The Fight for Better Sex Education in Louisiana
(I do not claim to be professional giving advice or an expert on the given material. This blog post was adapted from my final speech for my COM211 course.)
When I was picking the topic for my speech I was casually talking to my mother about some of the topics I was considering. She just so happened to mention that at my mothers all girl, Catholic high school a specific religion teacher was informing students that they could only get pregnant two days out of the month. When she said this I immediately knew what I wanted to speak about in my speech class. As a sociology major with the objective of specializing in gender and sexuality I wanted to delve further into this topic for my speech. Needless to say my findings weren’t pretty, and when I shared many of the statistics with my friends from class and even family members they were shocked. I knew that my speech needed to not be written on a national level as originally planned but a local level.
When I finished my speech I knew I wanted to share this information further, which is why we are here today. I am writing to discuss the present state of Louisiana’s sex education policy while comparing it to a state that requires medically accurate, in depth, sex education; and what the benefits would be if we required medically accurate, in depth sex education.
During this post I will be comparing Louisiana to Arizona. Both states have similar socioeconomic and political standings, but there is a drastic difference, or view, on sex education. In the United States it is a commonly known fact that teen pregnancy has been on a steady decline since the 1950’s but the numbers are still shockingly high. From the Federal Health and Human Services 45.1 teen pregnancies per 1,000 teens compared to Arizona’s 38 per 1,000. The Federal Health and Human Services department associates this steady decline to the social acceptance of birth control (whether oral, implant, patch, or injected).
While the rates of teen pregnancy has been going down, there has been a drastic increase in STD and STI contraction. An STD is a sexually transmitted disease, while an STI is a sexually transmitted infection.
In fact, NOLA.com recently wrote an article celebrating how Baton Rouge, dropped from first to second highest rate of HIV/AIDS.
The CDC says that in Baton Rouge there are 29.4 cases of HIV/AIDS per 100k people, while in New Orleans there are 25.4 cases of HIV/AIDS per 100k.
The CDC states that in Louisiana, the rate of primary and secondary syphilis was 16 per 100,000. Louisiana now ranks 3rd in rates of P&S syphilis among 50 states. Ranked 4th among 50 states in chlamydial infections 597.9 per 100,000 persons and ranked 2nd among 50 states in gonorrheal infections 194 per 100,000 persons. If you compare these statistics to Arizona, we can see a drastic difference between the two states. According to the CDC Arizona only claims 4 cases of syphilis per 100k and 469.6 cases of chlamydia per 100,000 persons. The only way to change these statistics is to follow Arizona’s example and educate people about how to prevent these diseases harmful diseases without using scare tactics. It wasn’t until Arizona began to implement it’s newest amendment on Sex Education that they saw the drop in teen pregnancy and STD contraction occurred.
Louisiana currently has NO laws about sexual education.
According to SEX ETC, a sex positive website, states that have no laws about sexual education have no way of regulating the information students are taught. This means that none of the information is required to be medically accurate, nor are the educators mandated to inform the students about contraception or how to prevent sexually transmitted diseases. Many of the sexual education classes are more like a health class, simply informing students on anatomy and using scare images to inform students about sexually transmitted diseases and infections. Scare images are images that are intended to create or promote fear around a specific topic. They often depict the worst possible outcome of a situation.
Curious by my findings I conducted a bit of my own research. I released a survey on Facebook and found that if students from Louisiana received any sex education it was considered abstinence only. I’ve inserted the graphs Google Drive has simulated from the survey I released below.
The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character — that is the goal of true education. — Martin Luther King, Jr.
The function of sex education is not to encourage sex, but to educate the general public on how to not only be emotionally ready for sex, but to prepare them for safe, consensual, protected sex.
Following states leads, like Arizona, Louisiana should implement sex education laws that require medically accurate information. From the amendment to the Arizona law on sex education:
Amends existing law to allow school districts to provide sex education unless a parent provides written permission for a student to opt out of instruction. Requires that school districts provide sex education that is medically accurate and age- and developmentally appropriate in grades kindergarten through 12. Creates additional requirements for sex education, including teaching the benefits of delaying sexual activity and the importance of using effective contraceptives to prevent unintended pregnancy, HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. Education requirements also include information to support students in developing healthy relationships and skills such as communication, critical thinking and decision making. Requires the Department of Education, among other things, to develop list of appropriate curricula and create rules for instructor qualifications.
This amendment, like many other states that encourage medically accurate sex education, not only outlines that sex education needs to be medically accurate but shows one of the most important parts about sex education.
Sex education is NOT supposed to inform students simply about how to have protected sex, but to learn to identify your feelings, how to properly communicate with a partner, and learn how to make a life decision that is appropriate for the individual.
