[Rachel is interviewed in this new JFP article about Sex Education in Mississippi.]

By Adam Lynch 

The Jackson Free Press–March 14, 2011

The Mississippi Senate and House of Representatives are awaiting the governor’s signature on a bill forcing all local public-school boards to adopt a policy to add “abstinence-only” or “abstinence-plus” education into its curriculum by June 30, 2012.

The board does not have to contract out a program or create a program in-house, but will adopt a program developed by the Mississippi Department of Human Services and the Mississippi Department of Health. The state Department of Education must approve each district’s curriculum for sex-related education under House Bill 999 and must also assure the continued success of the program.

The bill gives lists the attributes of abstinence-only education, but also gives the option for schools to adopt instruction in “either abstinence-only or abstinence-plus education.” Mississippi State Health Officer Dr. Mary Currier said the state Department of Health will make sure the program contains proven techniques for preventing STDs, AIDS and pregnancy.

“We have someone in the central office whose responsibility is to work with the Department of Education, and a large part of what they do is just this sort of thing,” Currier said. “It’s their responsibility to figure out what kind of programs will work in our schools, and we’ll make sure that whatever we use will be evidence-based, things that have been shown to work in other places.”

Currier said the fact that the law will make sex education mandatory will mean big improvements to Mississippi, considering the state’s poor record with STD and teen pregnancy prevention. She says the state has the highest rate of teen births in the country, as well as the highest incidence of chlamydia and gonorrhea.

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