The Article: Mississippi’s Sex-Ed Classes Teach Kids That Homosexuality Is Illegal, Even Though It Isn’t by Jonathan Cohn in The New Republic.
The Text: Mississippi’s sex-ed curriculum is not notable for its progressive nature. But one thing you can’t say about the Magnolia State is that it follows the advice of some conservative parents who want schools to totally ignore homosexuality. In fact, state law mandates that the subject be discussed, at least briefly: Students are to be told that homosexual activity is illegal.
Mississippi, whose governor just signed a noxious anti-gay bill, is not the only state with such a clause in its sex ed curriculum. Neighboring Alabama requires that instructors teach that “homosexuality is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public and that homosexual conduct is a criminal offense.” In fact, the Supreme Court rendered all state laws against gay sex unenforceable in 2003, when it struck down an anti-sodomy law in Texas.
In Mississippi, the gay-sex-is-illegal mandate is among the less-noticed aspects of a sex-ed curriculum that has seen a fair amount of controversy lately. A Los Angeles Times story last week, by Alena Semuels, focused on the challenges of teaching sexual education in a place where so many communities oppose it—even though the teen pregnancy rate is among highest in the nation. Since 2012, Mississippi has mandated that all districts must now offer some kind of sex ed. But, by law, the basis for the curriculum is abstinence. Classes are supposed to make clear that “a mutually faithful, monogamous relationship in the context of marriage is the only appropriate setting for sexual intercourse.” The only question is whether classes also include basic information about things like birth control and sexually transmitted diseases. The state leaves that decision, between “abstinence-only” and “abstinence-plus,” to the school districts—although 12 percent have opted not to teach any kind of sex ed at all, in apparent defiance of the law.