Mixed Feelings and Messages About Sex Education
Louisiana’s full House approved “Erin’s Law” on Monday. Approved in 20 other states, it requires schools to teach kids what constitutes sexual abuse and sexual assault. There was no debate, and the votes for passage were unanimous.
Tuesday, the House Education Committee began hearing a bill to require schools to teach comprehensive sex education. Baton Rouge Representative Patricia Smith is the author, and she made reference to the previous day’s approval of “Erin’s Law”.
“It came out of this committee; passed the House floor. My question to you is, how can you teach sexual assault without talking about sexual education?” Smith queried her fellow committee members.
Smith told the panel, which has annually refused to advance comprehensive sex education bills, that even Mississippi has approved the teaching of medically accurate age-appropriate sex education in its public schools.
Since 1992, Louisiana law has only endorsed abstinence-based sex education. Smith noted few schools are even offering that.
“We have a $750,000 grant in the governor’s office to provide abstinence-only education. Only 19 schools are participating statewide—out of 69 school districts.”
Meanwhile, Louisiana has some of the nation’s highest teen rates of STDs, HIV, and teen pregnancy.
“Young adults that come out of abstinence-only programs are just as likely to have sex as the average teenager, but they are less likely to use contraception,” testified Autumn Fawn Gandolfi, a medical counselor with the Houma Tribal Nation.
Gandolfi—or the topic, itself—touched a nerve with committee member Barry Ivey of Baton Rouge.
“As a parent, we have parental rights, okay? And you know what? As a parent, I choose to teach my children about sex education the way I want to,” Representative Ivey replied, adding, “It’s my house. These are my rules, and you’ll follow them.”
“You’re saying that you’re going to legislate your personal morality on the general population? There is more to know than just ‘no’,” Gandolfi responded. She added, “Sir, it’s not about responsibility. At this point, it’s about neglect.”
The committee ran up against the clock, and the convening of the full House. House Education adjourned without completing testimony on the bill, but will continue the hearing where they left off, beginning at nine this morning.