This editorial was published in Tuesday's edition of The Free Press of Mankato.
Results of an independent study of the state's new sex education curriculum shouldn't be a surprise to anyone: Teaching abstinence-only does not work.
Supporters of the "just say no" strategy to teaching youths about sex have had their way in several Minnesota schools for the past five years. They argue that teaching kids about things like birth control and safer sex practices simply encourages more students to have sex.
But a recent independent study commissioned by the Minnesota Department of Health found that sexual activity among junior high students at three schools where abstinence-only has been taught actually doubled between 2001 and 2002. And the number of kids from those schools who said they would probably have sex during high school nearly doubled.
... The abstinence-only program continues to be pushed by neo-conservative groups who have support from Gov. Tim Pawlenty and President Bush.
The strategy is out of step with reality and out of step with most Minnesotans. Recent surveys show 77 percent of Minnesota parents want their kids to both be taught abstinence and given information about contraception and other information about sexuality.
Abstinence-only education will cause more harm than good. Students can and should be told that it is best to wait to have sex, but it is dangerous to their health and future to not also provide them with information about safer sex, contraception, sexually transmitted diseases and other information.
Parents also should reinforce the message that abstinence is best. But many parents agree that if their kids don't follow that advice, they should have the best advice available about safer sex. Much of that information can come from parents, but schools are the best and most obvious place to deliver sensible, balanced sex education to all young people.
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