House Bill 999 (HB 999) mandated that all public school districts adopt a sexuality education policy starting the 2012-2013 school year.CHART is one of the policies that school districts can adopt to be in compliance with HB 999. Today, 28 school districts across Mississippi have adopted CHART. As we reflect on our work with CHART over the last three years, we discovered two obstacles that greatly impact the ability of school districts to implement sex education across our state.
1. Single-gendered classes
Currently, sex education classes taught in public schools have to be in gender separated classrooms. While working with districts that have adopted CHART, many have told us that this is a huge logistical issue for school districts that don’t have the staff and resources to support two separate classes with two separate teachers. This has played out in scheduling problems as there are not many classes in the middle and high school levels that are typically single gendered, leaving school districts to change schedules and class periods. Also, with school districts typically having to assign two teachers per grade level to teach sex ed, small schools must sometimes assign to sex ed classes teachers who don’t have the proper background and/or credentials to teach.
How to fix this:
- Allow schools to teach both genders in the same class.
Allowing co-ed classes would be a huge relief to school districts that don’t have the staff and/or resources. Also, high-quality abstinence-plus programs like CHART emphasize effective communication and healthy relationship skills. It’s important that youth be able to practice communication and skills with members of the opposite sex in a safe and controlled environment, like a classroom. In co-ed classrooms, young men and women can gain a different point-of-view on sex, love, intimacy, relationships, and friendships. This will help them learn to respect others’ perspectives, especially when it comes to the boundaries that others draw.
2. Opt-in policy
Students must have parental permission in the form of a signed opt-in form in order to participate in sex education classes at their school. The students of parents that don’t sign the opt-in waiver or do not take the form home or return it to the school are not permitted to participate in the sex education class. This greatly decreases the amount of students who participate in sex education classes overall. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, “only three states have opt-in provisions for sexuality education while 35 states and the District of Columbia have opt-out provisions.”
How to fix this:
- Allow parents to opt their students out of sexuality education instruction.
Allowing students to opt-out means students will be registered automatically to take sexuality education classes and parents will be notified before the class begins. If parents do not want their students to take the class, then they will contact the school to let them know they are opting their child out of the class. 92% of Mississippi public school parents support sex education in their schools.* An opt-out policy would allow more students to access sexuality education and would increase the amount of students participating in sex education in Mississippi, which is what Mississippi parents want.
*“What do Parents Think about Sex-Related Education in Public Schools?” Issue Brief. Center for MS Health Policy, Dec. 2011.