Sex Education in Mississippi
Why ‘Just Wait’ Just Doesn’t Work
A Comprehensive State Report by Planned Parenthood in Mississippi and SIECUS
For Immediate Release
January 27, 2010
Contact: Patrick Malone
Washington, DC – Planned Parenthood in Mississippi and the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) released Sex Education in Mississippi: Why ‘Just Wait’ Just Doesn’t Work, which outlines the status of sex education and failed abstinence-only-until-marriage programs in Mississippi. The report found that young people in Mississippi are currently experiencing some of the worst sexual health outcomes in the country, and are also subjected to ineffective abstinence-only-until-marriage programs and restrictive laws that limit the ability of teachers and school districts to implement comprehensive sexuality education.
“Mississippi is failing its youth when it comes to educating teens about sexuality, and our young people deserve better,” said Felicia Brown-Williams, vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of Mississippi. "This report makes clear that we must ensure that our teenagers receive medically accurate, age-appropriate sex education that gives them the tools they need to makes responsible, informed decisions about their health.”
Mississippi has the highest teen birth rate in the nation, with a rate of 68.4 live births per 1,000 females ages 15–19 compared to the national rate 41.9 births. In 2008, Mississippi had the highest rates of both Chlamydia and gonorrhea in the nation, with rates of infection for Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis among Mississippi’s youth nearly double the national average. Furthermore, Mississippi ranks next-to-last in the nation in the percentage of high school students who report ever having been taught in school about AIDS or HIV infection.
“Mississippi is keeping abstinence-only-until-marriage programs afloat and its people are paying the price,” said Jen Heitel Yakush, director of public policy at SIECUS. “As the federal government fully transitions away from funding these ineffective programs, Mississippi should follow suit and implement comprehensive sexuality education programs that teach young people how to lead safe and healthy lives.”
In Fiscal Year 2008, Mississippi received $5,742,594 in federal funds for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, which was the eighth largest funding amount awarded to any state. The state received funding from all three federal funding streams—the Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage program, the Community-Based Abstinence Education (CABE) grant program, and the Adolescent Family Life Act (AFLA). For Fiscal Year 2009, Mississippi received approximately $4,678,644 in abstinence-only-until-marriage federal funding.
Despite the fact that a 2007 study commissioned by the federal government showed that abstinence-only-until-marriage programs are ineffective, these harmful programs remain commonplace in Mississippi and across the South. The report released today takes an in depth look at the way these programs affect Mississippi youth and includes numerous examples from abstinence-only-until-marriage programs that underscore how programs are using fear and shame tactics to scare students, promoting offensive and antiquated gender stereotypes that discriminate against both girls and boys , providing outright inaccurate information, and using outdated materials.
“While some aspects of this report may seem bleak, there is a light at the end of the tunnel for young people in Mississippi,” continued Heitel Yakush. “The report contains recommendations for changes in state law and policy that the Mississippi legislature could enact to bring responsible, science- and evidence-based sex education to the state. Now that we realize that seriousness of the challenge we’re facing, it’s time to act.”
The full report can be found at www.siecus.org. For more information, please contact Patrick Malone at firstname.lastname@example.org or (202)265-2405.