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Revised New Hampshire Bill Expands Requirements for Health Education

The New Hampshire legislature recently passed an updated health education policy for public schools. The new policy, which Governor Lynch signed into law on June 24th, requires that health education curriculum include “instruction on the effects of alcohol and other drugs, child abuse, HIV/AIDS, and STDs”.[i]

The state’s previous sexuality education policy required schools to include HIV prevention in their health curriculum and mandated that the Board of Education provide HIV/AIDS instructional materials to all school districts. The amended bill institutes a requirement for more comprehensive sexual health education by stipulating that schools also provide education on sexually transmitted diseases. Pregnancy prevention and birth control, however, are not required instruction under the new law. An amendment included in the new bill also establishes an opt-out policy for human sexuality education. Parents may choose not to allow their student to participate in “course requirements relating to health and sex education on religious grounds without penalty.[ii]

Mary Bubnis, health and HIV/AIDS education consultant for the New Hampshire Department of Education, stated that legislators proposed the new policy in part due to the increase in Chlamydia infections in the state.[iii] The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported in its 2006 STD Surveillance Report that the rate of Chlamydia in New Hampshire was 152.4 per 100,000 people—the most recent year for which this information is available.[iv] The state has the lowest Chlamydia rate out of all 50 states, but between 2004 and 2006 New Hampshire’s rate of infection increased by 4.8 per 100,000 persons. The neighboring state of Maine, which has the second lowest rate, experienced a decrease in chlamydial infection (of 6.3 per 100,000) within the same time period. [v]

While the new bill expands sexual health education to include instruction on STDs, schools may choose what curriculum health classes will use for teaching human sexuality and the extent to which topics such as contraception, pregnancy prevention, and STDs are discussed. According to Bubnis, there is also no penalty for schools who do not comply with the mandated policy.[vi]

“The new bill provides a positive step toward comprehensive sex education,” said SIECUS Vice President of Policy, William Smith. “It is significant that New Hampshire, whose STD rates are lowest in the country, is taking the initiative to equip its youth with vital health information.”
 


[i] “Chapter 251: SB 359 Final Version,” New Hampshire General Court, (24 June 2008), accessed 22 July 2008, <http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/legislation/2008/SB0359.html>.

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] Victoria Guay, “Teen Pregnancy Concerns Grow,” The Citizen of Laconia, 29 June 2008, accessed 10 July 2008, <http://www.fosters.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080629/GJNEWS02/700752209/-1/FOSNEWS>.

[iv] “Table 2. Chlamydia—Reported Cases and Rates by State, Ranked by Rates, United States, 2006,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (13 November 2007), accessed 22 July 2008, <http://www.cdc.gov/std/stats/tables/table2.htm>.

[v] “Table 3. Chlamydia—Reported cases and rates by state/area and region listed in alphabetical order: United States and outlying areas, 2002–2006,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (13 November 2007), accessed 22 July 2008, <http://www.cdc.gov/std/stats/tables/table3.htm>.

[vi] Victoria Guay, “Teen Pregnancy Concerns Grow,” The Citizen of Laconia, 29 June 2008, accessed 10 July 2008, <http://www.fosters.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080629/GJNEWS02/700752209/-1/FOSNEWS>. 

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