Recently, members of the Louisiana Legislature struck down a bill that would have allowed anonymous surveys given in public schools to ask students about their sexual behavior.
Choosing to omit questions about sexual activity comes from state legislators, with state Rep. Lenar Whitney believing teens who read questions about sex will be “desensitized,” as mentioned in an article by New Orleans’ Times-Picayune.
Most students remember taking a survey in high school that asked about their daily lives. These surveys, which are conducted by the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS), ask questions that range from how often students wear helmets to the number of times students have carried guns.
Knowing the surveys are full of questions asking about suicide, heroin and alcohol shows how unclear the logic is for the Legislature’s concern. Surely students will not want to try heroin when they finish the survey, so it’s ridiculous to think asking about sexual activity will be what pushes teens to have sex.
Plenty of songs and movies already expose teens to sex. Certainly a survey taken in a fluorescent-lit room won’t be what has them running to the bedroom.
Despite what legislators in Louisiana may believe, the surveys conducted by YRBSS are not meant to encourage students to try new things. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, which hosts the YRBSS survey, the goal is to figure out what teens are doing and try to discover possible improvements schools and communities could use to combat problems they face.
Not allowing the YRBSS to gather information on the sexual practices of students will only harm them. Without these questions, students will continue not to be heard and possible improvements to the state’s sex education curriculum are prevented. More troubling is how avoiding the topic in the survey ignores how often protected sex happens and at what age students are having sex.
Classrooms that do offer sex education, since it is not mandatory in Louisiana, must teach abstinence outside of marriage as a standard. This expectation alone shows how outdated Louisiana is in its approach to sex education.
Louisiana legislators are disconnected from reality if they think censoring surveys will affect teens having sex. They should instead just accept teens will do so, as 71 percent will have had sex by age 19, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
According to CDC reports, Louisiana had some of the highest rates of HIV infection in the country in 2010 and has among the 10 highest rates of teenage pregnancy in the country, according to the Times-Picayune. If there is a state that needs to get information from teens on what they do behind closed doors, it’s this one.
Instead of brushing the topic of sex under the rug, there should be initiatives to address it and inform teens about safe sex, especially since the CDC released a report in April revealing 80 percent of teens between 15 and 17 years old are having sex before taking part in sex education.
Ultimately, teens will have sex, and information should be gathered in order to understand how to help them practice safe sex and not feel it is too taboo to discuss.
Adam Mathieu is a junior majoring in studio art.