The state Department of Education announced Friday that 81 school districts elected to teach abstinence-only sex education in the upcoming school year vs. 71 that opted for an abstinence-plus approach.
Three districts chose to teach abstinence-only for younger grades and abstinence-plus for older grades. Mississippi’s largest school district, DeSoto County, opted for abstinence-only, while the second-largest district, in Jackson, chose abstinence-plus. The four specialty schools run by the state Board of Education will teach an abstinence-plus curriculum.
Under a state law enacted in 2011, school districts had until June 30 to select abstinence-only or abstinence-plus. Each district must go through a separate process to decide on a specific curriculum. Students must be separated by gender in the classes, and children must have their parents’ permission to take part.
Under a previous state law, school districts were not required to teach sex education. Districts that elected to provide sex education were required to teach abstinence, unless they received local school board approval to cover topics such as contraception.
Mississippi has one of the nation’s highest teen birth rates, with 64 births per 1,000 females ages 10-19 in 2009, compared to the US average of 39. A 2011 study conducted by the Mississippi Economic Policy Center and sponsored by the Women’s Fund of Mississippi found births to teen or preteen mothers cost the state $154.9 million in 2009.
Date of Publication
Emily Wagster Pettus
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