Mississippi has one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in the country, with 50 births for every 1,000 young women between 15 and 19 years old - yet despite this, attempts to educate young people in the state about safe sex practices have been met with hostility.
Alarmed by the high rates of teen pregnancy, and high number (76 percent) of high school students who report being sexually active by age 17 in the state, members of the business community lobbied the state to make sexual education courses mandatory in public schools. Those lobbying won a partial victory -- but actual implementation of the rule has been slowed down in the religious and conservative state.
The Los Angeles Times reports that mother Marie Barnard was pleased when Mississippi made sex education mandatory after many decades of disallowing it. She was less than pleased, however, when she found out one of the "lessons" involved students passing around an unwrapped pieces of chocolate candy and observing how "dirty" it became with more contact. The message does not provide an educated view on sex, or show respect to young people who have been sexually active, she said.
The candy example is just one way the noble goal to educate Mississippi's youth about responsible sexual activity has gone awry. Part of the enacted law requires parents to sign a permission slip allowing their children to take sex ed courses in the first place. There are also issues of enforcement and the exact curriculum being taught. Individual districts, for example, can choose to implement abstinence-only sex education classes.
So it seems the battle for a sexually-informed generation in Mississippi wages on, even in public school classrooms.