Students lobby for improved sex ed

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Dozens of high school and college students, joined by sex education advocates, visited the Capitol Wednesday to lobby for SB 672, sponsored by Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-St. Louis. Rep. Clem Smith, D-St. Louis, will be sponsoring a House version of the bill, which seeks to build upon last session’s sex education reform.

Bailey Baker, a University of Missouri student, was one of the students. Baker was joined by Teen Advocates for Sexual Health (TASH) out of St. Louis.

Baker called the bill a “comprehensive sex ed bill,” which would require schools that offer sex education classes to ensure that the material is medically accurate and includes information about contraception & sexually transmitted infection prevention in addition to abstinence. The bill would also widen the scope of organizations that can provide sex education in schools.

“This would allow great places like True North to come in,” said Baker. “True North is a great battered women’s shelter in Columbia. It would also expand the program to focus more on contraception, as well as abstinence. Hybrid versions of sex education programs have been proven to delay intercourse, reduce sexual partners, and increase general contraceptive awareness. A poll showed that 86 percent of Missourians support teaching comprehensive sex education in schools. We’re here lobbying for those 86 percent of Missourians.”

The bill would also expand high school sex education to include healthy relationships, consent, and sexually transmitted infection, something that Baker believes is necessary for college preparation. Further, Baker and her fellow advocates support the bill for fiscal reasons.

“Every dollar a state spends in family planning comes back sevenfold,” Baker said. “Unplanned teenage pregnancies cost the taxpayers $11 billion each year. That breaks down to $1,600 per person that the government could save.”

Baker said another reason more comprehensive sex ed is needed in high schools is the peer-to-peer rumor mill.

“We’re not talking about something kids aren’t hearing,” she said. “Peer education is false. Why wouldn’t we have medically accurate information available? We do not need 16-year-olds teaching other 16-year-olds about safe sex and preventing pregnancy. There are too many myths, like having sex at the beginning of your period will prevent pregnancy. That is not true. There needs to be a forum for addressing what teens are hearing in the rumor mill.”

The bill would also ensure that sex education is inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity.

“Many teens don’t know how to talk about sex with their parents, let alone want to talk to their parents about it,” Baker said. “On top of that, many parents may not know how to talk to their kids about healthy sex because many parents never got medically accurate sex education themselves.”

“It’s a really important program for youth,” Baker said. “We’re lobbying for the people. Eighty-six percent is an overwhelming number. It’s rare for so many Missourians to agree on an issue.”

Rachael Herndon is the editor at The Missouri Times, and also produces This Week in Missouri Politics, publishes Missouri Times Magazine, and co-hosts the #moleg podcast. She joined the Missouri Times in 2014, returning to political reporting after working as a campaign and legislative staffer.

Rachael studied at the University of Missouri – Columbia. She lives in Jefferson City with her husband, Brandon, and their two children.

To contact Rachael, email rachael@themissouritimes.com, or via Twitter @TheRachDunn.