Tennessee has had a long history with abstinence-focused sex education in its schools. Abstinence-focused education was first introduced into the curriculum in the 1990s and has since remained the preferred method in many Tennessee schools. There is some evidence to suggest that this introduction has helped lower teen pregnancy rates, with the number of pregnant girls in Tennessee down significantly since the 1990s.
However, despite some improvement, Tennessee’s teen pregnancy rate has remained one of the highest in the United States. With many experts today suggesting a more diversified sex education program may lead to less teenage pregnancies and a later onset of sexual activity.
Recently, an event in a fifth grade Tennessee classroom in which a teacher used a sex toy in a demonstration has left the community distraught. In response, Gov. Bill Haslam has signed a controversial bill into law that makes a switch to abstinence-only sex education in which teachers “exclusively and emphatically promote sexual risk avoidance through abstinence, regardless of a student’s current of prior sexual experience.” Additionally, the bill prohibits the discussion of any “gateway” sexual behavior including anything from oral sex to holding hands. Planned Parenthood issued a statement responding to the bill saying this current approach to sex education will simply not be enough for Tennessee teens. They suggest that a more comprehensive approach would better protect the population against teen pregnancy and the spread of disease.
Creative Commons Love: wjerson on Flickr.com