If Louisiana implements medically accurate sex education that strives to educate students not only on the health side of sex education but the critical thinking, emotional, and decision making side the state will not only see a lower STD, HIV/AIDS, and teen pregnancy rate, but perhaps create a generation of young adults who know how to make informed decisions in every aspect of their life.
Many of you may be thinking: I’m already past that point in my life,how does this apply to me? That is a good question because, yes, many of you readers are already past this point in your life; but this time has not yet passed for your siblings, nieces, nephews, your friends children, or even your future children. When you are posed with the question of whether or not we should provide medically accurate sex education that involves informing students how to make sound life choices I call you to think about the future generations and the adolescents of today. As the current voters and ‘adults’ who will shape their future education what kind of example would we be if we continue to steer away from this topic that is becoming a dangerous situation?
The conversation with my mother forced me to I think back to my days at a catholic high school I fondly remember sitting in religion class and being told that my sex was like a piece of duct tape the more you stuck a piece of duct tape to someone, the less sticky it would be come. The idea was to teach us that the more sex we had the less meaningful, or pure it would be. I could only imagine that it was the same religion teacher informing the class that you could only get pregnant two days out of the entire month. When I graduated high school, I couldn’t count on my hands and feet how many of my peers I had learned were pregnant or had contracted some type of STD.
Louisiana continually finds itself on the worst top ten lists possible. Baton Rouge ranking second in HIV and Aids, New Orleans coming in at a close fourth, and let’s not forget ranking third in the country for syphilis per 100k people. In conclusion, if Louisiana continues to ignore the pressing need for medically accurate sex education that properly informs students on the protection against STDs and STIs the state will continue to climb the ranks in sexually transmitted diseases.
Without the proper education and without the proper resources how can we expect our future citizens to make informed decisions that impact their entire futures?
Google Simulated Charts from Response:
Responses in a Spreadsheet: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1_zJBLxhVHu5Ry1LjL2KlZdrWGh8q_fOJiobv4l7Jo1M/edit#gid=1193314996
Baton Rouge Aids Society. “Louisiana Statistics.” Baton Rouge Aids Society. Baton Rouge Aids Society, n.d. Web. 02 May 2015. <http://www.batonrougeaidssociety.org/id8.html>.
CCD. “State Profiles — Louisiana.” Louisiana 2013 State Health Profile (n.d.): 1–2. Web. 2 May 2015 <http://www.cdc.gov/nchhstp/stateprofiles/pdf/louisiana_profile.pdf>.
CDC. “State Profiles — Arizona.” Arizona — 2013 State Health Profile (n.d.): 1–2. Web. 2 May 2015. <http://www.cdc.gov/nchhstp/stateprofiles/pdf/arizona_profile.pdf>.
“Louisiana Legislature Continues to Restrict Sex Education.” RH Reality Check. N.p., 21 May 2014. Web. 02 May 2015. <http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2014/05/21/louisiana-legislature-continues-restrict-sex-education/>.
McKeon, Brigid. “Effective Sex Education.” Advocates for Youth. Advocates for Youth, n.d. Web. 2 May 2015. <http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/component/content/article/450-effective-sex-education>.
Office of Adolescent Health. “The Office of Adolescent Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.” Office of Adolescent Health. Office of Adolescent Health, n.d. Web. 04 May 2015. <http://www.hhs.gov/ash/oah/adolescent-health-topics/reproductive-health/states/az.html>. Office of Adolescent Health. “The Office of Adolescent Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.” Office of Adolescent Health. Office of Adolescent Health, n.d. Web. 04 May 2015. <http://www.hhs.gov/ash/oah/adolescent-health-topics/reproductive-health/states/az.html>.
Planned Parenthood. “Implementing Sex Education.” Implementing Sex Education.
Planned Parenthood, n.d. Web. 02 May 2015. <http://www.plannedparenthood.org/educators/implementing-sex-education>.
Sex Etc. “Sex in the States — Louisiana.” Sex Etc. Sex Etc., n.d. Web.<http://sexetc.org/states/louisiana/>.
Samuels, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune, Diana. “Baton Rouge Drops to 2nd in New Rankings of AIDS Cases, 4th in HIV Rate.” NOLA.com. NOLA.com, n.d. Web. 04 May 2015. <http://www.nola.com/news/baton-
Sprang, Curt. “Louisiana Leads Nation In Sexually Transmitted Diseases.” WGNO. WGNO, 14 Dec. 2012. Web. 02 May 2015. <http://wgno.com/2012/12/14/louisiana-leads-nation-in-sexually-transmitted-diseases/>.
“State Policies on Sex Education.” National Conference of State Legislation. National Conference of State Legislation, n.d. Web. 2 May 2015. <http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ncsl.org%2Fresearch%2Fhealth%2Fstate-policies-on-sex-education-in-schools.aspx>.