I am writing to inform you about a recent development that may have a significant impact on our effort to reduce teen pregnancy and STD rates in Mississippi. As many of you know, Mississippi First has recently launched the Creating Healthy and Responsible Teens (CHART) initiative. CHART gives school districts the opportunity to adopt a sex education policy and implement curricula that have been proven to reduce teen pregnancy and STD rates. A federal grant also allows districts to take part in this initiative at no cost.
Last week, the State Legislature passed a new sex education bill (H.B. 999), which is expected to be signed by the governor today or tomorrow. The one positive aspect of the bill is that it requires each public school district to adopt a sex education policy and implement a curriculum in time for the 2012-13 school year. Unfortunately, the bill also includes new restrictions that would create major obstacles for districts in implementing quality sex ed programs. Among other restrictions, this bill requires written parental permission for students, mandates single-gender sex ed classes, and prohibits teaching how to properly use contraceptives. If signed, we will have to make significant changes to the CHART model policy and how we suggest districts implement the policy.
We have worked closely with the State Departments of Education and Health in creating CHART. If this bill becomes law, we will continue to work with both departments to determine how this policy can move forward in the most effective way possible. I will keep you informed about any new developments, and please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about this initiative or the pending legislation.