aJACKSON, MS—SIECUS (Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States) announces the release of their new report titled, Sexuality in Education in Mississippi: Progress in the Magnolia State. The report highlights the work in Mississippi after the passage of House Bill 999 during the 2011 state legislative session.The new law required school districts to adopt and implement a sexuality education program into the school curriculum by the 2012-2013 school year. Prior to 2011, schools were not required to teach sex education or provide instruction on STD/HIV prevention. Sexuality Education in Mississippi: Progress in the Magnolia State takes a look at the sexual health and behaviors of teens in the state, breaks down the new sexuality education policy, and outlines the progress made and challenges discovered after the first year of implementation. SIECUS worked closely with Mississippi First, the Women’s Foundation, and the Mississippi State Department of Health to compile their research and data about the shift in sex education in Mississippi over the last 2 years. A large section of the report is dedicated to the Creating Healthy and Responsible Teens (CHART) Initiative.

“HB 999, our sex ed law, is far from perfect.  Some of the law’s restrictions have proven to be challenging for schools and districts to implement. But the law also established the first state mandate for public school sex ed, which is a major step forward. The requirement allowed us to expand the CHART Initiative to many more districts, meaning that many more Mississippi teens now have access to evidence-based curricula that are effective in improving teen behavior,” stated Sanford Johnson, the Deputy Director of Advocacy at Mississippi First.

Since 2010, Mississippi First has worked in conjunction with the Mississippi State Department of Health and the Women’s Foundation of Mississippi to develop the Creating Healthy and Responsible Teens (CHART) Initiative. CHART is focused on reducing teen birth and STD rates, improving teen sexual health, and increasing responsible decision-making. The CHART Initiative uses funds from the federal Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP) to implement comprehensive or “abstinence-plus” sex education policies in public school districts. CHART has been implemented in 33 school districts across Mississippi. These districts receive two evidence-based curricula, Draw the Line/Respect the Line (Grades 6-8) and Reducing the Risk (9th Grade), at no cost. CHART districts also receive teacher training, technical assistance for evaluation, and parent outreach.

“Despite overwhelmingly negative sexual health indicators, Mississippi poured millions of federal dollars into failed abstinence-only-until-marriage programs for nearly a decade. CHART gave us a chance to work with educators and administrators who wanted to do more for their students. We are excited by the number of schools that have participated in the CHART Initiative,” said Johnson.

The Sexuality Education in Mississippi: Progress in the Magnolia State full report can be found online.

SIECUS was founded in 1964 to provide education and information about sexuality and sexual reproductive health. Their work is dedicated to advocating for comprehensive sexuality education including providing teacher training, resource development, and research on reproductive health information and services. For more information about SIECUS, visit http://www.siecus.org/index.cfm.

Mississippi First is a 501c3 public policy non-profit specializing in education reform. Over the past year, MSF has been involved in developing Mississippi’s charter school and preK policies, informing the public about Common Core State Standards, and assisting with implementing evidence-based sex education.

For more information about Mississippi First, visit www.mississippifirst.org or contact MacKenzie Stroh at 662.743.4055. For more information about CHART contact Deputy Director of Advocacy Sanford Johnson at sanford@mississippifirst.org.

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