwanted teen pregnancies. Cut state funding for these programs and start supporting HHS-approved curricula that are truly focused on providing teens with resources to stay safe.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: kerryj.com via Flickr