Bill: Amends Tennessee Code on Sex Education in Schools (SB1305/HB1352)

Sponsors: Sen. Jack Johnson and Reps. Bill Dunn and Jim Gotto

Background: Between the lack of specificity in current state law and little direction from the state board of education, Tennessee’s school districts have developed sex education programs of their own. While the law provides that these programs should emphasize “abstinence from sexual relations outside of marriage,” many programs do not. A 2007 survey found that less than half of the 85 districts that responded chose “promoting sexual abstinence until marriage” as one of the three main goals of their program.

“Comprehensive” sex education (CSE) is taught nationally more frequently than abstinence-centered programs, and some districts in Tennessee use CSE programs. CSE is a true misnomer as it focuses almost exclusively on reducing the risk of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s) through condoms and contraceptives, and avoids dealing with the emotional, psychological, financial and other negative consequences to teens from engaging in sex. Some CSE programs, including those taught last year in Knoxville and Nashville, promote many types of sex between teens. The Nashville course used anatomically correct models to graphically demonstrate to students how they could engage in different types of sexual activity. The Knoxville course was taught by Planned Parenthood, whose website recommends for teens a variety of sexual activities it collectively calls “outercourse.”

Purpose of the Act: The bill implements a complete, integrated, abstinence-centered program of sex education. It equips students with factually and medically accurate information, presents them with the health, economic and societal benefits of refraining from non-marital sexual activity, explains how sexual intimacy affects the whole person emotionally, psychologically and physically, and encourages them to engage in self-regulation and goal-setting. Parents are given administrative remedies against teachers who violate the law and can sue non-faculty instructors under certain circumstances.

Policy Considerations: The results of sex education programs that promote and glorify teen sex while attempting to reduce pregnancy and STD’s have been disastrous. In 2009, Tennessee ranked eighth worst in Chlamydia rates and 13th worst in gonorrhea rates (STD’s) nationally. A report in 2007 showed that more Tennessee children (55%) are engaging in sexual activity than the national average (47%). It’s time to provide teens with a better and more effective approach