By Lacey McLaughlin
The Jackson Free Press–January 14, 2011
A 13-year-old Jackson Public Schools student kisses her 30-year-old boyfriend as he drops her off at school one morning. When school officials call the teen’s mother. She shows little concern saying, “He takes care of her, he helps her get the school supplies she needs.” A 12-year-old feels her baby move inside her for the first time and asks: “What I am feeling? I didn’t think it would be alive until the doctor spanked it.”
An 11-year-old student says she knows her 21-year-old boyfriend loves her because he said she looks good and bought her dinner at Popeye’s.
As a long-time JPS educator, these are just a few of the examples of complex social issues Nancy Sylvester recalled yesterday during a joint legislative hearing on teen pregnancy at the state Capitol.
“These situations are occurring all across the state, as (they) have been for a number of years, and we are always asking, ‘What do we do?,'” Sylvester told an audience of more than 50 lawmakers and citizens. “… The issues are deeper than children just wanting to be sexually active.”
Sylvester, who initially advocated for abstinence-until-marriage education for the school district, says sex education needs to include information about contraceptives, but to be effective, it must also address social, emotional and mental-health issues of teens and families.
Mississippi Department of Health Officer Mary Currier also pushed for lawmakers to pass comprehensive sex-education legislation. Currier displayed data from a Department of Health survey showing 44.9 percent of Mississippi high-school students say they had sexual intercourse within the three months leading up to the survey. She recommended school districts implement programs that teach students refusal skills in nonsexual situations to sixth graders and the consequences of sex to seventh graders.
Currently, school districts are not required to teach sex education. Most follow the Mississippi Department of Education’s Framework guidelines, which only teach abstinence-until-marriage and basic information about sexually transmitted diseases. School districts have the authority to adopt a sex-education policy, however, with school board approval.