A glance at sex-education choices in Mississippi

By Emily Wagster Pettus/The Associated Press

JACKSON — More than half of Mississippi’s school districts have chosen an abstinence-only approach to sex education, starting in the upcoming school year.

Eighty-one districts have chosen that approach, according to a list released Friday by the state Department of Education. Seventy-one have chosen abstinence-plus, which could include the mention of contraception — but still without any demonstration of condoms.

Three districts are taking a split approach, with abstinence-only for younger grades and abstinence-plus for older grades.

Mississippi has long had one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in the nation. A state law enacted in 2011 requires school districts to teach some sort of sex education, beginning in the 2012-13 academic year. Districts had a June 30, 2012, deadline to choose abstinence-only or abstinence-plus. There is a separate process for each district to choose a specific curriculum for the lessons.

Parents must give permission for their children to take the classes, and boys and girls are separated.

The state’s largest school district, DeSoto County, chose abstinence-only. The second-largest district, in the city of Jackson, chose abstinence-plus.

The state Board of Education chose abstinence-plus for four specialty schools it governs: the Mississippi School for the Deaf and the Mississippi School for the Blind, both in Jackson; the Mississippi School of the Arts, in Brookhaven; and the Mississippi School for Math and Science, in Columbus.

Republican Gov. Phil Bryant appointed a group earlier this year to study ways to reduce teenage pregnancy. He has said repeatedly that he believes abstinence-only is the best approach to teaching young people about sex.

A study released in September 2011 showed births to teen or preteen mothers cost Mississippi $154.9 million in 2009.

That included increased costs of foster care, social services and incarceration for young people born years ago to teen moms. It also took into account lost revenue from people who have lower levels of education and lower-paying jobs because they became parents when they were younger than 20.

The study was done by a nonprofit, nonpartisan group called the Mississippi Economic Policy Center and was sponsored by the Women’s Fund of Mississippi. It was also supported by Mississippi First, an advocacy group for health and education issues.

Mississippi First and the Women’s Fund advocate an evidence-based sex education curriculum that includes information about contraception, disease prevention and responsibility that they say can help reduce the rates of teen and preteen pregnancies.

“We are pleased and excited that so many districts decided to go with abstinence-plus,” Jamie H. Bardwell, program director for the Women’s Fund, said Friday. “It definitely shows a need and a desire for more than just abstinence-only. It reflects the reality that 76 percent of Mississippi 12th-graders have already had sex.”

Mississippi First lobbied for districts in 17 counties with high rates of teen birth and sexually transmitted disease to adopt abstinence-plus curricula that have been studied and show measurable benefits.

State Health Department statistics show that in 2009, there were 7,078 live births to mothers aged 10 to 19. That meant that for every 1,000 girls or women in that age group, about 64 gave birth to a baby who lived. The rate for the U.S. was 39 live births among every 1,000 girls or women younger than 20. The statistics do not include pregnancies that ended in stillbirths, miscarriages or abortions.

Under a previous law, Mississippi school districts were not required to teach either comprehensive sex education or abstinence. Districts were allowed to teach abstinence, but if they wanted to teach more than that, they needed local school board approval.

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Associated Press writer Jeff Amy contributed to this report.

A glance at sex-education choices in Mississippi

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi school districts had a June 30 deadline to adopt a sex-education curriculum that will be used starting in the 2012-13 academic year. They chose between abstinence-only and abstinence-plus. Under abstinence-plus, students may be taught about contraception, but the use of condoms may not be demonstrated. Here’s a glance at the choices, released Friday by the state Department of Education:

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Abstinence-only (81)

1. Alcorn

2. Amory

3. Attala County

4. Baldwyn

5. Benoit

6. Benton County

7. Booneville

8. Brookhaven

9. Canton

10. Choctaw County

11. Claiborne County

12. Clay County

13. Columbia

14. Copiah County

15. Corinth

16. DeSoto County

17. Enterprise

18. Forrest County Agricultural High School

19. Forrest County

20. Franklin County

21. George County

22. Greene County

23. Grenada

24. Gulfport

25. Hazlehurst

26. Hinds County Agricultural High School

27. Hollandale

28. Itawamba

29. Jackson County

30. Jefferson County

31. Jones County

32. Kosciusko

33. Lafayette County

34. Lamar

35. Lawrence County

36. Lee County

37. Lincoln

38. Long Beach

39. Louisville

40. Lowndes County

41. Madison County

42. Marion County

43. Marshall County

44. Monroe County

45. Montgomery County

46. Natchez-Adams

47. Neshoba County

48. Nettleton

49. New Albany

50. Newton County

51. North Pike

52. North Tippah

53. Noxubee County

54. Okolona

55. Pass Christian

56. Pearl

57. Perry County

58. Petal

59. Philadelphia

60. Picayune

61. Pontotoc

62. Pontotoc County

63. Poplarville

64. Prentiss

65. Quitman

66. Rankin County

67. Scott

68. Senatobia

69. South Pike

70. South Tippah

71. Tate County

72. Tishomingo County

73. Tupelo

74. Union

75. Union County

76. Walthall County

77. Wayne County

78. Webster County

79. West Point

80. Wilkinson County

81. Winona

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Abstinence-only for younger grades, abstinence-plus for older grades (3)

1. Hattiesburg

2. Oktibbeha County

3. South Panola

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Abstinence-plus (71)

1. Aberdeen

2. Amite County

3. Bay St. Louis-Waveland

4. Biloxi

5. Calhoun County

6. Carroll County

7. Chickasaw County

8. Clarksdale

9. Cleveland

10. Clinton

11. Coahoma County

12. Coahoma County Agricultural High School

13. Coffeeville

14. Columbus

15. Covington County

16. Durant

17. East Jasper

18. East Tallahatchie

19. Forest

20. Greenville

21. Greenwood

22. Hancock County

23. Harrison County

24. Hinds County

25. Holly Springs

26. Holmes County

27. Houston

28. Humphreys County

29. Indianola

30. Jackson

31. Jefferson Davis County

32. Kemper

33. Lauderdale County

34. Laurel

35. Leake County

36. LeFlore County

37. Leland

38. Lumberton

39. McComb

40. Meridian

41. Moss Point

42. Mound Bayou

43. Newton

44. North Bolivar

45. North Panola

46. Ocean Springs

47. Oxford

48. Pascagoula

49. Pearl River County

50.Quitman County

51. Richton

52. Shaw

53. Simpson County

54. Smith County

55. South Delta

56. Starkville

57. Stone County

58. Sunflower-Drew

59. Tunica

60. Vicksburg-Warren

61. Water Valley

62. West Bolivar

63. West Jasper

64. West Tallahatchie

65. Western Line

66. Yazoo City

67. Yazoo County

68. Mississippi School of the Arts

69. Mississippi School for the Blind

70. Mississippi School for the Deaf

71. Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science

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Source: Mississippi Department of Education