6:19 PM EST, February 7, 2011
Teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, abstinence; tough topics included in a bill making its way through the General Assembly.
The Senate passed a bill requiring each school district to adopt the state's Standards of Learning for family life education. The measure is partially based on a study conducted in Roanoke.
"We're here to talk about our health and things that we can do to help ourselves stay healthy right," said a Roanoke Co. health teacher.
In health classes across Virginia students knowledge of sex varies.
The Virginia Board of Education currently issues guidelines for family health education, but every school division can decide whether it wants to teach the course.
That's a problem, says planned parenthood Vice President Melissa Reed.
"It's really hit or miss, based on which school your child goes to," said Reed.
She headed a survey of local parents to find out just how much information parents wanted taught in public schools.
"We reached out to the city of Roanoke because they had very high teen pregnancy rates," said Reed.
The poll was done in June of last year. It asks parents questions like: would you support comprehensive sex education being taught in the public schools? It also asks more detailed questions about specific topics, like birth control and sexual orientation.
"Overwhelmingly they (parents) were in support of it," said Reed.
Reed shared those results with Roanoke City schools.
"We want to be sure that our students are empowered to make good decision and speak up for themselves," said Vella Wright, with Roanoke Co. schools.
Planned Parenthood is now using that survey to build a state-wide case.
"Really comprehensive, medically accurate, comprehensive information that our young people will have for the rest of their lives, whether they decide to become sexually active on their prom night or wedding night, this is life long learning for them," said Reed.
Senate Bill 967 would require every school division to adopt a standard family health education course, aimed at teaching students about reducing unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases among other medical-information.
It passed on the senate floor: 24 to 16.
"I think its a good idea to get medically accurate information to students," said Sen. John Edwards, (D) Roanoke.
"When you start talking about medically accurate--what does medically accurate mean?" said Sen. Steve Newman, (R) Lynchburg.
Amber Haskew, with the Day of Purity, is also skeptical of comprehensive sex education.
"It promotes and pushes that activity to the students," said Haskew.
Haskew wants lawmakers to defeat the bill and she says other current surveys draw a different conclusion, supporting her belief that sex ed should be left up to parents.
"The Journal of Adolescent Health shows that 98% of parents want their kids to get their information about sex and the birds and the bees from parents," said Haskew.
Parents also the focus of a proposed study in the House of Delegates. The measure would have studied the cost-savings if schools required parents to specifically request their child opt-in to sex ed classes. It's been tabled for the session.
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