A new legislative bill is sparking controversy in Missouri public schools. The measure stresses abstinence as the preferred choice of sexual behavior, not the safe sex message that bill supporters say is presently taught to children. The bill would also prohibit school districts from distributing condoms or other contraceptives to students.
Teachers and parents who support the bill say abstinence should be stressed as the only 100 percent effective way to prevent pregnancy and other diseases. Others disagree. They say students should be taught all forms of safe sex and birth control, without an emphasis on abstinence.
KBIA's Naomi Smith reports.
Chairman of Education and the bill's sponsor Ted House says the bill is long overdue.
House says the bill is part of an effort to improve high school graduation rates.
But Rev. Coletta Eichenberger, vice president of community affairs for Planned Parenthood in Columbia, says stressing abstinence in sexual education classes is not a realistic portrayl of today's society.
Eichenberger says young people must plan to stay abstient, but if that plan fails, they must know all the options for safe sex.
But Charles Quint, assistant professor and preschool teacher of the Green Door Child Development Lab at MU, says success rates for abstinence can be positive if it is stressed to children and fostered throughout their education.
Quint says sexual education starts at a young age, and teaching abstinance early would raise self-esteem and the emotional and mental health of children.
But Columbia resident and parent Laura Thurman, with two young children in the Missouri public school system, disagrees. She says including abstinance in sexual education classes is good, but not stressing other safe sex methods is a mistake.
Thurman says public schools should allow contraceptives to be available to students who request them. However, the bill's sponsor Ted House says distributing contraceptives and teaching abstinance would send mixed signals to childen.
The measure has been referred to the full Senate.
From the capital city, I'm Naomi Smith.