There are two bills being considered on the Tennessee State Legislation Floors that if passed will require that students in Tennessee Schools only learn about how to practice abstinence until they are married. House Bill 3621 and Senate Bill 3310 will prevent teachers and education administrators alike from discussing with students, the option of using protection and teaching them about the havoc that STDs can bring to their current and future life situations. While as a parent, I understand the desire for not wanting my children to participate in sexual activity until they are married, the reality is that many of them will. This has been the case for ages.
By not sharing all of the good information that we can with our children about the responsibility that goes along with having sex, we are doing the opposite of protecting them, as the legislators who supported these bills feel that they are doing by working to get them passed. In many instances, kids share information with their teachers and school administrators, because they don’t feel comfortable with talking to their parents about it. Further, you wouldn’t teach a child about sentence structure, without explaining what a noun and a verb do. I don’t feel that this situation is any different.
For those of you who agree that simply teaching teens about abstinence is the way to go, here are some staggering statistics to chew on that may make you change your mind:
- In 2010 the Memphis and Shelby County Health Department reported that 19 teens between the ages of 15-19 had contracted HIV. They represented 5.8% of all reported cases in that year (http://www.shelbycountytn.gov/documentview.aspx?did=3641).
- In 2010, there were 3,858 cases of Chlamydia reported to the Health Department, where the infected patient was between the ages of 15-19.
- During the same time period, there were 1,216 cases of syphillis reported for the age group of 15-19 (http://www.shelbycountytn.gov/documentview.aspx?did=3639).
These numbers are just for Memphis and Shelby County and they are higher than the national average, according to various reports. In 2007 about 74% of teenage boys reported having sex at least once. About 46% of teenage girls reported the same. While I think that teaching abstinence is definitely something we need to do, I also feel that if we leave out how to be responsible and safe, if teens do decide to engage in sex, is helping them to leave their lives on the table when faced with this decision. If we as responsible adults and educators don’t teach our children to be safe, the streets will teach them something else!