Stop sprinkling religious values in sex education


In 2012, Mississippi finally came out of the dark and implemented sex education in its school districts. 

Though this was a crucial step in combatting some of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the country, the effectiveness of the state’s plan is doubtful.

Earlier this month, Mississippi’s sex-ed curriculum in Oxford was rightfully attacked for its practice of “purity preservation,” in which teachers pass York Peppermint Patties throughout the room for students to see “how dirty it (becomes)” as more people touch it, a method used to
promote abstinence. 

However, despite Oxford School District Superintendent Brian Harvey claiming the program has not been practiced in recent years, the state’s curriculum is not
without its flaws, one being that it currently teaches students that homosexuality is illegal. 

It seems the only thing Mississippi students are learning with this curriculum is the strict religious morals of the state, regardless of whether they actually identify with them. 

According to the state’s “unnatural intercourse” statute, homosexuality is considered a “crime against nature” and teachers are required to promote that sex should only occur between married, heterosexual couples in a
monogamous relationship. 

Though Harvey may attempt to protect his school district by saying it does not try to degrade students with the “dirty” Peppermint Pattie tactic, Mississippi’s sex education structure as a whole is not much better. Not only does their current requirement exclude any students who may be homosexual from general discussion with its homophobic ideal, but it also tells them that they are not valuable enough to even have a part in it and categorizes them as criminals.  

It could be that many of the state’s “grown-ups” are perpetuating such restricted education. According to a Public Policy Polling survey conducted in 2013, 69 percent of the state’s voters believe same-sex marriage should be illegal. Only 22 percent of voters
support it. 

With the state having 81 of its school districts teaching abstinence-only programs and 71 teaching “abstinence-plus” programs – which promote abstinence and provide contraception information – the state’s curriculum should not be used as a way to advocate its idea of the pristine choices students should make, but instead act as a useful resource for them.

Sex-ed is not about who should or shouldn’t be having sex or when it is acceptable to do so. While it should not necessarily encourage teenage sex, it should at least leave religious ideology out of the conversation and provide all students with information on their options for protection against pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. 

As reported in an article by the Los Angeles Times, 76 percent of teens in the state have sex prior to graduation and a third of all babies born in the state are from
teenage parents.  

In handling a statewide issue such as this, the objective of Mississippi sex-ed programs should be to offer students information about sexual safety rather than promote negative stigmas. Regardless of whether the curriculum misuses its stock of Peppermint Patties or outright tells students their sexuality is condemnable, it is wasting a valuable resource and is instead using it as a platform to enforce conservative principles. 


Isabelle Cavazos is a sophomore majoring in English.