April 30, 2012 — A Louisiana House committee on Wednesday voted 8-8 to reject a bill (HB 820) that would mandate sex education courses at public schools, the Baton Rouge Advocate reports. Under current law, public school districts are not required to include the classes.
State Rep. Patricia Smith (D), who sponsored the bill, said she plans to bring the measure up for debate again in the committee. The bill was one vote short of the majority needed for it to advance to the full House, and two members were absent.
The bill would require public schools to provide "age-appropriate" classes on human sexuality, and the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education would provide a recommended curriculum and teaching materials. The board also would determine minimum qualifications and training for teachers.
The curriculum would include teaching that abstinence is the most reliable way to prevent pregnancy, as well as information about sexually transmitted infections and the benefits, side effects and correct use of contraception. The measure would prohibit any advocacy for abortion. Parents could make written requests to remove their children from the classes.
Proponents of the bill said it is needed because of the state's high rates of STIs. "We are not giving them the right information to be healthy teens," Smith said. Opponents are satisfied with the current law, according to the Advocate (Sentell, Baton Rouge Advocate, 4/26).