By COLLEEN MCCARTHY
The Starkville School District Board of Trustees will review and vote on 11 new policies during the Oct. 4 meeting, including one regarding the district’s policy on sex-related education.
Currently, the district is teaching “health promotion and disease prevention” through health classes as outlined by the Mississippi Department of Education, Nicole Thomas, district public information officer, said. According to House Bill 999, the school district must implement either an abstinence-only or an abstinence-plus policy by the 2012-2013 school year.
The abstinence-only policy states the curriculum focuses on the “social, psychological and health gains to be realized by abstaining from sexual activity, and the likely negative psychological and physical effects of not abstaining.”
It teaches the consequences of having a child out of wedlock for both the parents and the child. The policy states “a mutually faithful, monogamous relationship in the context of marriage is the only appropriate setting for sexual intercourse” and abstaining from sexual activity before marriage is the only way to prevent pregnancy out of wedlock and sexually transmitted diseases.
The policy educates students on the laws related to sexual conduct, “including forcible rape, statutory rape, paternity establishment, child support and homosexual activity.” The students will learn strategies to reject unwanted sexual advances and how drugs and alcohol can increase vulnerability.
The abstinence-plus policy has all of the curriculum from the abstinence-only policy, but includes additional information. The policy states it will include “any other age- and grade-appropriate material, such as contraceptives (excluding instruction and demonstrations on the application and use of condoms), the nature, cause and effects of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS, along with a factual presentation of the risks and failure rates.”
The abstinence-plus policy also requires a “school nurse employed by the school district to carry out the functions of those strategies to promote consistency in the administration of the program if the district adopts the program developed by the Mississippi Department of Health,” which is not included in the abstinence-only education.
There are a number of commonalities between both policies. Neither policy would discuss abortion as an option to prevent the birth of a baby or the instruction or demonstration of the application or use of condoms. Both policies would separate boys and girls into different classes when sex-related education is discussed or taught.
Both policies would teach age-appropriate, evidence-based and medically accurate curriculum. Parents will be notified when their children’s class will begin sex-related education and have the right to excuse their child.
Under No Child Left Behind, neither policy can use funds authorized by the act to use material or operate programs which promote or encourage sexual activity, provide sex or HIV-prevention education unless the instruction is age appropriate and includes health benefits of abstinence, or distribute contraception in the schools.
All of the policies were read at the Sept. 6 school board meeting. On Oct. 4, the board will have a second reading of the policies and a vote.
All 11 policies can be viewed by the public on the district’s website. Comments and opinions on the policies can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org .
“We’ve encouraged people to send in their comments to the school board. That goes to every board member,” board President Keith Coble said. “Every board member will see those, and we will take those into consideration when we vote.”
Parents and employees were sent information and a link to the policies last week. The board has already started receiving feedback from the community.
“We’ve received the most responses about the sex education policy” Thomas said. “We have received quite a few so far.”
To view the policies, visit http://www.starkville.k12.ms.us  and click on the link under “SSD Announcements.”