HB999 was the focus of yesterday’s Jackson Public Schools Steering Committee.  The committee consists of district administrators, principals, and parents.  The interest in the abstinence-plus sex education option was clearly evident, but there were several questions about how the policy would be implemented.  The Superintendent expressed concerns about adopting a policy without knowing which curricula would be available.  Administrators in several districts have raised similar concerns about MDE ongoing curriculum review process, and we are working with the vendors of our recommended curricula to get them approved as quickly as possible.Meanwhile, the principals were concerned about the staffing issues related to instruction.  They were concerned about how the gender separation requirements would affect staffing, along with the requirements for eligible instructors.  The policy states that only teachers with a Health, Science, and/or Family/Consumer Science certification or endorsement would be able to teach sex ed.  I informed the group that any flexibility around staffing issues would likely be handled on a case-by-case basis.

In addition to my presentation, representatives from MSDH also shared data about STD infection rates in the Jackson area.  They shared national rankings for several infection rates (Mississippi is #1 teen birth and gonorrhea, #2 in Chlamydia, #3 in syphilis, and #6 in new cases of HIV).  They also presented census data maps that showed the concentration of STD cases in the Jackson area.  The final group presentation was from Building Bridges, a Jackson-based organization committed to preventing HIV/AIDS in Jackson.  The importance of their work is bolstered by the fact that Jackson has the 3rd highest HIV infection rate of all U.S. metropolitan areas.  Building Bridges is currently working on a survey to gauge public support in the Jackson area for sex education.

The Steering Committee will continue their discussion about sex ed during their January meeting.   The JPS Board is expected to adopt a policy during their March Board meeting.

Stay tuned…

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