When I heard about the 17 students (ironically, none of them yet 17) at Glouster High School who were pregnant, I immediately mistook Glouster for being in Mississippi. You’ll have to forgive me, but it was a natural mistake when I heard that Glouster was unsure whether it wanted to make obtaining birth control any easier for students.
The other reason for the mistake is that CDC announced that Mississippi now leads the nation in teenage pregnancies, displacing Texas, New Mexico, and Alaska. In fact the pregnancy rate is 60% higher than the national average. In addition, 59.5% of high school students are sexually active, and Mississippi is also the leader in chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. See Mississippi and CDC for details.
I think the state legislature has realized at last, that something needs to be done. According to Think Progress, the teen pregnancy rate is rising fastest in Alaska, and if something isn’t done soon, Mississippi may lose one of the precious few things it leads in.
Mississippi is already ahead of most states in making it illegal to demonstrate how to use a contraceptive (Mississippi Sex Education Law and Policy). It also teaches that the only appropriate place for sexual intercourse (oh, that’s what causes babies) is in a monogamous heterosexual relationship. None of that queer stuff that diminishes a girl’s chances of getting pregnant.
Through a majority vote, local school boards may drop abstinence from sex education (fat chance of that). The Department of Health must determine the districts where the number of teen pregnancies is highest and implement a program coordinated by the school nurse to teach about abstinence. (Close the gate after the cattle have left.) Thinking ahead, the state has banned the nurse from mentioning abortion.
Before sex education begins, the school must notify parents of their intents so the parents have the opportunity to opt their children out of this naughty program. Personally, I don’t know that I would be ready to let my kids know where babies come from. They can find out for themselves when the time comes, and we know that won’t be until they’re well into their twenties or thirties.
Mississippi schools are not required to teach about either sexuality or sexually transmitted diseases, but if they do, they must stress abstinence until marriage and include the likely psychological and physical effects of not abstaining. The slogan Mississippi teaches its students is “Just wait”. This is probably a good idea, because you need to know if anyone else is around before trying anything. If the school board authorizes it and contraceptives are mentioned, state law requires that failure rates and risks of each contraceptive method must be included. Really, you’re better off avoiding those risks and failure and just go without a contraceptive.
The students who pledge to remain virgins until marriage are just as likely as those who don’t to have premarital sex, and they’re significantly less likely to use birth control. The pledge is certainly a good investment in the state’s future.
I don’t know, but I think Mississippi already has a near-perfect program for sex education, but if you can think of something they’ve missed, please write to your congressman today. We have to stave off Alaska.
P.S. Haley Barbour (current governor of Mississippi) may run for president, so please help us extend his strong leadership and common-sense solutions to the entire United States.